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Theatre / The Drowsy Chaperone

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The Drowsy Chaperone is a musical which opened at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 1998 and then on Broadway in 2006, described by the Tag Line as "a musical within a comedy". The frame story is about a lonely man named..."Man In Chair", who lives alone with his record collection. One day he feels blue, and so puts on a record from the 1920s - The Drowsy Chaperone. The majority of the musical is the record itself, with comments interjected now and then from the Man to...somebody.

The story of The Drowsy Chaperone is about the wedding of Janet van der Graaff and Robert Martin. Janet has doubts about her feelings towards her fiancee, and when she comes across Robert conveniently blindfolded, she pretends to be a French woman and seduces him into kissing her. Of course, Hilarity Ensues as she confronts him about this kissing. Along the way, various other characters end up with marriages that they may or may not want, forcing best man George to arrange four marriages when he had originally only planned on one. Then a plane flies in, and they all get married and go to Rio!

...It Makes Sense in Context. Sort of.

As a result of its premise, The Drowsy Chaperone has more Lampshade Hanging than a hardware store, usually (but not always) provided by the Man In Chair.


  • Accidental Innuendo: invoked The Man in Chair asks if anyone had noticed the sexual implications of the song "Love is Always Lovely in the End."
  • Accidental Misnaming: The Chaperone initially calls Aldolpho "Adollface".
  • Affectionate Parody: The in-universe show is a parody of the cliches of the Jazz Age, and musicals in general.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: In-universe. The booklet in the CD case for the recording mentions that the show is based off of a short story called Honeymoonin' To Do.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The Man in Chair. He lampshades it a few times, such as discussing his ex-wife and remarking on how it must surprise the audience that he has a wife. Some productions play him as merely metrosexual, or as a woman.
  • Analogy Backfire: the song "Love Is Always Lovely in the End", in which the singer, Mrs. Tottendale, is blissfully oblivious to the fact that every couple she mentions in the song (Romeo and Juliet, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Samson and Delilah) had an unhappy ending. Underling tries to point this out to her, to no avail.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: The Chaperone spends most of "I Am Aldolpho" waiting for Aldolpho to stop singing and just have sex with her.
  • Artistic License – Music: The album around which the entire show is based couldn't have actually existed, as in 1928 an entire recording of the score would have taken up at least six or seven 78RPM records—LP records wouldn't be invented for another two decades. Even assuming a cast recording of the show was eventually made 30 years later, there is no way it would include every single line of dialogue as depicted.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: There's an entire joke about a "rady" and a man in the second act opener.
  • Audience Participation: In-universe. During “Bride’s Lament,” Man In Chair has his own prompts for some of Janet’s lines.
  • Bantering Baddie Buddies: Gangsters 1 & 2 are a pair of mooks disguised as pastry chefs there to threaten Feldzeig into sabotaging Janet's wedding. As they are disguised as pastry chefs, the gangsters pepper their speech with dessert puns.
    Gangster #1: Now we hope we have made ourselves perfectly Eclair.
    Gangster #2: One cannoli hope.
    Gangster #1: You biscotti be kidding me.
    Gangster #2: A trifle much?
    Gangster #1: Don't tart with me.
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: The musical is extremely cliche and dated. The humor comes from how the Man in Chair keeps pointing out how cliche and dated it is.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Aldolfo (and sometimes the whole cast) often responds to plot twists with WHAAAAAAAT?
  • Bittersweet Ending: The power goes out right before the last note of the show. After the superintendent fixes the power and the last note plays, the Man in Chair ends the show alone again, sadly recounting how he's never gotten to see the show, but it still comforts him. He then has a fantasy of all the characters singing along with him.
  • Blatant Lies: Janet gets a song's worth of them in "Show Off".
  • Brick Joke:
    • Man in Chair mentions that Tottendale's actress is named Ukelele Lil, "although she never plays the ukelele in this show". During the Finale, she accompanies him on ukelele.
    • The Man in Chair's phone rings several times throughout the show, with the Man ignoring it every time (and instructing the audience too, as well). When the superintendent enters at the end of the show, he remarks that he tried calling earlier, but there was no answer.
  • BSoD Song: "Bride's Lament" is about Janet breaking down as she chooses between her romance and her career.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: "Bride's Lament", according to the Man in Chair, is "a little Busby Berkeley, a little Jane Goodall."
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: Janet kisses a blindfolded Robert in disguise as a French girl to see if he would cheat on her. She later cries, "Robert kissed a French girl. Her name is Mimi. She's very beautiful."
  • Butch Lesbian: Discussed. Man in Chair thinks the masculine pilot Trix is a lesbian, as he says that "aviatrix" is code one.
  • Cape Swish: Aldolpho wears a long flowing cape and brushes it behind him a lot.
  • Casting Gag: The original Broadway program featured snippets about the in-universe cast. In the section about Janet's actress, Jane Roberts, there's pictures of her with her husband Dylan Horne. Horne is played by Christian Borle, Sutton Foster's then husband.
  • Character Blog: During the Broadway run, the Man in Chair posted a series of videos wandering around Times Square, commenting about theatre.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Trix, who sings in the opening "I'll see you when they tie the knot!" She then reappears at the end of the play right when the cast realizes they need a minister, and marries all four couples.
  • Dark Reprise: Act I ends with a depressing rendition of the "Wedding Bells" motif. The second act's actual opening number "The Bride's Lament" incorporates fragments of "Show Off" with all of the tongue-in-cheek humor removed.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Chaperone, Underling, Feldzeig, and Man in Chair all fit this trope at one time or another.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Message From A Nightingale consists of actors in yellowface speaking broken English to a stereotypical East Asian tune.
    • Robert Martin says that "Cold Feets" is a number "an old negro taught me." The lyrics are full of ebonics ("You make de cold feets hot!") sung by two characters usually played by white actors.
    • One of the performers is referred to as "A man of a thousand accents. All of them offensive."
  • Devoured by the Horde: Aldolpho's actor's body is stated to have been found partially digested by his poodles. Later, the Man in the Chair tells the audience to try to not think about the poodles before one of Aldolpho's musical performances.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: As the Man in Chair tells us, the actress in the 1920s musical The Drowsy Chaperone was famous for playing "The Oops Girl", who had this as her entire shtick.
  • Dumb Muscle: Aldolpho is a brute, but also very foolish, such as mistaking the chaperone for the bride.
  • The Family for the Whole Family: It's hard to take the gangsters seriously when their "weapons" are cooking utensils and everything they say is a pun.
  • Final Love Duet: Played with in that it doesn't actually end the musical at all, but instead creates the central conflict, but other than that, "Accident Waiting to Happen" fits this trope to a T.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Janet and Robert, to the point where "fourth date" might be an overstatement...
    • Not to mention Aldolpho and the Chaperone, Feldzieg and Kitty, and Mrs. Tottendale and Underling, all of whom got married immediately without dating at all.
      • Though Mrs. Tottendale and Underling have at least known each other for some time before Mrs. Tottendale was widowed, as during I Remember Love he's shocked when she sings about how kind love has been to her, pointing out that her late husband "was a brute" before realizing she means him.
  • Funny Foreigner: Aldolpho is a Latin Lover comic relief character.
  • Gallows Humor: “Toledo Surprise” is a punny, jaunty number about beating someone to death.
  • Genre Savvy: Man In Chair spends most of the show commenting about how predictable the in-universe musical is.
  • Guilty Pleasure: The Man in Chair considers "The Drowsy Chaperone" a somewhat silly musical, but it brings him comfort in an otherwise lonely life.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The blurb for the musical describes a "gay wedding." Lampshaded by the Man In Chair who says the word "has a different meaning now, but back then it just meant fun."
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Jane Roberts has a character called The Oops Girl whose gorgeousness would distract all sorts of men, resulting in accidents prompting her to say "Oops!"
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent: Kitty desperately wants to replace Janet, despite her complete lack of talent and very low intelligence.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • In the opening monologue, Man In Chair mentions that he hates when musicals break the fourth wall. Guess what the entire point of the show is.
    • Man In Chair keeps telling the audience to "keep the magic alive" when something interrupts the play. Even if he's the one interrupting.
    • 'Show Off': Janet spends the entire song showing off to her fans and the audience, complete with an encore, while singing about how she's leaving show business.
    • In the intermission monologue the Man In Chair delivers, he complains about people opening crinkly candy wrappers. He then proceeds to open and eat a protein bar.
  • Hypocritical Singing: "Show Off" is a boisterous song about how Janet doesn't want to perform anymore, complete with encore.
  • "I Am Great!" Song: "Aldolpho", about guess who. He sings about how great he is and how much the ladies love him.
  • "I Am" Song: The literally-titled "Aldolpho" is about (who else?) Adolpho singing about his womanizing reputation and huge ego.
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: Justified in the case of "Message From A Nightingale", as Man In Chair accidentally put the wrong record on.
  • The Jeeves: Underling.
  • Lady Drunk: The titular Chaperone.
  • Large Ham: Aldolpho, and by extension, his actor.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: All of the characters, including Pair the Spares.
  • Latin Lover: Aldolpho thinks he's this, but in reality he's more of a Casanova Wannabe.
  • Lemony Narrator: The Man in Chair, in spades.
  • Let's Duet: "Cold Feet" between the groom and George, containing some call and response to introduce George; and "Accident Waiting to Happen" between the bride and groom, using many elements of the Final Love Duet.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: A blackout happens right before the last note of "I Do, I Do, In the Sky."
  • Loving a Shadow: Downplayed with the Man in Chair's love for The Drowsy Chaperone. He's fully aware of the musical's many, many flaws, but it's still the one he turns to when he's blue, even though he's never even seen it performed.
  • Married at Sea: Parodied. In the finale, the cast decides that the captain of an airship can marry people, as they forgot a minister.
  • The Mel Brooks Number: "Bride's Lament". Lampshaded by Man in Chair, who is acutely aware that the song wasn't intended to be funny, and tells the audience to "just ignore the lyrics."
  • Mood Whiplash: There are a number of funny or touching scenes interrupted by the Man in Chair giving a glimpse into his (rather sad) backstory. The biggest by far is the rather funny scene where Drowsy is telling Janet to "L-ve while you can." While Man In Chair's accompanying monologue has some funny lines, it is on the whole rather sad.
  • Most Definitely Not a Villain: The gangsters, who are introduced with the lines, "We're pastry chefs! / We're pastry chefs! / We cross our hearts we're pastry chefs!"
  • Musicalis Interruptus: The Man in Chair's phone rings, interrupting George's tap dance going into the next scene.
  • Narm Charm: Played with in-universe in "Bride's Lament". Janet's metaphor for her relationship with Robert, for some reason, refers to him as a monkey on a pedestal. The Man in Chair doesn't mind it too much because he loves the score, but does say, "Try to ignore the lyrics." Yet he can't help but sing along to some of the song.
  • MST: A completely fictionalized variant. The Man in Chair listens to the records of "The Drowsy Chaperone" while snarking about the cliché nature of the show.
  • No Fourth Wall: The Man in Chair directly speaks to the audience throughout the whole show.
  • No Name Given: The Man in Chair, the Drowsy Chaperone, Underling, the Superintendent, and the Gangsters.
  • Nostalgia Filter: The way the Man In Chair views the 1920s, though he admits that the idea that "the world was one big party" applied only to the wealthy.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Discussed by the Man In Chair with regards to the character of Kitty. Despite seeming like a total bimbo, she nevertheless pulls off something very clever at the end, which leads the Man in Chair to wonder if she's playing dumb.
  • Only Sane Man: Underling.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The beginning of the second act.
  • Pungeon Master: When it comes to this trope, the gangsters really take the cake! Much of their dialogue consists of bakery puns as part of their shtick.
  • Porn Without Plot: Invoked by Man In Chair, who notes that in both musicals and pornography, the plot is often secondary to the..."production numbers."
  • Riddle for the Ages: At the very end, does the Drowsy Chaperone say "Live while you can" or "Leave while you can"? The Man in Chair is obsessed with the question.
  • Rolling Pin of Doom: To go along with their "pastry chef" facade, the gangsters are sometimes shown wielding rolling pins.
  • Shout-Out: Janet van de Graaf and Robert Martin are named after a real-life Canadian acting couple; the show in its original form (pre-Broadway) was written for their stag party. The real Robert Martin co-wrote the book for the Broadway version and was that version's original Man in Chair.
  • Show Within a Show: The actual show is the Man in Chair listening to and commenting on the in-universe musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone."
  • Silly Love Songs: "Love is Always Lovely in the End".
  • Spit Take: One scene consists of nothing but spit takes. Poor Underling!
  • Stocking Filler: The Chaperone, usually.
  • Superfluous Solo: Parodied with "As We Stumble Along", which the Man in Chair claims was only included to appease the actress playing the Chaperone. invoked
  • Take That!: Near the end, when the Superintendent calls himself a fan of musicals but is only familiar with contemporary big-budget titles.
    Superintendent: Yeah, I've seen 'em all. I've seen Cats, Les Miz, Saturday Night Fever—I liked the movie better—
    Man in Chair: Really. Well, goodbye. (He shuts the door in his face.)
  • Tempting Fate: After "Show Off" "ends".
    Kitty: I'm surprised she didn't do an encore.
    Janet: (sings) I don't want to encore no more!
  • Third-Person Person: Aldolpho often talks about himself in the third person, such as "Aldolpho has made love to the bride."
  • Too Dumb to Live: George stops Robert from tap dancing because he could sprain his ankle. Instead he tells him to go rollerblading. Blindfolded. Naturally Robert then sings "I'm an Accident Waiting to Happen."
  • Two-Person Love Triangle: Janet is getting cold feet about her wedding, so she decides to go see whether or not Robert really loves her. He's conveniently blindfolded, so she pretends to be a random French woman named Mimi and asks about how they first met. They both get caught up in reliving the moment and kiss, only for Janet to remember what she's doing and call off the wedding.
  • Unusual Euphemism: in "Toledo Surprise", the Gangsters threaten Feldzieg with baking metaphors, like "chop the nuts", "beat the dough", "peel the skin [of a peach]", and so on. Later, Kitty takes up the melody and begins making thinly veiled sex references ("Squeeze the cream, grease the pan, lick the spoon", etc etc).
  • Weddings for Everyone: The Show Within a Show ends with three additional weddings on top of Janet and Robert's, many of which come out of nowhere.
  • What Are Records?: Man in Chair seems to be anticipating this reaction from his audience when he explains he was listening to his records—yes, records.