Friday night: The Drowsy Chaperone was a last-minute switch (from Faith Healer, yo), mostly because it looked mom-friendly, which proved truer than true. Man in Chair sits in chair and talks to the audience while he plays a recording from his favorite (fictional) 1920s musical. The characters appear in his living room and act out their slight-but-captivating farce while he watches and comments and occasionally—oh yes—joins in to sing and dance along. Definitely audience-friendly fare—smart enough to please the snobs, but not too smart in that way that ends up pissing off the tourists. It was easy: easy to sit through, easy to listen to, easy to like. Sometimes too easy: obvious jokes about Elton John, candy wrappers, and cell phones are (I think) pandering and blatantly unfunny, although that never seems to stop people from laughing. The music was catchy and instantly forgettable, the cast was perfect, from Bob Martin as Man in Chair (who absolutely made the show) to Georgia Engel (Mrs. Ted Baxter!) to Sutton Foster as the de facto leading lady (good enough, but I'm missing all the fuss on her—she has one of those bright, loud, bland soprano voices I would never be able to pick out of a crowd) and Beth Leavel as the deliciously drowsy (read: drunk) chaperone, or what I refer to as The Christine Baranski Role. But more than anything, it was simply entertaining, one of those rare shows where the people sitting around you feel like part of a community, rather than random gangs of sloppy, ill-bred strangers. And the power of that should not be taken lightly.
Saturday night: The Light in the Piazza, again chosen for its mom appeal. Seemed to work well enough. Anyway: how I adore this show (which you can watch on PBS June 15 or, if you're in Chicago, sometime in December*), although something still bothers me about the music—it sounds as though it was written for three different shows, all of them pretty but none of which have anything in common. Victoria Clark was even better than I remember from last October—she breathes this character—but Katie Clark not quite as affecting as Kelli O'Hara (which we'll forgive, since she's fresh out of college). Aaron Lazar—tall, gorgeous, gangly, smitten, overeager—was my favorite this time, but I do desperately want to see it again with Patti Cohenour as Margaret. Um, luckily I'm going back in nine days for something else entirely, so I'll have another chance to stop by.
*Just kidding! I've no idea when it will be shown in Chicago, but I would almost guarantee it won't be June 15. WTTW's scheduling department likes to make sure everybody else in the country gets the chance to watch a program before we do.