“This just in at our news desk. International superstar Charo narrowly escaped an attempt on her life tonight when backup dancer Bunny took the bullet intended for the Queen Of Cuchi-Cuchi just as she was belting out the last note of “I’ve Got The Cuchi In Me.” Sources inform us that the Spanish diva has hired none other than Chico’s Angels to investigate.”

Jess indeed, the dragolicious trio of (l. to r.) Frieda Laye, Kay Sedia, and Chita Parol are back in town with Chico’s Angels #2 Love Boat Chicas, the outrageously entertaining brainchild of Kurt Koehler and Oscar Quintero and the best of all New Years’ treats for Angelinos fighting off those post-holiday blues.

Since their creation in 2003, the Spanish-accented Frieda, Kay, and Chita  have been delighting Southern California audiences with their series of oh-so campy musical confections (the others are Pretty Chicas In A Row, Chicas In Chains, Chicas Are Forever), Love Boat Chicas spoofing (if you haven’t already guessed) two of ‘70s TV’s most iconic shows—Charlie’s Angels and The Love Boat, with bits of Fantasy Island and Jaws thrown in for good measure.

Following in the platform-heeled footsteps of Jill, Kelly, and Sabrina (and Kris and Tiffany and Julie) before them, Chico’s Angels get their instructions via intercom from their heard-but-not-seen employer, undercover assignments which require them to play numerous roles and don countless disguises. This time round, the gals are instructed to take a Princess Queen Cruise, Kay dolled up as Charo, Frieda sporting the uniform of the ship’s cruise director, and Chita standing in for Charo’s manager and choreographer. Accompanying las tres chicas as always is their jefe Bossman, this time sporting a Ted Lange afro to pose as bartender Isaac.

Also along for the ride are who else but Captain Merrill Stubing and Miss Julie McCoy, as well as passengers Ruth, Harry, and a beefy hunk named Hugh Johnson. (“It’s not Huge, it’s Hugh,” the studmuffin informs Frieda, who replies, “That’s okay, I’m not picky.”) Completing the cast of characters are Charo’s backup dancers Dickardo and Bambi, the latter of whose identical twin took the bullet intended for the Spanish diva. (That Bambi was Bunny’s understudy and is now understudying Charo is but one of the many clues our Angels will have to sift through on their maiden cruise aboard El Bote Del Amor.)

It’s clear from the get-go that co-writers Koehler and Quintero know well the TV shows they’re spoofing, with Frieda, Kay, and Chita assuming Charlie’s Angels’ classic opening sequence poses as Chico informs us in voice-over that even though his angels flunked out of the Police Academy, “I hired them anyway.” And anyone who’s ever watched an episode of The Love Boat will recognize classic Love Boat moments like the introduction of “tonight’s guest stars” inside a ship’s porthole and that inevitable moment when passengers and crew wave goodbye to family and friends as the ship sets sail.

“I’ve Got The Music In Me” isn’t the only ‘70s hit that gets Chicofied in Love Boat Chicas. “That’s The Way I Like It” becomes Isaac’s own personal anthem. (“That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I’m Isaac, uh-huh, uh-huh.”)  Dolled up in her Charo regalia and singing along to the tune of “Disco Inferno,” Kay teaches the ship’s passengers to “Learn, baby learn. Be a Disco Nympho.” Later, Chita and Bossman (who may or may not have had a recent Hawaiian fling) give the Captain And Tennille a run for their money duetting “Lust Will Keep Us Together.”

Puns, double entendres, and ad-libs galore fly fast and furious throughout Love Boat Chica’s brisk two acts, and needless to say, after so many years and so many incarnations, the Chico’s Angels cast and crew have their roles down pat. Kay (Quintero), Chita (Ray Garcia), and Frieda (Danny Casillas) are all three masters (mistresses?) of comedic camp, with leggy Garcia’s lip quivers a particular delight. Alex Patino (Bossman), Nora Miller (Bambi/Julie), Terry Ray (Harry, Captain, Tourist 1), and Luis Alberto (Dickardo, Hugh, Tourist 2) prove themselves equally gifted laugh-getters. As for Charo and Ruth, Thursday audiences were given the rare treat of seeing director Koehler himself stepping in at the last minute to roles not usually played by a man in drag. (It worked!)

Uncredited scenic and lighting designs are as bareboned as it gets, though in a show like Love Boat Chicas, this matters not a whit. Shawn Wunder’s costumes and Janet Walker’s wigs are simply fabuloso(s). Jerry Blackburn is production stage manager. Mr. Dan voices Chico.

As always, Chico’s Angels’s home base is the Cavern Club Theater, whose location down in the basement of Silverlake’s Casita Del Campo Restaurant allows audience members to bring their Margaritas downstairs with them for the show—and replenish them at intermission.

If ever there were a trio whose reputation has preceded them, it’s Los Angeles De Chico. Well over half of last night’s audience (including this reviewer) were Chico’s Angels first-timers, most likely there through word of mouth, and it’s a sure thing that most if not all will be back again for more. Joo can bet on it!

Cavern Club Theater (inside Casita Del Campo), 1920 Hyperion Ave.
Los Angeles. Through January 15. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 8:00. Fridays and Saturdays at 9:00. Sundays at 3:00 and 8:00. Reservations: 323 969-2530

–Steven Stanley
January 5, 2012

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