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June 5th, 2006


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10:02 am - Reason #578 Why I Loved "The Drowsy Chaperone"
The Drowsy Chaperone is a new Broadway musical by way of Toronto and it's a pip. It's both a send-up and an homage to musical theatre at the same time, loving in its parody and disarming in its tribute, and I loved it all.

It's rather hard to explain without giving too much away, but let's try: the show opens in a dingy apartment, where an aging and slightly bitter musical theater aficionado (known only as "Man In Chair") plays for us a record of his favorite "long-forgotten" musical, 1928's "The Drowsy Chaperone." He amiably chats the musical up with us while the overture plays on his tinny record player, and -- as he sits back and closes his eyes -- the musical comes to life in his apartment, with characters entering from all over, even thru the fridge, and the apartment set is transformed into just the kind of Broadway spectacle we all wish we had in our living spaces. There's even a trap door, for crying out loud.

The Man is one of those detail-obsessive fans, so he routinely interrupts the musical proceedings to give us tidbits about the cast (some of whom met gruesome and ironic ends), explain why certain scenes were included, and even has time for a rant or two. The rest of the time, though, he gleefully wanders around the performers, watches their goings-on with as much enthusiasm as the rest of us, and mouths a few lines or two of his favorite songs. When the scene changes to an outdoor garden setting, he grabs an afghan off his chair, lays it on the ground near the actors picnic-style, and watches from there.

But here's Reason #578 why I liked the show so much: At the beginning, the Man explains to us that the show we're about to hear opened in 1928 at the Morosco Theater. "Of course, the Morosco's not there anymore," he opines. "It was torn down a while ago. They put up a high-rise there, a hotel or something."

And indeed that's what happened.

The Morosco was an actual Broadway theater, built in 1917 and located on Broadway between 45th and 46th. In the early 1980s the block that the Morosco was on (which included two other theaters, the Bijou and the Helen Hayes) was slated for demolition to make way for a new high-rise hotel. There was fierce, fierce, fierce opposition from the theatre community, who took it upon themselves to save the three doomed theaters. They erected a stage outside the Morosco and held round-the-clock readings of the plays, many Pulitzer winners, that had been produced in those theaters. When the Supreme Court finally overturned their appeal in 1982 and let the demolition continue, 500 mourners watched as the theaters were pulled down. 200 of them refused to leave the site and were arrested, eventually becoming known amongst themselves as "The Morosco 200."

And the hotel that was built on the ruins of these three theaters? That was the Mariott Marquis. Which features, above its lobby, the Marquis Theater.

Which is currently home to the production of... (here comes the Paul Harvey "Rest of the Story" pause...) The Drowsy Chaperone.

I love it when people do their homework.

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:plumtreeblossom
Date:June 5th, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
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That play sounds truly wonderful.

Guilt...I stayed at the Mariott Marquis once. I never even knew about the theatres.
[User Picture]
From:plumtreeblossom
Date:June 5th, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC)
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Make that "theaters.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:June 5th, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)

channelling mr nash

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E-R?
R-E?
I use them inter-change-a-bly.

And I do so recommend the show to you. You will love it.
[User Picture]
From:plumtreeblossom
Date:June 5th, 2006 05:56 pm (UTC)

Re: channelling mr nash

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Theater is the building in which theatre takes place.

(Just ax me. I know ebbything.)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:June 5th, 2006 06:00 pm (UTC)

Re: channelling mr nash

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When stabbing an unwanted dinner guest, which fork should you use?
[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:June 5th, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC)

Re: channelling mr nash

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There are regional differences in the use of these words. I think every such building in this part of the country calls itself a Theatre.
[User Picture]
From:plumtreeblossom
Date:June 5th, 2006 08:32 pm (UTC)

Re: cat's on fire

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Not all of them.
[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:June 5th, 2006 08:34 pm (UTC)

Re: channelling mr nash

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Somerville Theatre definitely does, and has since 1914. So do the Wang and Shubert and the Orpheum. The Loews Boston Common has two big signs saying Loews Theatres.

But I think when you go further west or south, you're more likely to see the other spelling.
[User Picture]
From:modpixie
Date:June 5th, 2006 05:58 pm (UTC)
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hauntedbookshop & i are going to see this in august. i could not be happier if i tried really hard.
[User Picture]
From:crboltz
Date:June 6th, 2006 01:59 am (UTC)
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argentla pointed me at your entry. I saw the show twice in Los Angeles in its pre-broadway run, and it was absolutely delightful! I'm so glad its pleasing people on the other side of the country. there is a lot of old fashioned joy (and some modern irony) in the play! I'm looking forward to the album coming out,so I can finally stop trying to remember what all those lyrics were! (Toledo Surprise, Cold Feet and I Don't Want to Show Off especially)
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From:journeystar
Date:June 6th, 2006 01:06 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for sharing this. I read the NY Times write-up about this musical a few weeks ago at Diesel. It's looks fun, though Broadway prices really can't entice me anymore :(

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