“The Drowsy Chaperone” is not the most topical or edgy musical you’ll find in the local theater scene.
It’s about a phonograph record that magically transforms a man’s living room into a stage for a full-scale, 1920s production of the musical recorded into its wax. It’s filled with happy old-time songs sometimes performed by actors on skates. There’s not much death or social commentary – just a man in a chair telling the audience about his favorite musical as it unfolds before their eyes.
For Denise Graziani, director of the the Good Company Players production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” opening Thursday Roger Rocka’s, the carefree subject matter is something to be celebrated.
“It’s just so well-written,” she said. “For me, it’s a really fun 1920s happy musical within a play. It’s two stories in one – a musical and a play with the man in the chair.”
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This is Good Company Players’ second production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which debuted on Broadway in 2006. The musical-within-a-play was a hit with Fresno audiences in 2011, so the company brought it back.
Graziani, who is also the general manager of Roger Rocka’s, stepped in to direct the second production after the original director could not. She credits Steve Souza, who is returning as the narrator/critic/guide who is the man in the chair, with helping her and the cast master the production.
“He is the essential man in the chair,” Graziani said. “We were so happy he was available to do this run.”
Graziani also praised actor Tim Smith, who plays Robert, for his commitment during rehearsals. The role requires Smith to sing, dance and rollerskate. While blindfolded. At the same time. He also has a tap number.
“We had auditions for acting, singing and dancing but not rollerskating,” Graziani said. “It took a lot of learning, but he picked everything up really quickly. He put on those skates one night, immediately got up and just went for it.”
“Surprisingly enough, he’s only fallen down a couple of times,” she added with a slight laugh.
The show isn’t all fun and games, though.
“It has some poignant moments as well,” Graziani said. “But they’re balanced with big, huge musical numbers.”
The director hopes the happy production will serve as “a release of the day” for audience members.
“It takes you out of the world that we’re living in at this point in time, which could be good or bad for you,” she said. “Hopefully, you come in and relax and forget about the problems.”
She continued: “Sit back, relax and enjoy it. Have fun and laugh a little bit in a world that may not be so happy right now.”
Audiences will have plenty of opportunities to unwind, as the show will play nearly 40 times beginning Thursday and ending Nov. 12. Like most Good Company shows at Roger Rocka’s, “The Drowsy Chaperone” will be performed Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
If you go
Good Company Players presents “The Drowsy Chaperone”
▪ Playing Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning Sept. 14 and ending Nov. 12
▪ Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 North Wishon Ave., Fresno
▪ Dinner & show tickets $57-60, show only for $32