Want to laugh, chuckle, and have wacky fun watching live theater? Go to Weathervane Playhouse, a Knight Arts grantee, and see its current production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” There are lots of reasons why this show is successfully done – a slick and lively script for one from Tony Award-winning writers Bob Martin and Don McKellar, and toe-tapping and ear-catching tunes by Tony Award-winning composers and lyricists Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.
A great deal of credit for this local production though has to go to the director and choreographer, Gwen Arment, and the lead character – Man in Chair – played by Patrick Michael Dukeman.
Arment keeps things moving smartly, so there are no agonizing stage pauses. She also uses the stage the way a painter does a canvas, filling it and balancing the action in order to keep the audience waiting for what happens next. The result is a fast-paced, energetic show that plays quickly for nearly two hours without intermission.
Dukeman is affably delightful and all charm. As Man in Chair, his role is a lonely musical-theater fan extraordinaire who cures his essential sadness by listening to the original cast album of his favorite of favorite Broadway musicals, “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
Enthralled by all things Broadway, he addresses the audience directly, tearing down the mythical fourth wall of the stage, and lets them in on every nuance of this play and his reading of musicals in general: the plots make no sense (like this one where the musical comes to life once more in his living room); characters are of a type (here we have the lothario, gangsters, ditsy show girls, an overbearing Broadway producer and a daffy heiress); and, last but not least, the show ends in marriage (in this case four marriages).
I can’t say that the actors are uniformly good, because they aren’t. But, the major players hold it together. As two examples, Amanda Davis (as the Drowsy Chaperone) and Ryan Bergeron (as the slightly sleazy Aldolpho) light the stage with uproarious takes on their characters.
Why does it all work, the Man in Chair asks his audience? Because, like this production, it lifts us out of our untidy existence. For a while, we see how exciting life could be and we respond to the hope that it might be – just this once.
The intimacy of Weathervane Playhouse makes this play work probably much better than it would in a very large house. You need a sort of casual closeness to the Man in Chair in order to be drawn into the whole illusion that the play depends on.
The set by designer Alan Scott Farell – right down to landing a triplane upstage – and the 1920s-era clothing by costumer Jasen J. Smith were spot on, as one of the characters might pretentiously say.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” plays through July 8 at Weathervane Community Playhouse, 1301 Weathervane Lane, Akron; 330-836-2626; www.weathervaneplayhouse.com. Tickets are $21-$25.