Coot Trick

Oldest Living Graduate didn't do enough homework; Drowsy Chaperone wakes up the smile muscles at Fair Park Music Hall

Only in his last speech does Davies lie back to connect with the wistfulness of the dying old Colonel. Jones ends the play with a list of memories, and here again it's the playwright's voice we hear coming through: "The things ah seen and remember in this country is all gone now. Even the sounds of things is gone. That's right. Even the sounds of things. The creakin' noise the saddle used to make when we went to work of a mornin', men yellin', dogs barkin', horses stompin' and snortin' and fartin' around. A windmill clankin' in the night and cattle bawlin' from way off yonder some place..."

That's by-God beautiful.

————

The enormous fun and fabulous singing and dancing of the lavish Broadway tour of The Drowsy Chaperone, now at the Music Hall at Fair Park, have almost erased the hideous images of those dreary non-Equity clunkers Ring of Fire and The Wedding Singer that stunk up the big stage earlier this spring. Chaperone speaks to the musical theater queen in all of us, that secret self who knows all the lyrics to 42nd Street and can't help shuffling off to Buffalo when we hit a tap-worthy floor.

As The Oldest Living Graduate, John S. Davies (right) hovers between past and present with his hired hand (William Earl Ray) in the Preston Jones dramedy at Contemporary Theatre.
George Wada
As The Oldest Living Graduate, John S. Davies (right) hovers between past and present with his hired hand (William Earl Ray) in the Preston Jones dramedy at Contemporary Theatre.

Details

The Oldest Living Graduate

continues through June 29 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. Call 214-828-0094.

The Drowsy Chaperone

continues through June 15 at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Call 214-631-ARTS.

The Man in Chair (Jonathan Crombie) is our onstage guide. He's the ultimate musical fanatic, a fey fellow (with an ex-wife, surprise!) lonely for company and eager to share a recording of his favorite 1920s confection, a bouncy show by "Gable and Stein" about a nearly disastrous wedding day involving a Follies star (Andrea Chamberlain), her millionaire boyfriend (Mark Ledbetter), an inebriated chaperone (Nancy Opel), a couple of twin mobster chefs (Peter and Paul Riopelle), a foreign Lothario (James Moye) and a stage full of other characters plucked from the casts of every Prohibition-era pastiche.

As the needle hits the LP, the show comes to life in the Man's New York apartment, everyone tap-dancing from out of the fridge, the closets and the Murphy bed. It's like a giant, living pop-up book.

From the first line, spoken by the Man in total darkness—"I hate the theater"—to the last number, "As We Stumble Along," a tribute to inebriation, it's a giddy, satirical gallop through hoary musical comedy clichés past and present. As the starlet belts out "Show Off," singing over and over how she's tired of the spotlight, she's tapping, spinning, cartwheeling, twirling a baton, kicking over her head and generally making a wonderful spectacle of herself.

The Drowsy Chaperone is downright dreamy.

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