‘The Drowsy Chaperone' pleasantly engages its audience

Photo by Chris Barber The bridegroom and best man tap dance

LOWER OXFORD -- If the truth be told, the musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is not a blockbuster like “Phantom of the Opera,” “Oklahoma” or “Les Miserables.” The Broadway production did however win Tony Awards in 2006 for the Best Score and the Best Book, and the plot is quite engaging.

Avon Grove Community Theater -- or ACT as it is called -- presented the show last weekend and will be repeating it with four more performances this weekend at The Lincoln University’s Ware Center little theater.

For potential audience members who wonder if “The Drowsy Chaperone” can stand up to the big guys -- or even last year’s “The Music Man,” they don’t have to worry.

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The cast is so strong that every part adds huge entertainment value to the evening.

In a way, there is something reminiscent in it of “Singin’ in the Rain,” only without Reynolds, O’Connor, Hagen and Kelly. Both shows address the humorous and sometimes awkward aspects of producing a show in the 1920s. Both feature the cast members breaking into song at odd times, as when Kelly did a “Gotta Dance” number that seemed out of keeping with the show.

In “Chaperone” it was a number that involved Chinese dragons that somehow got mixed in with the main character’s record collection.

The plot of “Chaperone” centers around a man in a chair wearing a bathrobe the entire time (Chris Murray). He loves musicals and plays the score from his favorite, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” on an old record player.

He’s great as he portrays a nerdy guy who is wise to the cliches of theater but still loves it.

In front of Murray -- The Man in the Chair -- the production comes to life in his apartment as he starts and stops the music by lifting the needle from the old 33-and-a third.

It loosely involves a planned wedding of a female movie star that hoodlums want to stop because they will lose money if she leaves the show.

In the meantime, the bride is watched over irresponsibly by a tippling chaperone who always seems to have a drink in her hand and is ineffective of doing her job.

The chaperone somehow gets seduced by and falls in love with a foreigner named Adolpho, who was actually hired to seduce the bride-to-be so she would not marry.

Most people in the audience with any degree of sophistication realize that the direction the internal play takes is of little importance.

What is important is that the characters are placed in such positions within the story that they can pull off double entendres, dance or sing. One especially funny scene features a mix-up in the discussion about ice water and vodka. It comes off like the old Abbott and Costello scene, “Who’s on First.”

Amazingly, the bridegroom and his best man (Christian Kelly and Brian Bonanno) present a show-stopping tap dance -- they are really good -- with other cast members tapping their way into the audience’s heart as well.

Geneva Blaha plays the bride who declares she will bow out of show business when she weds. She is a great singer and dancer and has a perfect sense of timing as she flutters about, even changing costume, demonstrating brief scenes that she will eschew in the future.

Amy and John Carr play a dowager (hasn’t Mrs. Carr down a dowager before?) and her servant. The servant’s name is “Underling,” and in the end she marries him.

There are a couple of ensemble numbers that involve maids. One of the numbers has an airplane, and the aviatrix ends up marrying four couples.

Don’t be put off by the fact that you probably don’t routinely hum the songs or think about the plot of “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

It’s fun. It’s cheap. It’s easy to drive to. The pit orchestra is amazing. And the theater is state-of-the art.

Thursday, July 25; Friday, July 26; Saturday, July 27; Sunday, July 28. The shows all start at 7:30 p.m., except Sunday, which is at 2 p.m.

The price of a ticket is $15 for students and seniors, $18 for everyone else. Go online to ACTheater.org for ticket reservations.