Martin Burke as Man in Chair in ZACH's THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, Photo by Kirk R. Tuck www.kirktuck.com
The ‘Man in Chair’ is a Broadway fanatic who plays host to THE DROWSY CHAPERONE musical as the vibrant production springs to life in his apartment. Martin Burke, who plays Man in Chair in ZACH’s production, tells us a bit about his role and what a thrill ride it has been for him and Austin audiences.
Martin has one of the best gigs in Austin live theatre: “It’s a joy to sit and watch the actors, dancers and musicians every night,” he said. “But I have to watch myself, too. Sometimes I’ll get caught up in the show and forget that I’m on stage, mouthing all the words to all the songs in the show and mimicking the choreography.”
“It feels like you’re catching me in one of those bathroom moments that I never meant for anyone to see.” Man in Chair starts the show complaining about all the things he hates in theatre: actors going into the audience, audience members getting up to go the bathroom; and the irony of it all, Martin said, is that “the Man in Chair does everything that he hates.”
Director Nick Demos, who recently won a Tony Award as producer of the musical MEMPHIS, and the wonderfully talented cast in ZACH’s production have made this show, Martin’s first performance in an Austin theatre musical, “very comfortable.”
“Nick has taught me a lot about acting and dealing with the audiences. From working in The Santaland Diaries for several years at ZACH, my tendency was to get really worked up when I got heckled. In this production, I’ve learned to just let them be, and it makes the show so dynamic and different from night to night.”
Jill Blackwood as Janet Van de Graaff with Man in Chair mimicking her every move, Photo by Kirk R. Tuck www.kirktuck.com
Martin recalls years watching Jill Blackwood raise the roof in other Austin theatre productions, particularly at ZACH, and now has a front row seat every night watching her “sing with her lips wide open but still moving just like Barbra Streisand.” He noted: “Do people really know that Jill (who plays Janet Van de Graaff) actually does play all the instruments in the musical number ‘Show Off’? Well, she does.”
“My favorite moments in the musical are when something goes wrong with the record and the show suddenly stops. It’s when I’m reminded that I’m actually an actor playing an actor who’s playing a man in a musical,” he said.
“I also love the line ‘It’s better to have lived than left’” when trying to figure out the words The Drowsy Chaperone (played by Meredith McCall) meant to say at a moment with the record of the musical accidentally skips. “It’s interesting that he doesn’t consider that she could’ve meant ‘love.’ It really adds poignancy and depth to the Man in Chair’s character.”
By popular demand, ZACH Theatre has extended THE DROWSY CHAPERONE run through August 29, opening up excellent seats for Austin live theatre audiences. Perfect for friends, family and out of town guests, tickets are available online and by phone at (512) 476-0541, ext. 1.
Special thanks to Kirk R. Tuck for production photography.