Review: THE WHITE (ALBUM) CHRISTMAS at Colony Theatre

Insane mashup of Beatles music, the White Christmas movie, improv comedy, tap dancing, electric hula hoops, and fake snow runs through December 23rd

By: Dec. 10, 2023
Review: THE WHITE (ALBUM) CHRISTMAS at Colony Theatre
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The White (Album) Christmas is a trippy holiday musical comedy romp, running through December 23 at the Colony Theatre in Burbank.  The award-winning Troubadour Theater Company has been doing their beloved annual Christmas mashup shows for decades, with loyal fans who return year after year.  This year, the Troubies put the 1954 film White Christmas and the White Album by the Beatles in a blender, add a big splash of stand up and improv style comedy, tap dancing, electric hula hoops and fake snow, and see what happens.  The result is kind of insane. The closest thing I can compare it to is live performances I have seen of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The packed house on the night I attended the White (Album) Christmas went absolutely wild.  Troubadour Theater Company has an extraordinary fan base of mega-passionate fans who not only completely adore the show, but who also recite standard bits from the meta-show discourse.

Review: THE WHITE (ALBUM) CHRISTMAS at Colony Theatre
Philip McNiven, Matt Walker and Rick Batalla
star in The White (Album) Christmas

When someone walks in late, the band does “You’re So Vain” and the entire audience joins in, singing along with them.  “Oh, take your time, don’t mind the rest of us,” say the leads Rick Batalla and Philip McNiven as a couple walks in late to the show. “Sit down, yes, adjust your coat, sir, just get comfortable.”  The audience roasting, while meaner and sharper than I usually like my comedy (I prefer warm and fuzzy), is hilarious, and probably my favorite part of the show, although it may be tied with the electric hula hoop dancing by incredible circus performer Dallys Newton, who is utterly glorious.

The White (Album) Christmas, while taking place in the somewhat cavernous Colony Theatre, feels cozy and intimate, like a small, indie comedy club, and the boisterous spirit of prankish improv dominates the proceedings.  Direction by adaptor Matt Walker is impish and inventive.  When multiple audience members read their program during the White (Album) Christmas, the roasts came fast and furious.  “That lady’s reading the program and the show has already started!” and “Sir, I assure you, my bio is not that interesting.”  One gentleman in the audience, having been thrown a plush emoticon-style poop toy from the act, was designated as “Poop Steve” and called up later to bear witness to key events. “You saw it too, did you Poop Steve?  Where is Poop Steve?” And other audience members would gleefully point out Poop Steve.  A man was called upon to receive an enthusiastic lap dance from the leads in drag, and walked slowly down all the stairs to get to the stage. “Don’t hustle on our account, Paul” and once he finally arrived at the stage, “Thank you for dressing like a millennial, Paul.  I think you’re a little long in the tooth for that.”

Review: THE WHITE (ALBUM) CHRISTMAS at Colony Theatre
Mike Sulprizio stars in The White (Album) Christmas

I should mention at some point that I am wildly underqualified to review the White (Album) Christmas.   I have only the haziest, almost nonexistent acquaintance with the White album, I have only seen the iconic White Christmas film as a child, and this is my first time seeing a Troubadour Theater Company show.  I am a couple generations removed from the several hundred audience members who were the passionate fans of this show on the night I attended.  I did not struggle too badly at Santasia, with a largely Gen X crowd of fans, and I think I got about 90 percent or more of the references in that must-see, absolute treasure of a comedy show.  I utterly love vintage things and generally feel right at home in times past, like the lovely 1940s Cori Cable Kidder holiday show I recently reviewed, also with a wonderful audience generations removed from mine.  I am a rabid fan of opera and classical music, so I am in no way unaccustomed to being the youngest member of an audience.  But in the case of the White (Album) Christmas, with references to the Love Boat and TV Christmas specials flying fast, I realize how much of the show’s humor I am completely missing.  Is it because they are television references, or very specific references to the Beatles or the Bing Crosby movie?  Do you need to be a member of the Baby Boom generation to really understand this show?  

Review: THE WHITE (ALBUM) CHRISTMAS at Colony Theatre
Cloie Wyatt Taylor, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne
and John Paul Batista 

I know that the White (Album) Christmas roughly follows the radically nonsensical plot of White Christmas (even the writers complained who were called in to try to get the script into shape before filming).  Along the way, Beatles songs are injected willy-nilly, with lots of meta-commentary “Great way to insert a song title”, improv, showgirls, dancing, crazy costumes, and general madcap shenanigans.  And even without understanding what is really going on, the show is riotously entertaining.  Rick Batalla delivers brilliant roasts and hilarious improvs.  Suzanne Jolie Narbonne is charming and stands out as a spectacular dancer (also credited with the brilliant wig design).  Cloie Wyatt Taylor’s singing is soulful and fantastic, and she brings exuberance and truthfulness to the show.   Award-winning actress Beth Kennedy is knock-you-out funny, with genius levels of comic talent, who truly makes every single scene she is in.   The Troubadour orchestra keeps the joint jumpin’ and the energy up with their electric guitar riffs and vibrant, rock-and-roll drums.

Review: THE WHITE (ALBUM) CHRISTMAS at Colony Theatre
Philip McNiven and Suzanne Jolie Narbonne

The age differences between the performers can get into somewhat creepy territory, with young women cavorting in nearly nothing with men in their 60s.  There is one joke about couples with age differences at some point late in the show (Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney in the White Christmas film, and Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart ).  I hate to judge anyone’s possible romantic happiness based on their age differences (or any other kind of difference, really), but this is casting, and the whole thing can feel a little jarring.  In general, Me Too has not really hit this show yet, so there are plenty of appreciative and hungry comments about the female performers’ appearance. “Look at that stocking stuffer!” is shouted at a glamorous showgirl.  I can wade into the swampy quagmire of whether it is evidence of women’s supposed agency or exploitation to be heralded as objects of desire (if indeed, this can be called heralding), but where will that get us?  The women in the show look stunning, and they are unbelievably talented and well cast.  I applaud the performers for their own great talent and the director and creative team for showcasing them.  There is a storm cloud of censoriousness and hatefulness and panic about beauty and sexuality hovering in the current cultural horizon that I would like to sidestep.  Yet it would be nice not to have the women always so barely dressed, and not to have the butt of many of the jokes being about their need to strip or sell their bodies.  We are possibly a bit in Austin Powers territory here.

This is a looong show, coming in over two hours, but it is so entertaining you barely notice the time.  The Colony Theatre is rather strangely semi-attached to a mall in Burbank, so doing your holiday shopping and combining this show poses unique possibilities (I went wild in the Carter’s store). The Troubies beloved holiday shows sell out fast.

Photos by Colony Theatre

The White (Album) Christmas runs through December 23rd at the Colony Theatre.  The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third St., Burbank, CA.  Parking is available on site, in a gigantic mall parking structure (allow yourself a bit of time to find the theatre). You can get your tickets by calling  (818) 558-7000 or by clicking the button below:


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