The Troubies celebrate their tenth December at Toluca Lake’s Falcon Theatre with a “Greatest Hits” cabaret retrospective of their first nine holiday shows—along with a side trip to A Christmas Carol-land for supporting player-turned-leading man Winter Warlock—as the Troubadour Theater Company presents their latest surefire SRO smash Walking In A Winter One-Hit-Wonderland for Holiday Season 2013.

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Unlike their previous year-end offerings, based either on popular children’s TV specials (The Little Drummer Bowie, A Charlie James Brown Christmas) or on beloved movie hits (It’s A Stevie Wonderful Life, A Christmas Westside Story), Walking In A Winter One-Hit-Wonderland dispenses with storyline, big-cast production numbers, and even its usual second act to simply give Troubies fans ninety-minutes of nonstop laughter and song.

Previous Troubies holiday shows have featured the music of David Bowie, Jackson Browne, James Brown, The Doors Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Motown, West Side Story, and Stevie Wonder. As its title suggests, Walking In A Winter One-Hit-Wonderland follows in the footsteps of Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland and Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland 2: Through the Looking Glass to spotlight pop chart “one-hit wonders” like A-ha (“Take On Me”), Looking Glass (“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”), and Right Said Fred (“I’m Too Sexy”), along with a handful of songs by multiple hit-makers like The Captain And Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together.” (“Winter Wonderland” turns out to be the show’s sole musical tribute to the holiday season.)

A very Vegas Matt Walker (think Dean Martin at the Sahara) serves as our master of ceremonies in this salute to Winter Warlock (Beth Kennedy), or as Walker puts it, a chance to “celebrate peace on earth, good will toward men … except on the 405.”

Winter One-Hit-Wonderland-6-high-res “I’m Too Sexy” gives ten-foot-tall Warlock his chance to do his “little turn on the catwalk” and declare, “It’s fun being a supporting role, but I can carry a show” à la Scott Baio, who proved that a break-out character can make it big.

Video clips give us TV’s original Warlock (from 1970’s Animagic holiday special Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town) and Kennedy’s first appearance in the role in The Troubies’ 2004 spoof of said TV special, Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Motown, along with a video retrospective of Warlock’s trademark finger “tricks.” (It takes a master of prestidigitation to do tricks with 12-inch digits!)

Unfortunately, a Winter Warlock meltdown (“Nobody cares about my story! I quit!”) requires a detour to Charles Dickens territory as Warlock learns of his impending visitation by three Christmas spirits. (“Expect the first when the band chimes one.”)

Winter One-Hit-Wonderland-2-high-res A journey into Winter Warlock’s Christmas Past gives Troubies regulars the chance to bring back beloved characters: Rick Batalla as Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carole King, Katherine Donohoe as Red from A Christmas Westside Story, Andy Lopez as Charlie Brown from A Charlie James Brown Christmas, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne as Vixen from Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReinDOORS, Katie Nuñez as Hoffy from The First Joel, Lisa Valenzuela as Mrs. Claus from Santa Claus Is Coming To Motown, and Walker as George Bailey from It’s A Stevie Wonderful Life. (Talk about a trip down memory lane!) And of course, the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come further enable Winter Warlock to realize just how important he is to the world around him.

Winter One-Hit-Wonderland-4-high-res It wouldn’t be a Troubies show without adlibs (both scripted and unscripted), like Walker’s that the large number of Troubies first-timers in the audience means that there are “more virgins than a Justin Bieber concert,” or asking a tackily-dressed theatergoer for “Your name and why you don’t own a mirror.” It wouldn’t be a Troubies show without Batalla’s patented rhyming one-liners, this time a riff on words that sound like “Teutonic.” It wouldn’t be a Troubies show without Walker attempting to sell off the gazillion remaining copies of 2004’s CHiPs The Musical’s original cast CD at increasingly discounted prices. And it wouldn’t be a Troubies show without song-and-dance work by some of the most talented triple-threats in town. (Classically trained Narbonne’s Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy is simply exquisite, and followed by an eye-popping pas de deux by Narbonne’s Sugar Plum and Lopez’s statuesque Young Winter Warlock.)

Some diehard Troubies fans may miss the one-after-another great-big production numbers of previous shows. (Winter One-Hit-Wonderland features only about half as many Troubies as usual.) Others may carp that the latest Troubie’s show doesn’t follow the usual “book musical” format. And still others may wish for an intermission bathroom break.

To these Scrooges, I respond “Humbug!” With a veritable Who’s Who of Troubies stars (Batalla, Donahoe, Kennedy, Lopez, Narbonne, Nuñez, Valenzuela, and Walker, at the top of their game), pizzazzy choreography by Christine Lakin, Narbonne, and Douglas Leadwell, musical director Eric Heinly and his onstage band* providing topnotch backup, and the one-and-only Beth Kennedy on stilts throughout (and even at one point hula-hooping!), Walking In A Winter One-Hit-Wonderland is sure to please all but the most Grinchlike among us. (It’s almost worth the price of admission just to see Walker reprise A Christmas Carole King’s half-pintsized Tiny Timmy.)

Winter One-Hit-Wonderland-3-high-res Costume designer Sharon McGunigle gets to bring back some of her cleverest past creations in addition to giving the cast’s female contingent some glittery, spangly gowns for lighting designer Jeremy Pivnick to work his holiday magic on. Scenic designer Jeff McLaughlin has created an appropriately Vegas lounge-ready set, with sound designer Robert Arturo Ramirez and prop designer Corey Womack completing the first-rate production design team.

Walking In A Winter One-Hit-Wonderland is produced by Womack, who doubles as stage manager, with Mike Jespersen serving as technical director. Video producers Batalla, Jim Kunz, and Greg Wilson get deserved program credit for their multiple contributions.

1455835_10151809811102499_511186653_n In a clever Opening Night bit, director-star Walker had several of his costars confiscate as many press kits as critics were willing to give up, quipping that the entire Walking In A Winter One-Hit-Wonderland run was already sold-out, so reviews were beside the point.

Well, superfluous or not, here’s my latest love letter to the Troubies. If you can somehow snag a ticket, rest assured. You’ll have a Winter One-Hit-Wonderful time.

*Kevin McCourt on keyboards and Dana Decker and Kevin Stewart alternating on bass

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

–Steven Stanley
December 13, 2013
Photos: Chelsea Sutton

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