“American Idol” season-two runner-up Clay Aiken and Tony Award®-winning actress Beth Leavel will star in the North Carolina Theatre‘s gala production of The Drowsy Chaperone, directed and choreographed by NCT artistic director Casey Hushion, on May 7-12 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Progress Energy Center) in the downtown Raleigh, NC.
Clay Aiken is returning to North Carolina Theatre stage for the first time since performing in the 1996 productions of 1776 and Shenandoah, whereas Beth Leavel played “M’Lynn” in NCT’s 2012 presentation of Steel Magnolias. In The Drowsy Chaperone, Aiken will play a musical-theater aficionado known only as “Man in Chair”; and ” Leavel will reprise the role as the perpetually tipsy and always ready for love title character for which she won the 2006 Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, as well as the 2006 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress.
Casey Hushion, who served as assistant director for the original 2006 Broadway production of The Drowsy Chaperone, will perform double duty as the NCT presentation’s director and choreographer.
According to the North Carolina Theatre:
“The Drowsy Chaperone begins when, to chase his blues away, a modern-day musical-theater addict known simply as ‘Man in Chair’ drops the needle on his favorite LP — the 1928 musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone. From the crackle of his record player, the uproariously funny musical magically blooms to life inside his apartment walls, telling the tale of a pampered Broadway starlet who wants to give up show business to get married, her producer who sets out to sabotage the nuptials, her chaperone, and her debonair groom. ‘Man in Chair’s’ infectious love of The Drowsy Chaperone is sure to touch anyone who has ever been transported by the theater.
“At the 2006 Tony Awards, The Drowsy Chaperone won Best Book and Best Original Score of a Musical.”
Also according to the North Carolina Theatre, Clay Aiken recalls:
“‘The very first time I ever auditioned for anything was when I stepped into an audition for NCT’s production of 1776 back in 1996. North Carolina Theatre was my first experience performing on a professional stage. It’s possible that, had it not been for experience and encouragement I received as a part of this organization, I may never have had the confidence to audition for ‘American Idol.’ Now, 17 years after my first theatrical performance, I’m happy to be fulfilling a promise I made years ago to return to the stage at North Carolina Theatre.’
The North Carolina Theatre adds:
“Clay Aiken will play the role of ‘Man in Chair.’ A Raleigh native, Mr. Aiken first came to national attention on the second season of ‘American Idol’ in 2003, Since then, Clay Aiken has released five well-received albums, selling over six million units as of 2011 and penned a New York Times best-selling memoir.
“In 2008, Clay Aiken began his critically lauded stint as the inept yet endearing ‘Sir Robin’ in the Broadway musical Monty Python’s Spamalot. Spamalot Director Mike Nichols later referred to Aiken ‘an excellent comic actor and a master of character.’
“‘It has always been a dream of ours to have Clay Aiken back on the NCT stage someday,’ said North Carolina Theatre artistic director Casey Hushion, who is also directing this production. ‘Clay is a remarkable talent and a fine theater actor — we are beyond thrilled that The Drowsy Chaperone has created this opportunity. We are grateful that Clay has been a long-time supporter and a true friend to NCT, and we cannot wait to watch him shine in this incredibly unique role.’
“Joining Mr. Aiken onstage as ‘The Chaperone’ will be Beth Leavel, reprising the role that won her a Tony Award. A Raleigh native, Beth also starred as ‘M’Lynn’ in North Carolina Theatre‘s 2012 production of Steel Magnolias.
“Before her Broadway debut [as a replacement Annie in the 1980 production of] 42nd Street, Beth attended Broughton High School and [graduated from] of Meredith College and UNC Greensboro. For her performance in the Broadway production of The Drowsy Chaperone, Beth has received a Drama Desk, New York Outer Critics Circle, and Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Awards, in addition to the Tony.”
Originally created as a wedding present for Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff, The Drowsy Chaperone is an ingenious, witty, and altogether wonderful one-act musical runs about an hour and 40 minutes and features music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and a book by Martin and Don McKellar. Although the show’s American premiere was originally staged by Center Theatre Group at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, The Drowsy Chaperone made its Broadway debut on May 1, 2006 at the Marquis Theatre, where it racked up 674 performances before closing on Dec. 30, 2007.
Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, the show received thirteen 2006 Tony Award® nominations, including Best Musical, and took home five Tonys, including the awards for Best Original Score (music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison), Best Book of a Musical (Bob Martin and Don McKellar), and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (former Raleigh actress Beth Leavel as The Drowsy Chaperone) — plus the 2006 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Lyrics, Outstanding Music, Outstanding Book of a Musical, and Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Beth Leavel again).
SECOND OPINION: May 4th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Tim Stevens: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/05/04/2868535/drowsy-chaperone-is-the-musical.html and May 1st slideshow by Corey Lowenstein: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/05/01/2863682/first-look-the-drowsy-chaperone.html; May 2nd Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/x1592154894/Clay-Aiken-likes-Durham-s-flavor (Note: You must register to view this article); May 1st Raleigh, NC WNCN interview with Beth Leavel, conducted by Sharon Delaney and Valonda Calloway for “My Carolina Today”: http://www.wncn.com/video?clipId=8831174; May 1st Raleigh, NC WRAL-TV preview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBD6dbMNiUw; April 30th Raleigh, NC Walter Magazine preview by Liza Roberts: http://www.waltermagazine.com/coming-full-circle-with-clay-aiken/; and Feb. 22nd New York, NY Playbill.com preview by Andrew Gans: http://playbill.com/news/article/175265-Clay-Aiken-and-Tony-Winner-Beth-Leavel-Will-Star-in-North-Carolina-Theatres-Drowsy-Chaperone.
North Carolina Theatre presents THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, starring Clay Aiken and Beth Leavel at 7:30 p.m. May 7-10 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. May 11 and 12 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $30.10-$99.60 (including fees).
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext.6944.
Ticketmaster 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1014448.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 5204, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/group-sales.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11th, performance.
Study Guide: http://tuts.com/Images/SeasonShowDocs/drowsy_study.pdf (Theatre Under the Stars).
Casey Hushion (director): http://www.nctheatre.com/about/staff (NCT bio).
Clay Aiken (actor): http://clayaiken.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_aiken (Wikipedia). Beth Leavel (actress): http://www.bethleavel.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beth_Leavel (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Review, a FREE weekly e-mail arts newsletter. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Review.
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