Tomorrow, April 10th, will be the fictional character, Mrs. Tottendale’s, birthday! For those not familiar with the reference, she is one of the characters in The Drowsy Chaperone. In the original Broadway production, Mrs. Tottendale was played by Georgia Engel, who has played the role numerous times since leaving Broadway, and subsequently by Jo Ann Worley and Cindy Williams.
I love The Drowsy Chaperone for its humor and whimsy, but most of all for how relatable it is for theater geeks. The story is of Man in Chair sitting in his apartment about to put on a recording of his favorite musical from the 1920’s, The Drowsy Chaperone. As the record starts playing, the musical comes to life in the man’s living room. The story of this musical is of a stage star named Janet Van De Graaf deciding to leave the world of theater and get married to a very wealthy man, Robert Martin. What she doesn’t know is that her producer is desperately trying to stop the wedding so that his show doesn’t tank. Oh yeah, and there are gangsters, a European seducer, and an alcoholic chaperone. While Man in Chair is listening to this recording, he’s also giving the audience a running commentary on the play. It’s basically like listening to Rent or Les Miserables with me (something you should not take part in unless you’re already familiar with the plots of both).
Every April 10th I make sure to wish Mrs. Tottendale a happy birthday, and give The Drowsy Chaperone a listen. It’s been almost 8 years since the show closed on Broadway, and it remains one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It parodies everything that was ridiculous about early musical theater, while also reminding modern audiences what was so great about that glorious era.
The show actually started as a wedding gift to the real life Janet Van De Graaf, and features a dynamic cast of women. Aside from Mrs. Tottendale, this show is full of great female characters played by some pretty well known women. As the Drowsy Chaperone, Beth Leavel earned herself a Tony. Sutton Foster refused to show off as Janet. Kitty calls everyone out on their b.s., and Trix saves the day with her awesome pilot skills.
I encourage everyone to give The Drowsy Chaperone a listen, and wish Mrs. Tottendale a very happy birthday.
If you’ve never heard it before, let me know what you think in the comments!