Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review: Skewering Santa in The Troubies' Santa Claus is Comin' to Motown

Reindeer: Suzanne Jolie Narbonne, Mike Sulprizio, Lisa Valenzuela,
Joey Keane, and Andy Lopez w/ Darrin Revitz and Matt Walker.
All photos by Jill Mamey.

Matt “Mashup” Walker and his trusty Troubies are skewering Santa Claus 5 or 6 times a week at the Falcon Theatre in Toluca Lake and nobody minds a bit. In fact, the more groan-worthy the jokes the more the audience loves them. And that’s exactly how this company of clowns likes it. 

Regulars such as Rick Batalla, Beth Kennedy, Lisa Valenzuela, and Walker know their stock in trade is their ability to put it all out there each time they perform and rely on the others to bail them out, send them up, or let them die. And truthfully, when they’re dying it is usually funnier than what they originally intended.

For example, in Santa Claus is Comin’ to Motown, their latest Christmas show resurrected from the Troubie archives and dusted off with a bright new tongue-in-cheek finish, Batalla [right] inherits an audience member who can’t stop snorting with laughter at everything he says and so begins a running gag the sarcastic mailman can’t let go of (and he doesn’t); Valenzuela loses her beehive wig while cavorting in the audience but keeps on smiling and singing while she attempts to cover her wig cap front and center (it takes several tries); and Walker calls out Kennedy by asking her if she’s breaking character with a character she’s barely had time to establish (she is).

Their commitment to the ad-lib is unwavering. Even a 5-second sight gag is worthy of a full costume and choreography, like Walker playing an animal in black parachute pants spoofing MC Hammer. That costume is never seen again but Sharon McGunigle trots out a wonderful series of crayon-colored finery that includes a sequined lollipop girl group, reindeer reimagined as UPS delivery men, a bevy of happy forest creatures walking upright, and German military uniforms with short pants.

All that to say it’s the kind of show that proudly wears its puns on its sleeve, and always looks good doing it. Eric Heinly’s band gives the Motown sound plenty of kick on songs like The Jackson 5’s “ABC,” Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” and James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” all reworked with quirky new lyrics to fit the seasonal story.

Plus, any Troubie show that gives Suzanne Jolie Narbonne a chance to break out her toe shoes and add a little unexpected sophistication with a ballet sequence gets a thumbs up from me. They may be a company of crazies but they do know how to play to their strengths. And who knew she could be so absolutely adorable as a penguin? A woman of many talents, she is also responsible for recreating Nadine Ellis original choreography.

One other note - Santa Claus is Coming To Town is where the Winter Warlock was originally introduced to the world. Since Kennedy first played the androgynous stilt-walker, it has become a stock character who makes an appearance in every Troubie Christmas show, without fail. Kind of like your crazy uncle Charlie whose magic tricks never seem to work but you love him anyway.

This is one holiday tradition that comes with a lot of laughs, a lot of optimism, and a lot of fun. Nothing tired here - just a bunch of cutups entertaining the heck out of a holiday crowd and succeeding in the best way possible.

If you dont have a ticket by now youre most likely out of luck. Regular seats are sold out for the entire run but you might score a cancellation so give the theatre a call just in case (818) 955-8101.

December 2, 2015 - January 17, 2016
Troubadour Theatre Company at the Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
Tickets: (818) 955-8101 or www.FalconTheatre.com

Andy Lopez, Lisa Valenzuela, Darrin Revitz, Beth Kennedy,
Mike Sulprizio, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne, and Joey Keane

Leah Sprecher, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne, Darrin Revitz, and Lisa Valenzuela 

Tyler King, Mike Sulprizio, and Andy Lopez

Andy Lopez, Darrin Revitz, Rick Batalla, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne,
and Tyler King

Darrin Revitz and Matt Walker

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