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'The Drowsy Chaperone:' A musical within a comedy

When an agoraphobic Broadway fan sits down in a chair to listen to his favorite musical comedy, "The Drowsy Chaperone," its characters appear in his small apartment, and it slowly transforms into the impressive estate of Mrs. Tottendale, who is hosting the wedding of oil tycoon Robert Martin and stage star Janet Van De Graaff.

The guests include Robert's best man, George; Broadway producer Feldzieg, who is hoping to persuade Janet to forgo marriage and continue starring in his Feldzieg's Follies; ditzy flapper Kitty, who hopes to take Janet's place in the Follies; two gangsters posing as pastry chefs; the self-proclaimed famed Latin lover Aldolpho; and Janet's alcoholic chaperone, whose sole job is to keep Janet away from Robert until the wedding.

The man in the chair in this musical within a comedy — with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison — provides a running commentary about the story, music and songs throughout the show, unseen by any of the cast.

"The Drowsy Chaperone," a parody of '20s American musical comedies, previews Thursday, July 6, opens Friday, July 7, and runs through Sept. 3 at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, First and Hargadine streets, Ashland. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matinees are at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Preview tickets are $25. Tickets for other performances are $25 or $39.

Pre-show dinner and brunch reservations are available. Appetizers, beverages and desserts are available without reservations. OCT offers a 20 percent discount for groups of 10 or more. Student rush tickets are $10 and available 30 minutes before curtain. Tickets are available at the box office, at oregoncabaret.com or by calling 541-488-2902.

Roger DeLaurier, associate artistic director and conservatory director at Pacific Conservatory Theatre in Santa Maria, California, directs the show.

" “The Drowsy Chaperone' is a perfect show for Oregon Cabaret Theatre," DeLaurier says. "I was lucky enough to see it in L.A. before its run on Broadway and was struck by all of the wonderful original songs and good-hearted fun the show provides. It’s great fun for anyone, but especially those who love musical theater."

The show's cast is the largest ever at OCT, according to managing director Rick Robinson. Its 14 performers include such longtime favorites as John Stadelman, Gretchen Rumbaugh, Galloway Stevens, Scott Ford, Suzanne Seiber and Lucas Blair.

"One of the cool things about having Roger direct the show — and having Gretchen and Suzanne in the cast — is that we have three people who were involved in the very early seasons of Oregon Cabaret Theatre," Robinson says. "Roger was involved in the production of 'Grease' that Jim Giancarlo, Craig Hudson, Paul Barnes, Gretchen and Suzanne did at the Britt Festivals. They have fun stories. That production and that artistic team is what got the wheels turning and eventually became Oregon Cabaret Theatre."

Stadelman anchors "The Drowsy Chaperone" as the man in the chair; Rumbaugh plays Janet's chaperone; Stevens plays Adolpho; Ford plays Feldzieg; Seiber plays Mrs. Tottendale; and Blair plays one of the gangsters.

The cast is rounded out by Layli Kayhani (Janet Van De Graaf), Jack Delaney (Robert Martin), Edgar Lopez (George), Stephanie Jones (Kitty), Chad Patterson (gangster), Billy Breed (underling), Anastasia Talley (Trix) and Kyle Sanderson (Superintendent).

"It was a challenging piece for Val (artistic director Valerie Rachelle) to cast," Robinson says. "It's not like we have four featured performers and an ensemble. Every actor in the piece has a number."

Another challenge for the creative team is the size of OCT's performance space.

"There are some numbers in 'Chaperone' that call for the entire cast to be on stage at the same time," Robinson says. "Our set designer Jason Bolen (resident set designer at PCPA) had to build a space that allows our upstage area to be a playing space, so we can get everyone on who's supposed to be dancing.

"To create the sense of a large space like Tottendale estate, we took features that look like they belong in a studio apartment and flip them to become columns," Robinson adds. "The refrigerator door is pulled off its hinges to become an archway, and a new light-effects device creates a swimming pool. We're using every trick we have in our bag to show the sort of elegant, opulent space that 'Drowsy Chaperone' is set."

Kerri Lea Robbins is costume designer; Keenon Hooks is choreographer; lighting design is by Kody Johnson, sound by Mike Kunkel and props designer is G. Andrew Bangs.

John Stadelman stars as the man in the chair in Oregon Cabaret Theatre's production of 'The Drowsy Chaperone,' opening July 7. [Photo by Christopher Briscoe]