Song, dance and laughs

Ryan Cordero of Sorcerer Productions directs charming musical spoof ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ at the Clark Center

April 14, 2011 

  • ‘THE DROWSY CHAPERONE’

    8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through April 23; 2 p.m. Sunday

    Clark Center, 487 Fair Oaks Ave., Arroyo Grande

    $25 to $30

    489-9444 or www.clarkcenter.org

Fans of old musicals will get a kick out of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” both a spoof and a tribute to musical comedy, sending up all the clichéd, campy aspects of musical theatre.

A talented Sorcerer Productions cast packs the small theater at the Clark Center with song, dance, and lots of laughs.

The show, written by Lisa Lambert, Don McKellar, Bob Martin and Greg Morrison, won five Tony awards in 2006. The play-within- a-play format, in this case, is a musical within a comedy.

The setting is a small apartment, where the narrator, played by Mike Mesker, is a Broadway fan who copes with the blues by listening to a recording of a 1928 stage musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” As he talks to the audience and starts the record, the show comes to full, colorful life in his apartment.

Mesker’s role is billed as “Man in Chair,” although in this case he’s not really in a chair. He sits by the record player or roams the room as he describes the musical and the fictional actors of the 1920s who starred in it. He stops the record now and then (and the action freezes) to talk about the play. His dialogue is comical and not politically correct.

The cast of characters is made up of familiar stereotypes — a beautiful star and her handsome fiancé, a ditzy hostess, a British butler, a Latin Lothario, a pushy producer, an air-headed ingénue and a boozy diva — the drowsy chaperone of the title.

The setting of the musical is a palatial home (you have to imagine it) where a wedding is about to take place. The bride is giving up a glamorous life to marry a man she barely

knows. Her producer doesn’t want to lose his star, so he tries to get a Latin womanizer to seduce her, but there’s a case of mistaken identity and he seduces the wrong woman, the drowsy chaperone.

Ryan C. Cordero directs the show. The acting is over the top, and the actors are obviously enjoying the freedom to be as funny or silly as they want to be. But they are also fine singers and dancers. Mark Robertshaw is musical director and Zach Johnson is choreographer.

Molly Dobbs plays the bride. She has a fine voice and some fun songs, and she’s a great dancer. The entire ensemble does some lively dancing.

Choreographer Johnson’s terrific tapping is a highlight. Mark Rohner, who is good as the rather dim bridegroom, joins him in a tap number.

Anna Romero is amusing as the owner of the house, who is not really sure what’s going on, and Michael Rogers is good as Underling, her butler. Kaza Kahn Pearson gets plenty of laughs as the drowsy chaperone, and also has a fine voice. Jeff Salsbury is hilarious as Adolpho, the slapstick Latin lover. Randy Pound is excellent as the sometimes frantic producer, and Morgan Peters is funny as his air-headed wannabe star.

Kurt Haaker and Lester Wilson as a couple of gangsters disguised as bakers, are a hoot as they get dance lessons from the producer. Natalia Berryman, artistic director, has a small but important role as “The Aviatrix.” and Kyle Compton does a brief walk-on as the super of the apartment when the lights go out — and the musical stops.

Pound, playing the producer, and Mesker, the narrator, are ubiquitous character actors on Central Coast stages. Their names have probably been in more local reviews than nearly any other actors in the past few years. Both are versatile and obviously love to perform, and they have the chance to shine in this show. Pound, whose bio says he has been in 80 shows in the past eight years, dances up a storm, and his enthusiasm seems to fuel the whole ensemble.

This show is an affectionate send-up of old musicals, and in other hands it could have been too corny, but it’s not, because the quality of the singing and dancing kicks it up a notch. Cordero manages to find just the right tone. It’s funny, but it also reminds us why we liked the old musicals, when every situation was solved with a song, and everything turned out OK in the end.

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