You have to be an exceptionally versatile performer to pull off the lead female role in the musical comedy "The Drowsy Chaperone."
For her main song, "Show Off," the character must spin a lasso, twirl a baton, balance plates, play glass bowls, perform a one-handed cartwheel, do a split, throw her voice and escape from a straitjacket.
"I do pretty much everything," said Elizabeth Pawlowski, who plays Janet Van De Graaff in the touring production coming to the Gallo Center for the Arts on Monday and Tuesday. "It took some time to learn everything, but it's pretty fun."
As performed by Broadway star Sutton Foster, the number was the hit of the televised 2006 Tony Awards show. The musical went on to win five Tonys — best book (Don Martin, Bob McKellar), score, featured actress (Beth Leavel), scenic design (David Gallo) and costume design (Gregg Barnes).
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The musical begins with the narrator, known only as Man in the Chair, telling the audience about his favorite musical — a fictitious 1928 classic called "The Drowsy Chaperone." As he plays the LP, the show springs to life on stage beside him, and he offers witty commentary about it and the performers.
Taking its name from the euphemism for a perpetually drunk character, the vintage musical tells the story of theater star Van De Graff, who gives up her stage career for marriage.
"It's a show for all ages," said Pawlowski. "It's nice little spectacle. The costumes are gorgeous and the set is great. Everyone will have a good time."
To prepare for her big "Show Off" number, Pawlowski makes sure to do a lot of stretching and to run through the scene once before each performance. In her more than a year on the road, she has had mishaps from time to time as props become misplaced.
"I've had one of each item missing," she said. "One time I had to make up something on the spot because there was no lasso."
Before the show began, Pawlowski and the other cast members did some research on the time period being parodied. They watched film clips to learn the style and energy of the era.
"It's very different," Pawlowski said. "It's freer and less inhibited than what you would normally see in a Broadway show."
Presented by Networks Productions, the touring show is very close to the original Broadway production, from the dance routines to the sets and the costumes.
The musical can be appreciated by anyone who has ever had a deep passion for something, Pawlowski said.
"Everybody has that one thing they go to to cheer them up," she said. "Obviously, for this man, it's this musical record from 1928. It's about being taken away and forgetting the horrors of the real world."
For more on Modesto area arts, visit www.twitter.com/lisamillegan and check out Bee Scene on video at videos.modbee.com.