Saturday, May 17, 2008

Nothing Sleepy About The Drowsy Chaperone

"The Drowsy Chaperone" is a Broadway play currently making its way across the country. It was in Greenville this week and, take my word for it, you should make every effort to see it if it comes to a city near you. (See the tour schedule here.) Unfortunately, many seats sat empty during the Greenville run because the play is fairly new and still largely unfamiliar. That's a real shame, because the plot is inventive, the music and dancing topnotch, and the voices among the best I've ever heard. Even the bit players are excellent. Georgia Engle, whom we know and love from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, is the biggest name in the cast; she isn't onstage often, but when she is, she's her sweet, softspoken, slightly ditzy self. The entire ensemble does a masterful job bringing to life this tuneful tribute to classic musicals; Cliff Bemis as frustrated impresario Mr. Feldzieg and James Moye as on-call lothario Aldolpho are particularly enjoyable, and a tap dance by bridegroom Mark Ledbetter and best man Richard Vida is pure fun. I just wish Fran Jaye ("Trix the Aviatrix") had been given more of an opportunity to cut loose; her voice promised way more than she had a chance to deliver.

The "Man in a Chair," who serves as narrator in this clever tale, gets it right when he talks about the ability of a darkened theatre to whisk us away from reality; heaven knows, a little escape from reality these days goes a long way toward maintaining sanity. That's why I hate that theatre tickets--especially top quality productions such as touring Broadway shows--are so prohibitively expensive. I don't know many families that can comfortably whip out $70+ a piece for a couple hours' diversion. Given the choice of playing to a half empty house or offering up a too-good-to-miss-out-on deal, seems to me the producers of these shows--any show, for that matter--would try to cut their losses. I know the argument: they don't want to offer last-minute discounts because then people will wait and not buy tickets at full price. The truth is, devoted theatre-goers, people who can afford it, and people who want to see the show from a particular seat will buy the same tickets they always have. But students, and families for whom cultural activities are too often a luxury, and people who would NEVER pay $70 for a ticket might just decide to buy a $35 one--and they probably wouldn't care if it was on the last row of the top balcony. They'd just like a chance to get in on the magic.

These days, with bell peppers a buck a piece and gas at four dollars a gallon, seems like we ought to at least catch a break on magic, doncha think?

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