It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and for Los Angeles theatergoers that means the latest annual Troubies Christmas show at Burbank’s Falcon Theatre.

Last year’s A Christmas Westside Story mixed the music of West Side Story with the plot of the family film classic A Christmas Story. 2010’s The First Jo-el recounted that starry Bethlehem December with the music of Billy Joel. And 2009’s Frosty The Snow Manilow recreated the stop-motion animated TV classic with the music of Barry M—all of the above with the audacious flair, plethora of adlibs (or apparent adlibs), and sensational triple-threat performances that have become The Troubadour Theater Company’s stock in trade.

This year’s Rudolph The Red-Nosed ReinDOORS is no exception.

 Like Frosty, Rudolph takes as its inspiration a 1960s animated classic, in this case the longest running Christmas TV special in history, one which has been telecast every single December since its 1964 debut. As for the songs, they are (if you haven’t already guessed) a Greatest Hits compilation of Jim Morrison and The Doors.

As in Troubies shows past, ReinDOORs follows its source plot with cosiderable accuracy. Donner’s wife Blitzen gives birth to Rudolph, only to have Santa refuse ever to let the red-nosed buck pull his sleigh. A lovely young doe named Clarice is the only one to see Rudolph’s inner beauty, and a love story is born. There’s also an oddball elf named Hermey who just wants to be a dentist (a no-no for any self-respecting elf); a rambunctious prospector named Yukon Cornelius, who’s in search of gold or silver; an entire Island Of Misfit Toys, including a Charlie-In-The-Box and a Bearded Ballerina; and a 12-foot-tall beast known near and far as the Abominable Snow Monster.

 What sets the Troubies’ ReinDOORS from the animated ReinDEER is not just its Top 40 song list but its distinctively Troubies take on the classic tale.

A videotaped Fritz Coleman sets the scene by predicting the worst winter storm ever. “I’m just hoping that there is in fact a Christmas,” the weather forecaster remarks as Eric Heinly and the onstage Troubies band launch into “Rider On The Story” and the show’s opening production number introduces Santa’s eight very distinctive reindeer via Molly Alvarez’s imaginative choreography. (Later on, the front-hoof hand-jive as The Eight pull Santa’s sleigh proves another clever bit by the multi-talented choreographer-performer, who also brings Clarice to doe-next-door life.)

And it wouldn’t be Rudolph without narrator Sam The Snowman, originally voiced by Burl Ives, but here brought to considerably raunchier, more sarcastic life by Paul C. Vogt, whose distinctively “low crotch” is but one the evening’s outrageous running gags.

As the Troubies would have it, Blitzen (Beth Kennedy) got her name from her habit of getting blitzed on Tab (the 1960s soft drink favorite), which she uses as her “epideeral” before giving birth to a red-nosed Rudolph, brought to charmingly wobbly-legged life by Steven Booth.

 Unlike the TV original, Rudolph The Red-Nosed ReinDOORS is probably best appreciated by teens and above, since raunch and double entendres abound. Clarice is “the doe everyone wants to do.” Someone remarks upon seeing Rudolph’s nose, “Amsterdam called and they want the name of their district back.” Giant turds fall from the sky when The Abominable Snow Monster is around. (Then again, many of the more adult jokes may just whoosh over tiny tots’ heads.)

Also, unlike the ’60s classic, Rudolph The Red-Nosed ReinDOORS features a song list likely to stir up memories of a very different ‘60s icon, the gone-too-soon leader of The (legendary) Doors. Among the Jim Morrison classics featured in this December’s Troubies extravaganza are “Roadhouse Blues” and its catchy “roll, baby roll” refrain; “Love Street,” which becomes a lively Alvarez-choreographed tap number; “Hello, I Love You,” with revised lyrics “Hello, Clarice, won’t you tell me your name?”; “Touch Me,” which has become Clarice’s declaration of love (“What was that promise that you made?”); “Love Me Two Times,” which turns into “Shove Me Two Times” as Rudolph and Hermey fight back bullies; the misfit toys’ anthem “People Are Strange”; Mrs. Claus’s big solo number, “Don’t You Love Her Madly?”, belted too the rafters by Lisa Valenzuela; and of course “Light My Fire” and “Break On Through.”

Expect contemporary references to the “fiscal cliff,” Honey Boo Boo, and Mitt Romney, the latter still in the script because, we are told, “this was written in September.” Expect plays on words like “placentia” for “placenta.” (“You mean that small town south of Los Angeles?”) Expect hilariously unexpected ad libs, as when Rudolph’s antlers accidentally fell off in an action sequence and Walker quipped that “he flew right out of his antlers.”

And expect too some of the most sensational triple-threat performance around with Troubies guru Matt Walker in charge—and sure to repeat last year’s Scenie win for Best Direction Of A Troubies Show.

 Booth’s adorable Rudolph, Kyle Nudo’s delightfully lispy Hermey, and Mike Sulprizio’s brawny Yukon Cornelius and Dasher could hardly be (or sing) better. Alvarez makes for the winningest doe around as Clarice, backed by fabulous fellow does Liz Beebe, Suzanne Narbonne (who doubles as Vixen and the Bearded Ballerina), and Darrin Revitz (also Cupid and a Misfit Doll). Vogt segues hilariously from his recent star turn as Edna Turnblad to Rudolph’s sassy snow-built narrator. Kennedy is brilliant as ever as the always sloshed Blitzen, and it wouldn’t be a Troubies Christmas show without Kennedy’s inimitable Winter Warlock. As Santa, an inspired Rick Batalla once again proves himself the Troubies’ Ad-Lib King, and Santa’s Mrs. is another delicious Valenzuela gem. Other winners in the big Rudolph cast are Brice Beckham (Prancer and Foreman Elf), Andy Lopez (Little Elf), and Dan Waskom (Comet, Bomi, and Tall Elf), the latter of whose Abominable Snow Monster is a wonder of athletic moves—on mile-high stilts no less. Last but not least, Caroline Gross’s Circus Aerial Elf executes flight choreographer Ameenah Kaplan’s gravity-defying aerial moves to perfection (as does Booth’s Rudolph later in the show).

Musical director-drummer Heinly and his bandmates Kevin McCourt on keyboards, Jack Majdecki on guitar, and Kevin Stewart on drums are as good as it gets.

 Big design kudos to Sharon McGunigle’s outrageously imaginative costumes, Jeff McLaughlin’s colorful set, and Jeremy Pivnick’s stellar lighting, which includes black light and strobe effects. Other first-rate creative elements are Jon Campbell’s sound design, Julie Ferrin’s associate sound design, and Rachael Lawrence’s vocal direction. Corey Womack is stage manager, Mike Jespersen is technical director, and I’m told that the special thanks offered in the program to Steve Collins are for Rudolph’s bright red nose.

Though no Troubies holiday show is likely ever to top last year’s Best Ever A Christmas Westside Story, Rudolph The Red-Nosed ReinDOORS carries on an illustrious year-end tradition with flying colors. Sorry, make that flying color. (You know which one I’m talking about.)

Troubadour Theatre Company, Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank.

–Steven Stanley
December 7, 2012
Photos: Chelsea Sutton

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