Staples Players are known for producing challenging, Broadway-quality shows with important messages. In just the past few years they’ve staged “Cabaret,” “Sweeney Todd” and “The Laramie Project.”
Their spring show is just as demanding, technically and artistically. But “The Drowsy Chaperone” has almost no message at all.
It’s simply fun, uproariously funny, catchy. And short.
Besides the complex choreography and intricate set, one challenge for David Roth — in his 50th show as Players director — is selling the show to audiences. Though it won several Tonys in 2006, many theater-goers have not heard of “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
That’s a shame.
See, there’s this middle-aged theater-lover. Feeling down, he puts on a record of a favorite musical — and invites the audience to listen too.
The show we hear is a fictional 1920s musical: “The Drowsy Chaperone.” The entire play comes to life in his apartment.
“It’s a real homage — and at the same time, a parody — of ’20s musicals,” Roth says.
“It was a unique time: right before the Depression, and the advent of talking pictures. It was a time of big, splashy musicals — without much plot.”
With Roth and associate director Kerry Long, the cast explored the time period by watching documentaries of the development of musical theater during that decade. They also saw “Singin’ in the Rain.” That classic film takes place in the exact same year as “Drowsy.”
The show — which opens March 11, and runs through March 19 — is the first for Players’ new choreographers, Christopher Hudson Myers and Rachel MacIsaac. The married couple — he just finished a 5-year Broadway stint in “Mamma Mia!”; she was with the show’s national touring company — moved to Westport last year.
Roth says, “We’ve never done tap dancing at this level. It’s really complicated, but they’re doing some amazing things. I’m impressed every time I see it. And the kids really like it.”
Another challenge is the set. Technical director Peter DiFranco and his crew have created an apartment that transforms magically into a Hamptons mansion.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” is the final musical for Players’ seniors. They’ll exit the stage with a great one.
(“The Drowsy Chaperone” will be presented Friday and Saturday, March 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 13 at 3 p.m. For tickets and more information, click here.)