NEW PORT RICHEY — Those who disdain Broadway musicals, saying "seen one, seen 'em all," may laugh the loudest at The Drowsy Chaperone, a spoof of Broadway musical cliches playing March 3 to 20 at Richey Suncoast Theatre.
Those of who love all those shows can laugh along, as they recognize — and delight in — those very cliches the haters love to hate.
The 2006 Tony Award-winning (Best Book, Best Original Score) musical revolves around a play within a play, with every stock character and situation ever used (or overused) on Broadway. It's told through the eyes of an anxiety-plagued Broadway fanatic, the Man in Chair (Chris McGinnis, John Baker in Whose Wives Are They Anyway?), who slumps in the tackiest chair in his cramped apartment as he listens to an ancient recording of the fictional 1928 musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone. ("Drowsy" is a euphemism for "tipsy," by the way.)
He's transported to a glittery stage set. But even as he watches the stylish singers and dancers act out his favorite show, he can't keep himself from expressing a running criticism of what they're doing, pulling the audience between the stage fantasy and the reality of his dreary life.
The show within the show happens on the wedding day of oil tycoon Robert Martin (Ryan Bintz, HAMIs as Marius in Les Miserables and Billy in Chicago at Stage West Community Playhouse). Robert is getting ready to marry Broadway star Janet Van De Graaff (Suzanne Meck, Gloria in Bye, Bye Birdie), who vows she is giving up the stage to be a housewife.
The problem is that the producer of the show she's supposed to star in next, one F. Feldzieg (Mark Lewis, Capt. South in The Amorous Ambassador), learns from two low-level gangsters (Andrew Niederdorf and Justin Buyea) that the unnamed mob boss who is backing the show insists that Janet be the star, or else he's pulling out. Worse, if the Big Man doesn't get his way, the gangsters will have a murderous Toledo Surprise for Feldzieg.
Feldzieg decides his only choice is to break up the wedding, and he enlists the help of the vain Latin lover Aldolpho (Mike McGuigan) to seduce Janet so that she'll forsake Robert and star in his Feldzieg's Follies.
That doesn't sit well with the ditzy Kitty (Jessie Willis), who wants to be Feldzieg's new star, and that can only happen if Janet is out of the picture.
Meanwhile, Janet is beginning to have doubts about Robert, so she consults the Drowsy Chaper one (Vicky Stinnett, Guenevere in Camelot). The tipsy chaperone can only sing As We Stumble Along, a paean to drunkenness as a way to get through life.
It's all a long run of stage chestnuts: mistaken identities, a dream sequence, spit takes, a staid English butler, a dotty dowager, a drunk scene, a Broadway impresario, comically bumbling gangsters, a dizzy blond and even the ancient Greek tragedy fallback, the deus ex machina, where a machine flies in from the sky to save the day. Or not.
The 21-member cast is led by director/choreographer Linda Hougland (co-director of Mame, Camelot, A Chorus Line, Cabaret) and co-director David Blethards, with Michele Paula Rose as music director.