BWW Review: Troubies Rock Falcon Theatre with LITTLE DRUMMER BOWIE
The Troubadour Theater Company's Little Drummer Bowie was first presented at the Falcon in 2005, and with the fairly recent passing of iconic musician David Bowie, it seems the perfect time to bring it back. For many, Bowie and rock are synonymous, just as director/founder Garry Marshall and the Falcon have been synonymous. Both Marshall and Bowie passed away in 2016. They brought music, love and laughter to the world through the arts, so The Troubadour Theater Company is paying tribute to both men with the revival of this production.
For those unfamiliar with the Troubadour Theater Company - and many were present on opening night - they take the pop/rock music of a great composer and a classic story and fuse them together to create an insanely irreverent little classic. In this case, it's the story of the Drummer Boy Ziggy (Joseph Leo Bwarie), named after a Bowie tune, who rose to fame at a time when the people of Jerusalem were worried about the bad economy and how to pay their taxes. Sound topical? There's a leader Ben Haramed (Riccardo Berdini), and an assistant Ali (Beth Kennedy) who help to make Ziggy the star of a show that will make money. Of course, in Bethlehem, another star is on the rise, as Mary (Lisa Valenzuela) and Joseph (Rick Batalla) arrive to give birth to Jesus Christ.
To give you an idea of the crazy comedy at play, replete with political jokes, when Beth Kennedy switches gears from Ali to play a doctor - many change roles in the course of 90 minutes, particularly Batalla, who plays about 11 different characters - she asks Mary if she still has Obama care... and then as she starts to work over her to birth the baby, she lifts the sheet covering Mary without realizing at first that one part of the audience can see underneath the sheet as well, looks directly at them and adds, "We didn't think this out very well." Batalla stops dead in his tracks at one point and asks someone in the first row if he farted. "I can feel the suction", he adds dryly. And when anyone in the audience arrives late, the whole cast stop action, face those entering and sing a chorus of "You're So Vein". When the Three Kings arrive to pay homage to the Christ child, they are none other than Don King, Larry King and ...Billy Jean King, with tennis racket in hand. (see photo below) The whole play is based on improvisation of the original story, sometimes raunchy, sometimes downright filthy, always politically incorrect ... "We're like Hamilton. Is Pence in the audience?"...so be prepared for anything. The Troubies are among the best improvisers in town, have a ball with what they do and gleefully pass the humor over the footlights to give the audience the time of their lives.
The entire cast are right on target with their sharp improv skills, their singing and their dancing. They are all standouts, but I must admit I admire and favor Beth Kennedy for her impeccable timing, Lisa Valenzuela for her dynamite singing voice and Batalla for...well, just about everything. When he's onstage, he has you laughing your pants off. These folks are triple threat performers one and all who do not let down for a single second. Musical director Eric Heinly and his five-piece band provide the accompaniment for parodies of Bowie greats like "Fame", "Ground Control", "Modern Love", "All Night", "Changes", "Let's Dance", "Life on Mars" and "Ziggy Stardust". Great colorful costumes are attributed to Sharon McGunigle, scenic design - with a brand new wall - to Christopher Scott Murillo, lighting to JM Montecalvo and sound to Daniel Tator.
One note I wish to add. sensational director Matt Walker - who co-directed with star Bwarie - was conspicuously missing from the cast this time except for some voice- over work in a couple of spots. His onstage talent is undeniable. I sincerely hope that he will be back on board next time.
Don't miss Little Drummer Bowie through January 15 at the Falcon! For superior music, comedy and overall spectacular entertainment, you cannot beat the Troubies. They always put on one helluva show.
(photo credit: Sherry Greczmiel and Sasha Venola)