This show is truly, truly an ensemble piece. It requires strong comedic actors in every speaking role – and each supporting character has their own great comedic material, moment to shine, and musical highlight. This is NOT a star vehicle where the two leads matter and the rest of the characters are just support. The crazy group of characters is what makes this show work.
Apart from the Man in the Chair, the actors are definitely ‘ACTING’. There is a presentational awareness of the audience that lampoons the acting style of the 1920s-and 30s. Compare the acting style of old hollywood black and white movies with that of today. Broad is good – but still specific and detailed. It is certainly a distant relative of GOOD panto acting. It’s not allowing yourself to get away with bad acting… it’s doing really good acting – just with enormous energy and for a larger sized venue. It’s the difference between a crappy cast on Saturday Night Live and a good cast. Think of the difference between Faye Dunnawaye in Mommie Dearest vs. anything else. Be brave in the audition… I’d rather you make a strong choice than a bland one.
George: Man in the Chair – (non singing) – 30’s-50’s. Needs a superb comedic actor. Musical theatre aficionado who mourns the end of the Golden Era. His recording of "The Drowsy Chaperone" brings the show to life as he narrates. Probably agoraphobic… his apartment is his world. Gregarious with an infectious passion for musical theater. Socially awkward… a bit anxious. Gentle. A confirmed bachelor – clearly gay, but in that 1950’s kind of non-campy way. The kind of guy who would live with his mother. If he were an animal he might be a timid white rabbit or a turtle on ridilin. He commands this stage because it’s his world… but if you took him to a party he would stand in the corner like a coat rack and be terrified to speak to anyone. He is lonely. A gay Mr. Rogers crossed with the guy who introduces movies on AMC. His gestures are halting (hands often held in to himself (lack of confidence) and gestures almost always above the nipple… his hands flap a bit when he’s excited. There is something adorably awkward about him. A Canadian accent adds a useful musicality to his cadence – but American is also fine.
Mrs. Tottendale: 60’s. And endearing simpleton. She is sweet, demure and almost like a slightly demented pixie. Charming, bubbly and oblivious. She is constantly befuddled. If she were an animal she would be an exceptionally sweet and somewhat mentally challenged mouse. Eyes always wide in wonder and constantly surprised at the happenings around her. If Angela Lansbury played Dory’s Grandmother in Finding Nemo… she’d be Mrs. Tottendale. A British distant relative are the two elderly ladies who twittered around Basil Fawlty. Singing – Alto ‘character voice’ – not a big sound. (the role was created by Georgia Engels who played Robert’s mother in law on Everybody Loves Raymond). Also kind of a Rose Nyland character from Golden Girls. American.
Aldolfo: Mature male – 40’s. Latin Lothario bufoon. Ridiculous Spanish accent. Imagine Gaston mixed with Rudy Valentino. He is exceptionally presentational (almost in the world of panto). He has a mellifluous voice which oozes musicality. He has catchphrases that always are delivered the same (when he says his name “Alolfo!” it’s always a sharp front out to the audience. His “What?” (constantly recurring) is played as gigantic melodic glissando (“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?) rising upward. The kind of guy who wears a girdle… Imagine Pavoratii as a Warner Brothers cartoon. Strong comedic skill needed. All ego. If he were an animal he would be an ostritch who is convinced he’s a peacock. Pepe Le Pieu (the skunk) is a distant cousin of this archetype of character. Singing role – BIG, beefy baritone. Should move well.
Robert: (20s-30s) Very handsome… Groom-to-be, deeply in love with Janet. The token leading male ingénue type. Debonair, dashing. Cheesy, cheerful and optimistic. He is a cardboard cutout without a great deal of intellect. The kind of guy who would be the team quarterback in the movie Pleasantville. He’s a personable blank. The equivalent of a Stepford Boyfriend. Well meaning. He’s all looks no brains (but likeable). Greg Brady (from the Brady Bunch movie) is a great template for this guy. He was a famous toothpaste model – so he’s all smiles. If Barbie was dating the male Vanna White. Male pretty baritone. Strong mover/dancer.
The Chaperone: (To quote Jerry Herman, “somewhere between 40 and death). She is a highly functioning lush. Cut from the same cloth as old Judy Garland and Liza Minelli – a huge stage persona. She is a has-been star, better than the material she is stuck with. She’s a little bit of Dianne Weist in Bullets Over Broadway. The perfect American template for her is Christine Baranski on the show Cybil (youtube it). The PERFECT British template is Pasty from Ab Fab. Dry, wry and totally apathetic about most everything except her next gimlet. Strong, strong comedic skills. Belty diva with strong vocal. A woman of the world… A little bit of Elaine Stritch singing “Ladies Who Lunch”. Modelled after Tallulah Bankhead. Should move well.
Janet Van de Graff : She is the typical 1920’s leading lady. Look at the film version of 42nd street to see the kind of template. Renee Zelwegger in “Down With Love” taps into the right kind of energy. There is a definite ‘old hollywood’ musicality to her speaking cadence (Debbie Reynolds in Singing in the Rain or even Judy Garland in Wizard of Oz). She’s the headline star of Feldzieg’s Follies who is conflicted about giving up her life on the stage to marry Robert Martin. Attractive, vivacious, outgoing personality. She loves being the center of attention and is the consummate 1920s starlet. Strong movement and special skills (acrobatics, juggling, etc.) a plus. Star of Feldzieg’s Follies who is conflicted about giving up her life on the stage to marry Robert Martin. Attractive, vivacious, outgoing personality. She loves being the center of attention and is the consummate 1920s starlet. Strong movement and special skills (gymnastics, cartwheels, juggling, etc.) are a plus. Vocal range: Alto with big belt (G3-E5) All-american.
Mr. Feldzieg: (40s-50s) Harried cigar-chomping producer who will do anything to stop the wedding in order to keep Janet in the Follies. Think of Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Danny Devito in ‘Sunny in Philadelphia’. A sort of less acerbic Max Bialystock. He is nervous, sarcastic, impatient, overbearing, and insensitive. Vocal range: Character voice baritone (Db3-Db4)
Kitty: (30’s) 1920s dumb blonde ‘chorus girl’. New York accent. She is Mr. Feldzieg’s companion and will do anything to be a leading lady. A cross between Norma Cassady (Leslie Ann Warren) in Victor Victoria (Listen to “Paris makes me horny” from the original broadway soundtrack of that show, or watch and Lena Lamont from Singin’ in the Rain. She is also a kind of more hyper version of Meg Tilly’s character in Bullet’s over Broadway. Think of Betty Boop but more aggravating. Vocal range: Soprano comedic belt (Bb3-F5)
Underling: (50s-60s) Mrs. Tottendale’s unflappable butler and manservant. He is stoic, dry-humored and sarcastic. A cross between Arthur Treacher and Niles the butler from The Nanny. Upper, upper class British accent. Vocal range: Tenor ‘character voice’ (Ab2-G4) (not a heavy singing role).
Gangsters 1 and 2: (30s-40s) Two jovial gangsters who are posing as pastry chefs. Typical 1920s Broadway gangsters full of word play and stylized movements. Good comic timing and movement skills. Think of the two thugs in “Kiss me Kate” who sing ‘brush up your Shakespeare” or Abbot and Costello starring in the Godfather. NY Italian mob dialect. Vocal range: Tenor (Db3-Gb4)
Trix the Aviatrix: (35-50) The brave and brash female aviator. She is sassy, sleek and a take charge kind of gal. Preferably an African American actress with a sassy big belt. Queen Latifa meets Effie from Dreamgirls type. Vocal range: Alto (Ab3-Eb5)
NO SIDES FOR TRIX - She doesn’t say much, but boy does she SING. She has a great big sassy solo number
George: Robert’s best man. 30’s-40’s. Robert’s anxious best man. The typical ‘side kick’. He is loyal, sincere, and nervous. Makes looking out for Robert’s interests his top priority so that the wedding will come off without a hitch. Should be a strong mover/dancer. Vocal range: Tenor (F3-Bb4) – the high end of that vocal range is negotiable. American (although doesn’t have to be).
Superintendent: 20s/30s. Manly, handsome type. Unassuming but affable. Not likely to be a member of mensa.
Male and Female ensemble – servants, reporters, wedding guests etc.