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A lively 'Drowsy Chaperone' in Port Jeff

Jeffrey Sanzel as Man in Chair and Jennifer

Jeffrey Sanzel as Man in Chair and Jennifer Collester-Tully in the title role of "The Drowsy Chaperone" at Theatre Three through June 18, 2011. Credit: Peter Lanscombe

How many brides get a Broadway musical starring themselves for a wedding gift? That's the back-back story of "The Drowsy Chaperone," an uproarious homage to 1920s musicals playing at Theatre Three.

Janet Van De Graff is the name of both the heroine and real-life bride of Bob Martin, "Chaperone's" co-creator who also originated its "Man in Chair" narrator.

In this lively remake, directed by Tom Evans, Jeffrey Sanzel -- best known as Theatre Three's Scrooge at during the holiday season -- charms us as a recluse who longs to share his overaffection for vintage musicals. As he spins the vinyl recording, "Drowsy Chaperone" comes alive in his forlorn apartment (Randall Parsons' adaptable set). The fictional Janet, played with diva gusto by Heather Van Velsor, is surrendering her showgirl career to marry oil tycoon Robert, awkward in romance as played by Brett Chizever.

With a fortune riding on her next picture, Janet's producer (Frank Russo, personifying villainy) hires gangster-chefs (Danny Gorman, Chris Brady) to nip the nuptials. Meanwhile, Jennifer Collester-Tully as the hammy title character -- more tipsy than drowsy -- is assigned to steer the couple clear of scandal. Mistaken identity, preposterous dreams and the Man's agoraphobia keep us guessing from one bouncy number ("Show Off") to another ("Toledo Surprise"), choreographed by Sari Feldman. In a subsidiary romance, Marci Bing and Doug Quattrock, plus hapless foils Evan Teich and Jim Sluder, widen the whimsy. Ellen Michelmore's orchestra provides excellent fidelity. Even better than vinyl.

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