Sunday, December 15, 2013

Review: The Troubies are Walkin' in a Winter One-Hit-Wonderland

Beth Kennedy as the Winter Warlock and the cast. Photos by Chelsea Sutton

The Troubies’ traditional holiday mashups are some of the company’s most anticipated shows of the year. Past hits like A Christmas Westside Story (A Christmas Story with the music of West Side Story), Rudolph the Red Nosed ReinDOORS (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Doors), and The First Jo-el (the Nativity story via Billy Joel songs) have been unforgettable treasure troves of comedy fun.

This year the troupe resurrects best moments from its last ten years of holiday shows, and stars the Winter Warlock (Beth Kennedy), a minor character who has made cameo appearance in Troubie shows ever since he was first introduced. In Walkin’ in a Winter One-Hit-Wonderland, Winter finally gets the chance to prove he can carry a show, with a cabaret style walk down memory lane featuring video clips and live reenactments of his journey to the stage. It’s also a celebration of ten years of Troubie shows in partnership with Garry Marshall and the Falcon Theatre, according to director and Troubie founder, Matt Walker, who says the night is all about breaking the rules and not sticking to the script.

The show is self-described as “somewhat like a fruitcake,” which means it contains a little bit of everything, and the taste of liquor – in this case poured in a giant brandy snifter – lingers on lounge lizard Rick Batalla’s lips like the eternal aftertaste of its liquor-soaked namesake. The “unexpected” improv with “real” liquor leads the audience into a world of spin-doctored scenes by Troubie regulars Batalla, Kennedy, Walker, Katherine Donahoe, Andy Lopez, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne, Katie Nunez, and Lisa Valenzuela.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the planned comedy that provided most of the laughs on opening night but rather the bits that didn’t work that got the biggest response from the audience. Maybe that’s because the best improv happens in the moment and can’t always be duplicated, or maybe it was because there were so many Troubie newbies in the audience that the previous show references lacked the context needed to help land the jokes. In either case, it was costumes with a mind of their own, physical bits where timing was askew, and unique audience participation that stole the show.

Among the musical one-hit-wonders featured are A-Ha’s “Take on Me,” Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” Devo’s “Whip It,” Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together,” Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” and Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey.” All are tweaked Troubie-style with new lyrics or staging that fits the through line of the show, though there isn’t much of a plot for this holiday stocking stuffer. During his trip down memory lane, Winter feels that no one is paying much attention to him and decides to quite show biz. That’s when the action detours into the land of A Christmas Carol and takes a look at Winter’s past, present and possible future.

Since the show follows a club act format accompanied by flashbacks, the scenes are quieter and more intimate, rather than the typically fast-paced, heavily choreographed, acrobatic sequences found in many of the Troubies previous productions. If the speed of a usual Troubie show is set on overdrive, this one is programmed several clicks lower on the dial.

A classical ballet sequence by Suzanne Jolie Narbonne as Winters Sugar Plum Fairy is quite beautiful, until it becomes comic, and hula hoops are incorporated into the finale. By the final blackout, Winter Warlock returns to the stage, Tiny Timmy doesn’t leave an empty chair, and the snow stops falling on pianist Kevin McCourt. Best of all, we’ve had a few laughs and all is right with the world.

Andy Lopez and Winter Warlock (Beth Kennedy)

Katherine Donahoe, Lisa Valenzuela, Katie Nuñez, Rick Batalla and Suzanne Jolie Narbonne 

Lisa Valenzuela, Matt Walker, Katie Nuñez and Katherine Donahoe

Rick Batalla and Winter Warlock (Beth Kennedy)

Matt Walker and Winter Warlock (Beth Kennedy)

December 4, 2013 - January 19, 2014
The Troubies at the Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
Tickets: (818) 955-8101 or

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