BWW Review: The Troubies Bring A CHRISTMAS CAROLE KING Holiday Cheer Back to the El Portal
Troubadour Theater Company (affectionately known as The Troubies) is a free-wheeling, no holds barred, Commedia Del Arte flavored, slapstick driven Los Angeles-based ensemble of actors, musicians, and comedians that has been performing for audiences throughout Southern California and beyond since 1995. Their fast-paced, laugh-filled, loose adaptations of classic plays, literature and film, as well as their original productions and hilarious sketch material, make this company a unique and exciting experience for theater-goers of any age.
The Troubies continues its 25th Silver anniversary season (bringing Los Angeles audiences a quarter century of mayhem!), with their 18th annual holiday offering of A CHRISTMAS Carole King adapted & directed by Matt Walker with musical direction by Derrick Finely, choreography by Matt Walker, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne and Luis "L.T." Martinez, Set Design by Christopher Murillo, Sound Design by Daniel C. Tator, and outrageously hysterical Costume Design by Halei Parker.
In this satirical comedy fest, The Troubies have combined the soulful sounds of songstress Carole King with one of the most enduring stories of our time, and the result is "So Far Away" from what you'd expect! The nine cast members who play a multitude of characters and change costumes more frequently than seems humanly possible, are (in alphabetical order): Rick Batalla, Chelle Denton, Beth Kennedy, Janelle Lillian, Luis "L.T." Martinez, Mike Sulprizio, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, Matt Walker and David C. Wright. And you could not ask for a more talented, off-the-wall group of entertainers to bring this holiday laugh fest back every December to appreciative local audiences!
After the initial opening number, a group of latecomers were being seated when The Troubies broke into "You're Too Late" as the group took their seats. This generated the type of laughter which erupted throughout the performance, given all the politically and socially incorrect comments thrown in for good measure by every single cast member at the perfect moment. And since The Troubies are all excellent Improv artists, it mattered little what comments were thrown at them by the audience, or even from actors changing lines or repeating entrances per their whim for another chance at applause.
While the original story line is followed with miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (Mike Sulprizio, Executive Director and founding member of The Troubies) hounding both his employee Bob Cratchit (Dave C. Wright) whose family suffers with little except great love for each other on Christmas Eve, and his handsome, gold-sash wearing nephew Fred (Matt Walker, artistic director of The Troubies since 1995), the three ghosts who visit Scrooge to teach him the true meaning of his life and how to appreciate being alive may have the same names but certainly are unique in their physical appearance thanks to outrageous costumes designed by Halei Parker. Patrick Steven Toth and Kendall Johnson assist backstage and play several minor characters in many scenes.
An interesting modern touch to bring the issue of immigration into the play is added via the character of Paki (Rick Batalla) who Scrooge describes as being of Filipino and Latino descent, who accompanies many musical numbers of ukulele while adding in comical movement sound effects. His "God Rest Ye Merry Immigrants" lyrics reflect the plight of those living on the cold streets, while reminding us that we are all fellow passengers on the train to the grave. This most serious of subjects still managed to generate laughs, given The Troubies skill at making us laugh at the idiocy of us all as well as our society.
Scrooge's first visitor is the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley (Matt Walker) in chains who warns that successive clock tower chimes, which of course immediately begin to happen, will welcome three visitors to share visions of what has been, currently is, and what could be happening in Scrooge's life. The arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Past (Beth Kennedy, a Troubie veteran and advocate of Stepping Forward L.A. which assists L.A.'s foster youth aging out of the system), walking of stilts in a flowing, fur and silverly long gown), kicks the show into high gear, especially when Kennedy highlights her comments with the waving of her long, twig-like fingers. Fans in the audience were certainly ready for her entrance, and given the sheer greatness of her costume, it was easy to see why!
The Ghost of Christmas Present (belter extraordinaire Cloie Wyatt Taylor, dressed in enough glitter to light up any tree) is introduced by popping out of an appropriately wrapped box, which then walks off the stage on its own! When she re-enters for Act 2, dressed to the nines as a sexy Christmas present version of Beyonce, on comes the blacklight to welcome a stilt-walking version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" as the Ghost of what Christmas could be if Scrooge does not go back and change things for the better.
Through all the time periods, the Cratchit family members are portrayed to the hilt of comic perfection, along with Wright's Bob Cratchit, by Chelle Denton as Ginny, Beth Kennedy as Mary, Janelle Lillian as Martha (as well as Scrooge's niece Marigold in other scenes), Luis "L.T. Martinez as Paul, and the incredible hysterical Matt Walker as Tiny Tim, wheeled in crouched in a shopping cart wearing a shoulder to feet covering puppet costume while operating skinny marionette arms and hands. I could not stop laughing every time he was brought back out for a scene, with the audience howling along with me!
Of course. Scrooge describes himself as The Christmas Carol King, given how often his story is told this time of year. But it is The Troubies socially-relevant parodies of Carole King's hits that moves the story forward. Will Ebenezer Scrooge wake up "One Fine Day" feeling like a "Natural Woman" and finally "Believe in Humanity"? Will he break his "Chains" and be shown what's truly "Beautiful" and discover he has a "Corazon" before "It's Too Late Baby"? Or will Tiny Tim go "Up on the Roof" and ask, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"?
Get ready to experience great holiday fun with Troubadour Theater Company's A CHRISTMAS Carole King on Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 4pm & 8pm; Sundays at 4pm; with an added performance on Thursday, December 19 at 8pm at the El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Ticket prices range from $50 - $75, available online at www.elportaltheatre.com or by calling the box office at (818) 508-4200 or (866) 811-4111.
So do the "Locomotion" (or take the NoHo Metro) to the El Portal Theatre for many
happy tidings of comfort and joy. Prepare for the rockin' sounds of the Troubadorchestra to make you "Feel the Earth Move Under Your Feet" as you experience the Holi-daze like never before thanks to our local Thespian heroes The Troubies!
PHOTO CREDIT: Ed Krieger