Monday, January 15, 2007

NYC immersion, pt. 1

Goldring NYC Immersion was an arts-and-culture-laden whirlwind. I was busy most nights, mostly writing reviews for morning workshops with professional critics, so the blogging fell by the wayside. Highlights of the trip that I didn't review:

-Museum of Modern Art (esp. the Brice Marden exhibit)
-Bobby Watson and Horizon @ Jazz at Lincoln Center
-NY Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta conducting, performing "The Rite of Spring" and the Beethoven Violin Concerto
-attending a taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, followed by...
-dinner at Taboon (773 10th Ave. in Hell's Kitchen)

Here is the first of the reviews I wrote during the Immersion. I've tweaked it slightly from the version that I workshopped with Eric Grode (SU alum and theatre critic for the NY Sun).

For many Broadway fans, adoration and obsession go hand in hand. Theater nuts study scripts, hound stars for autographs and hoard original cast recordings. This lifestyle may seem unhealthy, but in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” writer Bob Martin celebrates the obsessive fan with the character Man in Chair. The role and the book won Tonys for Martin, but in the Jan. 2 performance at the Marquis Theatre, understudy Jay Douglas capably filled the nerdy theaterphile’s slippers.

Douglas was a wide-eyed, believably obsessed fanboy. As the recording of a “forgotten treasure” from the 1920’s, also called “The Drowsy Chaperone,” plays, the characters come to life inside his apartment, and Man in Chair retreats into giddy reverie, giving up the despair and distraction of the present day for the romantic, predictable past.

Frequent pauses in the meta-musical allow him to show off the strange depths of his knowledge, and Douglas gleams as he rattles off names of cast members and their other “famous” roles. All of the stock characters – the slick agent, the ditzy chorus girl, even Sutton Foster’s high-kicking, attention-seeking starlet – take a back seat to Douglas’ dumpy loner.

These breaks also reveal the wit of Martin’s book. Commenting on the obvious racism of the stereotypical Latin lover Adolpho, Man in Chair quips, “Leave that to Disney.” In reading the phrase “gay wedding” on the album liner, he says that it “meant something else back then.” Douglas delivers these lines, and the rest of his comic interjections, with a self-aware smirk.

The show’s songs don’t have the same pop as Martin’s book, though. Man in Chair longs for a time when theatergoers left the theatre humming tunes, but the musical that he celebrates lacks memorable melodies. The spoken dialogue, filled with idol worship and self-deprecating humor, makes the musical work. Though Douglas dances around the edges in the first act as the record plays, his immersion in the musical’s fantasy world is complete by the second act, when he sings a duet with Foster. The tune might be forgettable, but Douglas’ adoration is naively note-perfect.

No comments: