Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Troubie Reinvention: Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReinDOORS

Molly Alvarez (Clarice), Matt Walker (Donner), Steven Booth (Rudolph), Beth Kennedy
(Blitzen), Rick Batalla (Santa) & Lisa Valenzuela (Mrs. Claus). Photos by Chelsea Sutton.

Tickets for the annual Troubadour Theatre Company holiday shows are consistently some of the most sought after in L.A. and loyal Troubie fans know to get them early. Each show delivers the company’s unique brand of theatre magic wrapped up in circus ribbons, physical theatrics, dazzling music, and that trademark fearless swan dive into the depths of improvised comedy. All that to say that it’s one crazy good time for both audience and actors.

This year’s holiday treat takes the famous story of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and mixes it with the music of Jim Morrison and the Doors to create a new Christmas one-of-a-kind favorite, Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReinDOORS. Picture Rick Batalla reinventing the lizard king as Santa Claus, bare-chested, without his Ho Hos (they’re hard to get right now), in red spandex and plenty of attitude, and then picture him later in an ‘80s purple unitard as Moonracer, the Lion King on the Island of Misfit Toys and you’ll get the idea. He’s a smart retort just waiting to happen and, as you’d expect, he happens all over the stage. 

Sharon McGunigle’s costumes give the players the visual liftoff that helps these characters jump off the page. Hermey’s (Kyle Nudo) bright yellow larger than life comb over wave, Sam the Snowman’s (Paul C. Vogt) dropped crotch snow suit, Blitzen’s (Beth Kennedy) fluorescent green pillow baby bump, and Mrs. Claus’s (Lisa Valenzuela) Paula Dean wig all provide opportunity for comedy just by existing onstage. And if you give this gang an opening for a joke, you can be certain they’ll go after it with everything they’ve got.

It’s a tall order trying to top last year’s wildly successful A Christmas Westside Story, which featured unparalleled production numbers (choreographed by Molly Alvarez, who also provides the great dance moves in Rudolph) and a perfect marriage of story and humor like no Troubie show before. But each show has its own distinctive style and director Matt Walker and the gang have taken a sweeter, more intimate direction with Rudolph that accentuates the storytelling while still delivering the Troubies’ high-energy ability to delight the senses. Plus, the regulars are in fine form and don’t disappoint.

Dan Waskom and Paul C. Vogt
As the charming narrator, Vogt gives us his folksy-funny spin on Burl Ives’ Sam the Snowman, covering the many transitions between scenes. Andy Lopez plays a hysterical Little Elf (one of the many sight gags that are well worth their short stage time) who blows in the wind in Santa’s sleigh. Kennedy is the perfect little homemaker (um, not) as Rudolph’s mother, Blitzen, and Walker does double duty as Charlie-in-the-Box on the Island of Misfit Toys and also plays Rudolph’s hard-headed dad, Donner.

Donner’s psychedelic trip is one of the two sensational big scenes in the show. This one comes complete with an all-out circus rendezvous featuring a lovely aerial hoop sequence by Caroline Gross and a myriad of circus tricks, juggling sequences, and magic tricks that even includes Walker doing some plate spinning with the audience.

The other is the climactic scene in which Rudolph takes to the skies with his glowing red nose to save Christmas. Blitzen’s Tab addiction almost does Kennedy in but she rallies in time to set up ground control (with a little help from a member of the audience) and goes in for the assist to make sure we have a happy ending. Even Dan Waskom as Bomi, the Abominable Snow Monster, gets his shining moments. On tall stilts, and covered head to toe in white furry fleece that must have taken an entire bolt of fabric, he quite literally commands the stage. There are a few larger than life Abominable gags that are fun and unexpected, just like you’d hope to see from the Troubies, and if you havent already heard about them, Im not going to spoil the surprise here.

Steven Booth and Molly Alvarez
And yet it’s the romantic sweetness of Clarice (Molly Alvarez) and Rudolph (Steven Booth) that gives this heartwarming tale its traditional “awww” factor. The pair are absolutely adorable and you’ll fall in love with every pretty doe-eyed glance and shy smile they exchange. 

Candy-coated stage designs and whimsical lighting effects by Jeffrey McLaughlin and Jeremy Pivnick, respectively, make Rudolph glow like a winter wonderland. Eric Heinly's house band also never disappoints, rocking out on re-imagined songs by The Doors that include Hello I Love You, Touch Me, Riders on the Storm, Don’t You Love Her Madly, Light My Fire, and Break on Through (To The Other Side).

There is one non-DOORS tune that makes an appearance in the show, and well it should. As the finale joins cast and audience in a “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” sing-along, it’s one more holiday show in the books for Walker and his comedy commandos of Toluca Lake. An annual holiday tradition for locals anywhere in a 50-mile radius, make sure you get your tickets and get in on the jokes now…before these ReinDOORS go down in history.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReinDOORS
The Troubies @ the Falcon Theatre
Tickets: (818) 955-9101
4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA

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