The Drowsy Chaperone

The Drowsy Chaperone is a musical with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. It is a parody of American musical comedy of the 1920s. The story concerns a middle-aged, asocial musical theatre fan. As he plays the record of his favorite musical, the fictional 1928 hit The Drowsy Chaperone, the show comes to life onstage, as he wryly comments on the music, story, and actors.

The Drowsy Chaperone
Broadway production windowcard
MusicLisa Lambert
Greg Morrison
LyricsLisa Lambert
Greg Morrison
BookBob Martin
Don McKellar
Productions1998 Toronto
1999 Toronto revival
1999 Toronto revival
2001 Toronto revival
2005 Los Angeles
2006 Broadway
2007 West End
2007 First National Tour
2009 Japan
2009 Second National Tour
2010 Ogunquit
2010 Melbourne
2013 São Paulo
2015 Hamilton
AwardsTony Award for Best Score
Tony Award for Best Book

The Drowsy Chaperone debuted in 1998 at The Rivoli in Toronto and opened on Broadway on 1 May 2006. The show was nominated for multiple Broadway and West End theatre awards, winning five Tony Awards and seven Drama Desk Awards. The show has had major productions in Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, London, Melbourne and Japan, as well as two North American tours.


The Drowsy Chaperone started in 1997, when Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert, Greg Morrison and several friends created a spoof of old musicals for the stag party of Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff. In its first incarnation, there was no Man in Chair, the musical styles ranged from the 1920s to the 1940s, and the jokes were more risqué. When the show was reshaped for the Toronto Fringe Festival, Martin became a co-writer, creating Man in Chair to serve as a narrator/commentator for the piece.[1]

Following the Fringe staging, Toronto commercial theatre producer David Mirvish financed an expanded production at Toronto's 160-seat, independent Theatre Passe Muraille in 1999. Box office success and favourable notices led Mirvish in 2001 to finance further development and produce a full-scale version at Toronto's 1000-seat Winter Garden Theatre. During that production, Linda Intaschi, Associate Producer of Mirvish Productions, invited New York producer Roy Miller to see the musical. Miller saw potential in the show and he optioned the rights.

With Canadian actor and fund-raiser Paul Mack, Miller produced a reading for the New York's National Alliance for Musical Theatre on 5 October 2004[2][3] – and invited Broadway producer Kevin McCollum. The reading captured McCollum's interest and eventually resulted in Miller, McCollum and Bob Boyett, Stephanie McClelland, Barbara Freitag and Jill Furman committing to producing the play. An out-of-town engagement followed at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles (2005), and after alterations, The Drowsy Chaperone opened on Broadway on 1 May 2006.


The Man in Chair, a mousy, agoraphobic Broadway fanatic, seeking to cure his "non-specific sadness", listens to a recording of the fictional 1928 musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone. As he listens to this rare recording, the characters appear in his dingy apartment, and it is transformed into an impressive Broadway set with seashell footlights, sparkling furniture, painted backdrops, and glitzy costumes. Man in Chair provides a running commentary throughout the show from the stage, though he is on the audience side of the fourth wall, invisible to the players. This commentary sporadically reveals aspects of his personal life, such as his failed marriage and implied attraction to Drowsy's leading man.

In the opening number, "Fancy Dress", the premise and characters of the show are introduced: it's the day of the wedding of oil tycoon Robert Martin and Broadway star Janet Van De Graaff, who plans to give up her career for married life. Those in attendance include aging hostess Mrs. Tottendale; her loyal employee known only as Underling; Robert's best man, George; Broadway producer Feldzieg, who is hoping to persuade Janet to forgo marriage and continue starring in Feldzieg's Follies; ditzy flapper Kitty, who hopes to take Janet's place in the Follies; two gangsters disguised as pastry chefs; self-proclaimed famed Latin lover Aldolpho; Janet's alcoholic Chaperone, who is supposed to keep her away from Robert until the wedding; and Trix, an aviatrix.

The gangsters reveal to Feldzieg that their boss has invested in the Follies and wants to make sure the show is a financial success, which it presumably will not be without Janet. They tell Feldzieg that he must sabotage the wedding and make sure Janet stays in show business. Feldzieg enlists the vain, easily manipulated Aldolpho to seduce Janet and spoil her relationship with Robert. Meanwhile, in his room, Robert realizes that he is nervous about the wedding. To get rid of his "Cold Feets", he tap dances, and George, who is also nervous, joins in the dance. George notes that tap dancing could be injurious, so he suggests that Robert go roller skating in the garden instead, while wearing a blindfold to keep him from seeing Janet. Outside by the pool, Janet tells reporters that she is happy to be getting married and ostensibly doesn't want to be an actress anymore ("Show Off"), but her song evolves into a big production number.

In Janet's room, Janet is having doubts about whether Robert really loves her, and she asks the Chaperone for advice. The Chaperone responds with the extemporaneous "As We Stumble Along", a "rousing anthem to alcoholism", which, Man in Chair explains, the original actress playing the Chaperone insisted on including in the show. More helpfully, the chaperone tells Janet that she is feeling "drowsy" and must take a nap, giving Janet the opportunity to ask Robert if he loves her. Janet leaves for the garden, and Aldolpho enters, mistaking the Chaperone for Janet. The Chaperone happily pretends to be Janet and allows Aldolpho to "seduce" her ("I Am Aldolpho"). Janet meets the blindfolded and roller-skating Robert in the garden, and she pretends to be a French woman, "Mimi," "from ze middle part [of France], where zey make ze toast." She asks Robert how he met his bride, and he describes their lovestruck first meeting ("Accident Waiting to Happen"). Carried away by his emotions, Robert kisses "Mimi" because she seems just like Janet. Janet furiously storms off because Robert has "kissed a strange French girl".

Kitty, hoping to take Janet's place in the Follies, tries to demonstrate her mind-reading talents to Feldzieg, but he is unimpressed. The gangsters confront Feldzieg, threatening him with a murderous "Toledo Surprise" because he has not yet succeeded in cancelling the wedding. Feldzieg distracts them by insisting that they actually have singing and dancing talent, and they turn "Toledo Surprise" into an upbeat dance number. Aldolpho, with the Chaperone on his arm, announces that he has seduced the bride and the wedding is therefore cancelled, but Feldzieg angrily tells him he has seduced the wrong woman. Janet announces that she is cancelling the wedding, and Robert protests in vain that he only kissed "Mimi" because she reminded him of Janet ("Toledo Surprise").

Man in Chair announces that this is the end of the first act and the first record of the two-record set. He puts on another record, saying that the audience can listen to the opening of the second act of The Drowsy Chaperone, and leaves for the restroom. A scene set in an oriental palace appears onstage, with characters in stereotypical oriental costumes and the chaperone costumed as an Englishwoman in a hoopskirted dress ("Message from A Nightingale"). Man in Chair hurriedly stops the record, explaining to the audience that that was the wrong record—it was the musical The Enchanted Nightingale, not the second act of The Drowsy Chaperone. He finds the right record, and The Drowsy Chaperone continues.

In a musical dream sequence, Janet laments her lost romance and decides to return to the stage ("Bride's Lament"). Mrs. Tottendale tells Underling that the wedding will proceed as planned because "Love is Always Lovely" in the end. She reveals to Underling that she is in love with him ("Love is Always Lovely in the End"). The Chaperone announces that there will be a wedding after all: she and Aldolpho are getting married (which Aldolpho helplessly protests). Mrs. Tottendale announces that she and Underling are getting married as well.

Robert tells Janet that he loves her, and Man In Chair announces that one of his favorite parts is coming up. The Chaperone gives Janet advice on what to do as someone drops a cane and the Chaperone says "l-ve while you can," leaving out the middle syllable of the word. Man In Chair has an emotional monologue where he expresses his wonderment about the phrase, asking if it says "live while you can," or "leave while you can." He shares a brief backstory about his unsuccessful marriage and about how you should never leave, only live. The scene transforms back to Janet where she admits that she was really the French girl and agrees to marry him. To appease the gangsters, Feldzieg tells them that he has discovered a new star: Kitty. He asks her to demonstrate her mind-reading talent, and when she "reads Feldzieg's mind", she announces that he is asking her to marry him.

George, now best man for all four weddings, realizes that he has failed at his most important task: finding a minister. Trix lands her plane in the garden, announcing she is about to depart for Rio. Because a captain on board a ship can perform marriages, everyone rationalizes that Trix, as a pilot, can perform marriages on board a plane, and she can fly them all to Rio for their honeymoons ("I Do, I Do in the Sky").

As the record is about to play the show's final chord, the power goes out in Man in Chair's apartment, and a superintendent arrives to check the circuit breakers. The power returns, the final chord plays, and the show is over. Alone again, Man in Chair sadly expresses his deep love for a musical that he has never actually seen. He begins to sing "As We Stumble Along" and the cast members, for the first time, acknowledge his presence, join in, and cheer him on ("As We Stumble Along (Reprise)").

Musical numbers

  • Overture – Orchestra
  • Fancy Dress – Company
  • Cold Feets – Robert, George
  • Show Off – Janet, Company
  • As We Stumble Along – Drowsy Chaperone
  • I Am Aldolpho – Aldolpho, Drowsy Chaperone
  • Accident Waiting To Happen – Robert, Janet
  • Toledo Surprise – Gangsters, Feldzieg, Kitty, Mrs. Tottendale, and Company
  • Message From A Nightingale – Kitty, Gangsters, Aldolpho, Drowsy Chaperone
  • Bride's Lament – Janet, Company
  • Love Is Always Lovely In The End – Mrs. Tottendale, Underling
  • I Do, I Do In The Sky – Trix, Company
  • As We Stumble Along (Reprise) – Company

The original cast recording contains two bonus tracks titled, "I Remember Love," which is a duet between Mrs. Tottendale and Underling, and "Message From A Nightingale", which is the unabridged version of a portion of a song that is cut short in the show. "I Remember Love" also contains a ukulele solo by Ukulele Lil as Mrs. Tottendale. It was replaced by "Love is Always Lovely in the End."

Show-within-a-show structure

The concept that the audience is listening to the musical on an old LP record is used throughout the show. As he listens to the show, Man in Chair is torn between his desire to absorb every moment of the show as it unfolds and his need to insert his personal footnotes and his extensive-but-trivial knowledge of musical performances and actors, as he frequently brings the audience in and out of the fantasy. As the show goes on, more of his personal life is revealed through his musings about the show, until, as the record ends, he is left again alone in his apartment – but still with his record of a long-beloved show to turn to whenever he's blue.

At one point, the record skips, which causes the last notes (and dance steps) of a song to be repeated until the Man in Chair bumps the turntable. A "power outage" near the end causes the stage to go dark in the middle of the big production number. Despite the show-within-the-show being a two-act musical, The Drowsy Chaperone is played without an intermission; at the end of the "show"'s first act, the Man in Chair observes that there would be an intermission "if we were sitting in the Morosco Theatre, watching The Drowsy Chaperone. Which we're not." (In the original Broadway production, he added, "They tore it down and put up a hotel," an in-joke reference to the fact that the show was playing in the Marquis Theatre, part of the Marriott Marquis complex built on the spot where the Morosco stood). His monologue at the musical's intermission point ends when he changes records (ostensibly preparing the turntable to play the musical's second act), then leaves the stage "to use the bathroom". The new record is actually the second act of a different musical by the same composer and librettist, starring many of the same actors. Message from a Nightingale is performed in costumes evoking Imperial China, with the performers displaying cliched Chinese accents and mannerisms. The Man in Chair returns to the stage and replaces the record with the correct one for Act II of The Drowsy Chaperone.

Parodies of musical comedy

The plot incorporates mistaken identities, dream sequences, spit takes, a deus ex machina, an unflappable English butler, an absent-minded dowager, a Broadway impresario and his Follies production, comic gangsters, a ditzy chorine, a harried best man, and Janet's "Drowsy" (i.e. "tipsy") Chaperone, played in the show-within-a-show by a blowzy Grande Dame of the Stage, specializing in "rousing anthems" and not above upstaging the occasional co-star.



The Broadway production opened in May 2006 at the Marquis Theatre, and closed on 30 December 2007 after 674 performances and 32 previews. It was directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw.

Original Cast

West End

The Broadway team staged the West End production. Previews started on 14 May 2007, first night was on 6 June, but it closed on 4 August after fewer than 100 performances. A largely British cast, including Elaine Paige – making her return to the West End after six years – John Partridge and Summer Strallen joined the show’s co-author Bob Martin recreating his Broadway role of "Man in Chair." Joseph Alessi, Anne Rogers, Nickolas Grace, Nick Holder, Selina Chilton, Sean Kingsley, Adam Stafford, Cameron Jack, with Nina French, Paul Iveson, Mark Goldthorpe, Vanessa Barmby, Vivienne Carlyle, Sherrie Perrington and Mark Dickinson as lead understudies. Later during the run, TV star, Steve Pemberton took over the role of "Man in Chair," whilst understudy, Nina French took over as "Mrs. Tottendale". Novello Theatre’s owner Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who had seen the show in previews in New York had supported its transatlantic transfer.[4] London's critics were generally optimistic about the show,[5] although some had been less impressed.[6][7] Even an early drastic reduction in the cost of premium seating for the show failed to generate sufficient enthusiasm for the production, and the producers closed it in August instead of the scheduled February 2008 date.[8][9] London's The Stage commented "… shows in London can run safely … at lower capacities than they require on Broadway.… But, as the transfer of The Drowsy Chaperone has just proved, sometimes even a Tony-winning Broadway hit can’t even achieve that."[10]

The musical received 2008 Olivier Award nominations for Best New Musical, Best Actress in a Musical (Summer Strallen), Best Actor in a Musical (Bob Martin), Best Theatre Choreographer (Casey Nicholaw), and Best Costume Design (Gregg Barnes).[11]

North American tour

A national tour of The Drowsy Chaperone opened 19 September 2007 in Toronto at the Elgin Theatre. Among the performers were original Broadway cast members Bob Martin and Georgia Engel. While Engel performed with the company for the extended engagement, Martin did not continue beyond Toronto; his role was taken over by Jonathan Crombie. Nancy Opel played the role of "The Drowsy Chaperone". The Drowsy Chaperone played more than 30 cities in the United States, including Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre, where the show ran before going to Broadway.[12]

Subsequent North American productions

The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company mounted an independent production of The Drowsy Chaperone directed by Max Reimer, musical-directed by Lloyd Nicholson and choreographed by Dayna Tekatch in Vancouver, British Columbia. It opened 27 November 2008 and ran until 27 December 2008. The cast of this version included Jay Brazeau, Thom Allison, Debbie Timuss, Laird Mackintosh, Gabrielle Jones, Neil Minor, Shawn Macdonald, Mark Burgess, Nathalie Marable, Nora McLellan and David Marr.[13]

In July 2009 the Thousand Islands Playhouse mounted another independent production, directed by Kathryn Mackay, choreographed by Dayna Tekatch, with musical direction by Sandy Thorburn.

In co-production with Canada's National Arts Centre English Theatre, the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company's production of The Drowsy Chaperone directed by Max Reimer played on the Shoctor stage of the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, opening on 5 September and closing on 4 October (2009) and thereafter played at the National Arts Centre though 1 November 2009; however, musical director Lloyd Nicholson died of a heart attack on the eve of the first performance in Ottawa, causing the production's run in that city to be truncated slightly as a couple of early performances were cancelled.[14]

On 7 January 2010 the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg opened its co-production with Theatre Calgary, with Calgary dates set for the following season. The show will be produced by Medicine Hat Musical Theatre in April 2016.

The Drowsy Chaperone ran 30 June - 11 July 2015 at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts with Jo Anne Worley reprising her Broadway role of Mrs. Tottendale: the cast also included Simon Jones as the Man in the Chair and Bill Nolte as Feldzieg. The review of this production posted 12 July 2015 at stated "The Drowsy Chaperone is one of those shows that is inherently comical in its nature: it is literally laugh-out-loud funny, portraying the lives and actions of each of its characters as almost too absurd to be believed....The Drowsy Chaperone is really a beautiful show that is saturated with singing, dancing, some very odd characters and an almost too-simple plot that makes this show awesome." [15]

The show saw another revival at the Goodspeed Opera House in Haddam CT from September 21 - November 25, 2018

Japanese production

The first translated production of the musical opened in Japan on 5 January 2009.[16]

Australian productions

The Australian production, staged by the Melbourne Theatre Company, opened for a limited engagement in Melbourne on 21 January 2010. Prominent Australian actor Geoffrey Rush played Man in Chair.[17][18] The production was announced to run through 20 February, but due to impressively high demand for tickets when they were first made available, the producers arranged for it to continue through 27 February.[19]

A production in Bendigo, Victoria begins in July 2019.

Subsequent Fringe productions

Ovation Productions and Alex Segal presented a fringe production Upstairs at the Gatehouse directed by Racky Plews, musical supervisor Michael England, choreographed by Fabian Aloise, casting by Ellie Collyer-Bristow. 23 September – 31 October 2010.[20]

The Blue Hill Troupe staged their version of the production from 1–9 November 2013 at the Theater at St. Clement's on New York's Upper West Side, directed and choreographed by Stephen Agosto, musical director and conductor Andrew David Sotomayor and set design by Alexander Tepper.[21]

Brazilian production

The Drowsy Chaperone was first translated to Portuguese in 2013, and performed from 17 August 2013 to 29 June 2014 in São Paulo city. In the cast there were popular Brazilian musical actors such as Ivan Parente, Sara Sarres, Stella Miranda, Saulo Vasconcelos, Kiara Sasso and Andrezza Massei. It was staged on Teatro Popular do SESI, and it was the first time a great musical show had its free tickets, due to sponsorship.[22]

Bermuda production

Bermuda's Gilbert and Sullivan Society presented The Drowsy Chaperone at the Earl Cameron Theatre, City Hall, Hamilton, Bermuda from 1–10 October 2015. Cast members included Phillip Jones, Nancy Thompson, Kelly Gilmour, Robert Godfrey, Maxwell King, Will Kempe, Liz Knight, Nicole Crumpler, and Sloane Wilson.[23]

Cast recording

A one-disc compact disc by the original Broadway cast was released in 2006.[24] Although it contained mostly only the musical numbers, it also contained enough of the Man In Chair's narrative to provide a taste of his role. On Valentine's Day 2007, a limited-edition 1,000-pressing vinyl-record version was released, available only on the Ghostlight Records website and in the lobby of the Marquis Theater. This edition, which included only the musical numbers, along with extra specially recorded dialogue, was meant to re-create the album listened to by the Man in Chair.

Principal roles and casting

Character Original Cast Original Broadway Cast Original London Cast Original Australian Cast
Man In Chairn/aBob MartinGeoffrey Rush
The Drowsy ChaperoneLisa LambertBeth LeavelElaine PaigeRhonda Burchmore
Janet van de Graaff Jenn RobertsonSutton FosterSummer StrallenChristie Whelan
Robert MartinJohn MitchellTroy Britton JohnsonJohn PartridgeAlex Rathgeber
GeorgeSteve MorellEddie KorbichSean KingsleyRohan Browne
AldolphoDon McKellarDanny BursteinJoe AlessiAdam Murphy
Mrs. TottendaleTeresa PavlinekGeorgia EngelAnne RogersRobyn Nevin
UnderlingScott AndersonEdward HibbertNickolas GraceRichard Piper
FeldziegMatt WattsLenny WolpeNick HolderShane Jacobson
KittyJennifer IrwinJennifer SmithSelina ChiltonHeidi Arena
TrixJennifer WhalenKecia Lewis-EvansEnyonam GbesemeteZahra Newman
Gangster 1Jack MosshammerJason KravitsAdam StaffordKarlis Zaid
Gangster 2Doug MorencyGarth KravitsCameron JackGrant Piro
SuperintendentMatthew PattersonJoey SorgeUnknownUnknown
Staff/Reporter/Monkey/CloudsUnknownPatrick WetzelUnknownUnknown
Notable replacements (Broadway)
Notable replacement (London)
  • Steve Pemberton replaced Bob Martin in the role of Man in Chair from 10 July until the production closed on 4 August.

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2006 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Bob Martin and Don McKellar Won
Best Original Score Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Bob Martin Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Sutton Foster Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Danny Burstein Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Beth Leavel Won
Best Direction of a Musical Casey Nicholaw Nominated
Best Choreography Nominated
Best Orchestrations Larry Blank Nominated
Best Scenic Design David Gallo Won
Best Costume Design Gregg Barnes Won
Best Lighting Design Ken Billington and Brian Monahan Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Bob Martin and Don McKellar Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Bob Martin Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Sutton Foster Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Eddie Korbich Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Beth Leavel Won
Outstanding Director of a Musical Casey Nicholaw Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison Won
Outstanding Music Won
Outstanding Orchestrations Larry Blank Nominated
Outstanding Set Design David Gallo Won
Outstanding Costume Design Gregg Barnes Won
Outstanding Sound Design Acme Sound Partners Nominated
Theatre World Award Bob Martin Won

Original London production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2008 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Musical Nominated
Best Actor in a Musical Bob Martin Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Summer Strallen Nominated
Best Theatre Choreographer Casey Nicholaw Nominated
Best Costume Design Gregg Barnes Nominated

Film adaptation

On June 2, 2014, director Fred Schepisi was hired to direct a film adaptation.[25]


  1. He later stated that he based the role on Richard Ouzounian, host of CBC Radio show Say it with Music (see Discussion)
  2. About NAMT. Retrieved 6 August 2007
  3. Kevin McCollum, Introduction, CD liner notes, 10 May 2006
  4. 'Drowsy Chaperone',, 6 March 2007
  5. Ouzounian, Richard. "Drowsy Chaperone wakes up British critics"The Star, 2007-06-08. Retrieved 20 April 2008
  6. "Help, my tongue's stuck in my cheek!;"The Independent; 10 June 2007
  7. 'Drowsy Chaperone'The Guardian, 7 July 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2007
  8. Andrew Gans and Kenneth Jones. "London's Drowsy Chaperone to Close in August," Playbill, 6 July 2007
  9. "Drowsy closes early in the capital,"Society of London Theatre, 9 July 2007
  10. "The West End overtakes Broadway on price," The Stage, London, 25 July 2007
  11. "Olivier Winners, 2008", Retrieved 14 August 2009
  12. Kenneth Jones; "Drowsy Chaperone Returns Home, to Toronto, for Tour Launch," Archived 17 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine from Playbill. 19 September 2007
  13. "The Drowsy Chaperone one of the season's best shows". The Georgia Straight, 28 November 2008.
  14. "Drowsy Chaperone musical director dies". Edmonton Journal, 17 October 2009.
  15. Morale, Kristen. "BWW Reviews: DROWSY We Are Not!". Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  16. Ticket
  17. Gans, Andrew."Geoffrey Rush to Star in Australian Drowsy Chaperone" Playbill, 9 September 2009
  18. The Drowsy Chaperone is a hit in Australia!, 18 February 2010
  19. Boland, Micaela."Send in the Chaperones" The Australian, 19 January 2010
  20. "listings" RemoteGoat,18 July 2010
  21. Drowsy
  23. The Drowsy Chaperone
  24. Ghostlight Records, The Drowsy Chaperone, Original Broadway Cast Recording 7915584411-2
  25. Michael Gioia; Andrew Gand (2 June 2014). "Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Barbra Streisand "Interested" in Drowsy Chaperone Film; Director Fred Schepisi Attached". Playbill. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
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