You're already supposed to know the Gatsby story; if you're as unfamiliar with DC as I was, the short version is: Lonely musical-theater-loving Man in Chair (Clay) escapes into the fantasy of one of his favorite cast recordings, a 1920s frolic about a spotlight-loving ingenue (Paige Faure as Janet Van Der Graaft) torn between love and stardom.
The banality of Man in Chair's life is made poignant as he is interrupted by the phone, or by the lights going out, and he reflects on the failure of his less than perfect marriage. Do you leave (escape) or live with your decisions?
The decision to live with it can be reversed; he ultimately has "leave" thrust upon him by the divorce lawyers, and it is his escapist life he lives with. (The show that this story actually reminds me of is The Purple Rose of Cairo, with Mia Farrow as the drab-life-liver escaping into Depression Era silver-screen fantasy.)
|Clay Aiken in rehearsal, The Drowsy Chaperone, photo by Corey Lowenstein, News Observer|
|Clay Aiken as Man in Chair, The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Curtis Brown|
Musically, I'll give the edge to Jay-Z in bringing the Gatsbian Jazz Age into the modern ear. Drowsy is as light as air, and fairly forgettable (except among those of my friends who went for multiples last week).
Acting: well, I love Clay, so there you go. He delivered a memorable character. If Man in Chair touched me, it's because he is far easier for someone like me to relate to than Jay Gatsby, whether performed by Robert Redford or Leonardo di Caprio.
They both created fantasy worlds: As Daisy Buchanan puts it, Gatsby's world is a "perfect, irresistible imagination." So is Man in Chair's.
I already live in the Man in Chair's world: I'm Auntie Hosaa on a Sofa, occasionally found hanging over the railing in the dress circle, binoculars trained on my favorite showman, engaging me with his irresistible imagination.
It's F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby I never quite understood. Our fictional chaperone, Nick Carraway, is too simplistic: Gatsby had inextinguishable hope; Daisy (and Tom Buchanan) were careless people. And no matter who is cast as Daisy, be it Mia Farrow or Carey Mulligan, I just don't get the attraction, let alone the obsession.
But then, there are people who don't get my obsession with Clay Aiken. So there you go. It's just that perfect, irresistible imagination he elicits.