The­ater: Not so ‘Drowsy Chap­er­one.’

Known only as ‘Man in Chair,’ com­pelling lead char­ac­ter may be gay

GA Voice - - News -

A lead char­ac­ter whose sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion is up for ques­tion is at the heart of the mu­si­cal “The Drowsy Chap­er­one,” open­ing March 14 at Aurora The­atre.

Di­rected by Anne Towns, “The Drowsy Chap­er­one” is a par­ody of mu­si­cal the­ater, paying trib­ute to the jazz-age shows of the 1920s.

Its cen­tral fig­ure is Man in Chair (played here by Steve Hud­son), a mu­si­cal the­ater junkie who puts on the cast al­bum of his fa­vorite mu­si­cal and sees it pops to life around him, as a Broad­way star’s (Court­ney Pat­ter­son) wed­ding day be­comes in­creas­ingly com­pli­cated.

Man in Chair – whose name we never learn – is con­tent to be an observer of the ac­tion un­til the end, when he is able to en­ter the pic­ture. “Chap­er­one” won five Tony Awards in 2006, more than any other mu­si­cal on Broad­way that year. A tour­ing ver­sion of the mu­si­cal came to At­lanta in early 2008.

Towns, a huge fan of mu­si­cals from the ‘20s, had talked to Aurora about pro­duc­ing the show a few years back. When the com­pany found a spot for it, they con­tacted Towns, who has helmed sev­eral mu­si­cals for the Aurora, in­clud­ing “A Cho­rus Line” and “Singing in the Rain,” to di­rect.

For Towns, “The Drowsy Chap­er­one” is first and fore­most a fun night at the the­ater. “It has a lot of com­edy, singing and danc­ing,” she says. “It’s a really good time.” It’s a bit dif­fer­ent from her re­cent “A Cho­rus Line,” which she says was more based in re­al­ity.

In her mind, the char­ac­ter of Man in Chair is ex­tremely sad and lonely. But by the end of the show, he has found com­pany in what he has brought to life.

“He uses the al­bum to es­cape into a fan­tasy ‘The Drowsy Chap­er­one’ March 14 – April 14 at Aurora The­atre 128 East Pike St., Lawrenceville, GA 30046­ro­rathe­ but by the end he for­gets he is sad,” she says. “He cre­ates a com­mu­nity for him­self in this here with th­ese peo­ple.”

“The Drowsy Chap­er­one” doesn’t shy away from im­ply­ing that Man in Chair might be gay.

“The char­ac­ter talks about one of the ac­tors in the play and says, ‘I like to think of him pant­ing and sweat­ing,’” says Towns. “That line gets a laugh.”

“It may be that he is gay, and maybe there is a strug­gle over that,” she says. “Maybe other peo­ple make him un­com­fort­able sex­u­ally.”

Man in Chair does men­tion at the end of the show that he has been mar­ried but is now di­vorced, and in­ter­acts with the au­di­ence, ask­ing if they are sur­prised he had been mar­ried be­fore.

How­ever, Towns has left that el­e­ment of the char­ac­ter up to Hud­son.

“I think it is for the ac­tor to de­cide and in­ter­pret,” she says.

John Markowski and Austin Ti­je­rina, both gay, play brothers in the play-within-a-play who are gang­sters dis­guised as pas­try chefs, try­ing to stop the Broad­way star’s mar­riage.

Markowski says the brothers aren’t really that in­tim­i­dat­ing, though, and are some­what rem­i­nis­cent of the Marx brothers in their “styl­ized mo­ments.”

Ti­je­rina had seen the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion on Broad­way and said the show spoke to him. “Man in Chair is who I am go­ing to be,” he quips.

The per­former moved to New York a few years back but is back in town. He and Markowski worked to­gether on a ver­sion of “Urine­town” sev­eral sea­sons ago.

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