That first “Drowsy” production, held at Toronto’s Rivoli nightclub, was just 35 minutes long. The response was so tremendous that Lambert, Martin and their high-school friend, Canadian actor-writer Don McKellar (“Slings & Arrows”) decided to retool it with Martin playing Man in Chair. Lambert and composer Greg Morrison wrote the songs; McKellar and Martin wrote the book.
They took it to the Toronto Fringe Festival and the 160-seat Theatre Passe Muraille the following year, where again it was a huge audience hit. “Drowsy” expanded into a full-length, big-stage production at Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre in 2001, then went into a four-year-limbo as the producers shopped it around.
A successful reading at the National Alliance for Musical Theater Festival for New Musicals in 2004 brought “Drowsy” to the attention of New York producer Kevin McCollum (“Rent,” “Avenue Q”), who decided to bring it to Broadway. After a successful Los Angeles tryout, it opened at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway in May 2006, and played 674 performances before closing in December 2007.
“It started as a drunken lark,” says Martin, who played Man in Chair in Toronto, New York and London. “It started as small as a show can possibly start. And then it just grew and grew until we had this $10 million-plus budget and won five Tonys and seven Drama Desk awards. It was this huge success … in a way we could never have imagined. I can talk about it frankly, because it seemed so surreal to me.”