REVIEW: THE DROWSY CHAPERONE at the Novello Theatre Aldwych

PUBLISHED: 12:09 22 June 2007 | UPDATED: 14:34 07 September 2010

Four star rating This style of production comes under the heading of ASO (actors showing off) but boy, do they do it well. Bob Martin plays the Man In The Chair, a corduroy and cardigan nerdy type who tells

THE DROWSY

CHAPERONE

Novello Theatre

Aldwych

Four star rating

This style of production comes under the heading of ASO (actors showing off) but boy, do they do it well.

Bob Martin plays the Man In The Chair, a corduroy and cardigan nerdy type who tells us of his obsession with a 1920s musical.

He puts the LP on his gramophone, the lights come on, the characters come to life and the show begins. He stays there among them commenting on the action.

The flimsy plot concerns a wedding of Broadway star Janet and Robert (John Partridge), a dancing,

roller-skating, suitably daft bridegroom.

The characters are all stereotypes, cartoon characters - a Broadway producer with his dumb showgirl moll, a crazy foreigner, a couple of comedy gangsters and the groom's tap-dancing sidekick (Sean Kingsley).

Above all, there is the very tall, very talented and exquisitely beautiful bride in the person of Summer Strallen and her diminutive alcoholic chaperone played by Elaine Paige.

Much is made of the height discrepancy with Paige giving us a masterclass in the art of upstaging.

One of the most effective numbers is Partridge and Kingsley whipping up a positive storm as they sing and dance Cold Feet.

Partridge is unforgettable both for his elegant movement and his unshakable toothpaste smile.

Strallen shines in the brilliant "show-off" number in which she performs magic and acrobatics as well as displaying the longest legs and the highest kicks in the business.

This show is a positive treat for the eye with extravagant sets and costumes and lots of cunning effects.

The performers are over the top, brilliantly funny and riotously applauded by a first night show biz audience.

But the joke is a slight one and it is irredeemably frivolous. I found it enjoyable but always conscious of the lack of heart and innocence of a show like The Boy Friend with which it will obviously be compared.

The charm of the 20s is diminished when looked at with a debunking 21st century point of view. It could be anathema to those who prefer their theatre with a little more reality.

Until February 23.

Aline Waites

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