Billed as "a musical within a comedy," the Buck Creek Players' production of The Drowsy Chaperone lives up to that by drolly inserting a 1920s songbook and cast into a modern-day setting. Or vice versa. Or, wait—what just happened? In a good way.
Chaperone won the 2006 Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book on Broadway, those on the backs of music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and razor-sharp writing by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. The show's book is stellar, always half the battle. A community-theater cast capably bounces from one scene to the next, and from one jouncy tune to another. That's right: Don't come pining for ballads.
Thom Johnson's agorophobic Man in Chair narrates the proceedings, sometimes injecting himself into the action although the '20s–era auteurs never see or hear him. Johnson's character is pitch-perfect, consistently amusing without careening into annoyance. Libby Buck and Jon Tigert (as the bride-in-waiting starlet Janet Van De Graaff and her betrothed, Robert Martin) are winsome, their voices pleasing—and the latter owning some nimble tap-dancing toes.
It bears noting that director D. Scott Robinson also choreographed the dances, and the vocal direction by Matthew Konrad Tippel is never better than when the company relaunches its interrupted harmonies after Man in Chair tears into one of his patented tangents.
Georgeanna Teipen relishes the titular role, a tipsy, middle-aged screen siren who (of course) gets into her own mischief. The musical within the Man in Chair's retelling includes an Amelia Earhart–styled "aviatrix" (Kelsee B. Hankins, her own mighty fine set of pipes bookending the show) and a pair of gangsters (James Hildreth and Daniel Klingler) posing as pastry chefs. This is all you need to know, and not the half of it. You should, like me, go into this production aware of as little as possible so as to be suitably surprised by the wit and fun to be had over its 90 minutes.
Six performances remain this weekend and next. So don't be drowsy. Up, sluggard, and get thee to Buck Creek.
Buck Creek Players
11150 Southeastern Ave., 317-862-2270
June 8-9, 15-16 at 8 p.m.
June 10 and 17 at 2:30 p.m.
Character photos by Aaron B. Bailey. Posters photo by Jonathan Scott.