Theater: Not so ‘Drowsy Chaperone.’
Known only as ‘Man in Chair,’ compelling lead character may be gay
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 30046 www.auroratheatre.com 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.