The first big Broadway musical transfer of 2007 has been confirmed: as previously tipped (See The Goss, 24 Oct 2006), the five-time Tony Award winner The Drowsy Chaperone will open this spring with West End diva Elaine Paige returning to the musical stage after an absence of six years to take the title role. The show receives UK premiere on 6 June 2007 (following previews from 14 May and a press night on 5 June) at the Novello Theatre, where it’s initially booking until 23 February 2008.

The parody of 1920s romantic musicals has music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and a book by Don McKellar and Bob Martin (pictured), who also stars in the Broadway show and who will reprise his role in the West End. Broadway’s Casey Nicholaw, who made his West End debut with his choreography on Spamalot, both choreographs and directs The Drowsy Chaperone.

To chase his blues away, a modern-day musical theatre addict known simply as “Man in Chair” (Martin) drops the needle on his favourite LP, the 1928 musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone. From the crackle of his hi-fi, the musical bursts to life on stage, 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 (Paige), the debonair groom, the dizzy chorine, the Latin lover and a pair of gangsters who double as pastry chefs.

A multi award-winning stage actress and recording artist, Elaine Paige’s last starring role in the West End was in the 2000 revival of The King and I at the London Palladium, which she left at the end of her contract in spring 2001 (See News, 16 Nov 1999). Paige’s many other credits include Cats, Sunset Boulevard, Evita and Anything Goes.

Commenting on her new role, Paig said: “I saw The Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway and loved it, and now I’m very excited about returning to the West End in this wonderfully funny, original new musical. I’m really looking forward to being part of a terrific ensemble piece, and I think we’re all going to have a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get started!”

Bob Martin said: "We're all thrilled with the success that Drowsy has had in New York, but as I was born in London there's no bigger thrill for me than to be returning to my home town gainfully employed!" Martin’s other theatre credits include An Awkward Evening with Martin and Johnson, The Good Life and Alumni Café. He has won many awards for his writing including the LA Drama Critics Circle Award and five Canadian Comedy Awards.

The Drowsy Chaperone, which started life in 1998 as a sketch for a stag do in Toronto, opened at the Marquis Theatre in New York in May last year and won five 2006 Tony Awards, including Best Book and Best Score, seven Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, four Outer Critics’ Circle Awards including Outstanding Score and the Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical.

The musical is designed by David Gallo, with costumes by Gregg Barnes, and lighting by Ken Billington and Brian Monahan, sound design by Acme Sound Partners, orchestrations by Larry Blank and dance and incidental music arrangements by Glen Kelly. No further casting has yet been announced, although British names previously rumoured in connection with the production have included Michael Ball and John Barrowman.

The Drowsy Chaperone is produced in the West End by Kevin McCollum (whose London theatre credits include the Olivier-nominated Avenue Q, Rent and De La Guarda), Roy Miller, Boyett Ostar, Stephanie McClelland and Barbara Freitag and Jill Furman.

Currently at the Novello, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s winter residency continues until 24 March 2007, with the current production of Antony and Cleopatra, which concludes on 17 February, followed with The Tempest from 22 February. Both star Patrick Stewart. Public booking has not yet opened for The Drowsy Chaperone.

- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock