But however well you stir the vintage froth within The Drowsy Chaperone, the raison d'être for the 21st-century meta-musical is Man in Chair, expiating, rhapsodizing, and deconstructing as his favorite show emerges from the mothballs to career around his digs and his head. Librettists Bob Martin and Don McKellar supply him with some funny material both enthused and waspish, and McGarrahan can be as snippy or insinuating as he is sentimental. But most of all, whether he's hugging the sidelines in his afghan-draped armchair while eagerly following every trill and tap of cleat, or inserting himself into the midst of the action like Zelig, he radiates the pure escapist exhilaration The Drowsy Chaperone invokes in him. And it's catching.
Don't take your inner child to Ryan Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans' Peter Pansy (at Machine through May 29) unless the interior tyke is up for a learning experience. On the curriculum, in addition to J.M. Barrie: sex ed, sass ed, musical recycling, and an insider's guide to the magic land of Provincetonia, where "the gayest boy on earth" lives among sex-starved compatriots, menacing Muppet mermaids, and a rag-tag gang of pirates whose homophobic leader (Landry in full Victorian nautical regalia) appears to have commandeered the Love Boat. Fly in the Darling children, their little noses stuffed with cocaine code-named "pixie dust," and you're in for an adventure that might give Mary Martin, soaring perkily on her cable, a heart attack.
Not that Michael Wood's athletic Peter, coasting past the Darling nursery window with the aid of a device closer to Porgy's goat cart than to Flying by Foy, isn't perky. In his snug green tunic and wine-colored tights, he is both adorable and endearing. He sings like a dream, notably on a Hawaiian ode to Provincetonia complete with leis and ukulele. (The songs are mostly pastiches of retro-pop, with dirtier, plot-appropriate lyrics by Landry.) And he seems an eager peacemaker, torn between newly recruited "fag hag" Wendy (Liza Lott, keeping a lid on her Liza Minnelli impersonation) and oversized, spiteful fairy Tinker Bell (an amusing Olive Another sporting wings, a yellow chignon, and a nasty streak). This Peter has his hands full, even without the dangers presented by a Captain Hook who wants "his pecker on a plate of pickled peppers" and a somewhat questionable but impressively large monster named for the female genitalia.
As always with the Orphans in their tight lair and on their tight budget, both performance energy and technical ingenuity are impressive. The bright cartoon sets, which include a Little Mermaid–worthy lagoon for the Muppet sirens of the sea, just keep coming. And Scott Martino's costumes are funny and voluptuous, with numerous droll echoes of the Disney movie. As for Landry's script, it's not only a raunchy hoot but also kind of sweet, with a Peter genuinely torn between breaking hearts (especially the aggressively heterosexual Wendy's) and staying true to his sexual orientation.