Perky fun accompanies 'Drowsy Chaperone'

The Drowsy Chaperone National Touring Company. (Joan Marcus)
The Drowsy Chaperone National Touring Company. (Joan Marcus)

"The Drowsy Chaperone" is a perfect show for people who love and hate musicals, according to the star of the touring production.

It pokes fun at the clichés that go along with the genre, said Jonathan Crombie, who is playing Man in the Chair at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco.

The hit show has characters introduced for no other reason than to make the audience laugh, silly plot devices used to set up a love song, and crazy special effects like a plane that lands on the stage.

"The writers are so good," Crombie said. "They wrote this incredibly accessible and smart and funny show that people respond to."

The musical swept the 2006 Tony Awards, winning best book (Bob Martin and Don McKellar), original score (Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison), costume design (Gregg Barnes) and scenic design (David Gallo).

Crombie, who played Gilbert Blythe in the popular "Anne of Green Gables" movies, said the show grew out of comedy sketches he and some of the creators used to do in Toronto years ago. They staged little mock musicals like "Irish Musical," a take-off of "Brigadoon," and "People's Park," a spoof of "Hair."

Lambert is a huge musical-theater addict. "She's got every record from every broadcast you can imagine," Crombie said. "She knows it all. She knows who's written every song, sang every song."

Crombie's role in "The Drowsy Chaperone" is of a musical-theater addict who has a huge collection of recordings. To cheer himself up, he brings out the 1928 musical comedy "The Drowsy Chaperone," about a pampered Broadway starlet who wants to give up show business to get married.

"He's a guide of the show, he frames the show, talks about the show, discusses things about actors performing in the musical," Crombie said. "It's sort of like having your obnoxious friend in the audience discussing the show."

The musical's characters include the starlet's alcoholic chaperone, a dizzy chorus girl, a Latin lover and a pair of gangsters who double as pastry chefs.

The show features roller skating, over-the-top acting and dry comedy. Can you bring the kids? There's one four-letter word, but other than that, there's nothing objectionable, Crombie said.

"It's a mature sensibility, but, being an old musical (remember, it's supposed to be a 1928 show), it's totally family," he said.