It wouldn’t be December at the Falcon Theater without the Troubadour Theater Company’s latest holiday treat, and this year’s The Snow QUEEN is not only one of their most entertaining extravaganzas to date, it’s one of the most musical Troubies musicals in years.
Director-star Matt Walker’s Hans Christian Andersen leads the “Hans C. Andersen Reenactors” in bringing the fairy story “that none of you have ever read” to fractured life with the music of (you guessed it) Freddy Mercury and Queen providing a hard-rock soundtrack throughout.
Troubies fab fave Joseph Keane and sensational first-time Troubie Misty Cotton star as sibling hero and heroine Kai and Gerda, with Troubies ball-of-fire Lisa Valenzuela as their lonely Grandma (“I’m so lonely I can’t remember the last time I took the carpool lane”) and Troubie extraordinaire Rick Batalla as the murderous goblin Scaramouche, pleased as holiday punch with the magic mirror he has confectioned for none other than the Snow Queen. (“And I made it all by myself. Who needs Kickstarter?”)
When a sliver of glass from said mirror pierces Kai’s eye and heart, our adorably blond-bobbed young hero begins to “see everything as distorted,” his heart becomes “like a block of ice,” and he loses the Scandinavian accent that distinguishes the spunky hunky twink from everyone else around him, giving him no choice but to ride his sled out of town and leave poor little pigtailed Gerda (“whose soul was connected to him”) behind.
Sad stuff, indeed, or it would be without the Troubies’ trademark blend of wacky jokes, inspired adlibs (impromptu or scripted, you be the judge), snappy choreography, and best of all a medley of songs that have made the band Queen a now 35-year-old rock music legend, including “Another One Bites The Dust,” “We Are The Champions,” and of course “Bohemian Rhapsody,” though not always with original lyrics.
“Bicycle Race” becomes the “Icicle Race” which Kai hopes to win if My Little Pony can pull his sleigh fast enough. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” turns into “Crazy Old Woman Is Gone” to celebrate the departure of the crazy Old Woman brought to creepy-crawly life by Super Troubie Beth Kennedy, who returns later on in “Dame Judi Trench” mode as a feisty Robber Girl. “Rich Little Girl” pays tribute to Gerda, who like “Fat Bottom Girl” before her makes “the rockin’ world go round.” And “We Will Rock You” becomes “We Will, We Will … Ask You Politely To Go Away” for reasons I can’t exactly recall.
Like Troubies shows before it, The Snow QUEEN provides a bonanza of non-stop laughs. When it snows, be prepared to discover that “no two foam peanuts are the same.” When a river is created from a stage-wide length of blue silk, “Take a moment to appreciate the low-budget theatrical magic you are witnessing.” When a character attempts to break out into “Let It Go,” expect plenty of Disney copyright infringement jokes.
Holiday theatergoers in search of G-rated entertainment won’t find it in The Snow QUEEN, and certainly not in the multitude of muff jokes (“Take my muff. I’m sure not getting any use out of it.”) or in way-too-soon references to Cosby and Ferguson.
In addition to Batalla (also appearing as Raven), Cotton, Keane, Kennedy, Valenzuela (doubling as Robber Mom), and Walker, each one more irresistible than the next (and with vocal and dance chops to match their comedic gifts), The Snow QUEEN features the triple-threat-tastic Jen DeMinco, Breanna Kelly, and Darrin Revitz in multiple cameo roles.
Most memorable of all is the spectacularly voiced, spectacularly scene-stealing John Quale, his seven-foot-tall stiletto-heeled Snow Queen a cross between Dr. Frank N. Furter and Bride Of Frankenstein in shades of blue and white … and one instance where a character’s entrance one hour into an eighty-minute show proves well worth the wait.
Perhaps more than any other Troubies show before it, The Snow QUEEN lends itself to great big vocals, which the cast deliver in spades, as when a choir-robed chorus turn “Somebody To Love” into a near religious experience as belted out by lead singers Walker and Valenzuela.
Add to that Molly Booth’s exciting choreography (and a cast that can dance with the best of them) and musical director Eric Heinly and his band (Heinly on drums and percussion, Kevin McCourt on keyboards, Mike Abraham on guitar, and Dana Decker on bass) and you’ve got quite a show indeed. (That Heinly and band double in cameo roles this time round is a particular treat.)
Sharon McGunigle’s costumes are once again feats of imagination and flair, Jeff McLaughlin’s set, vibrantly lit by Jeremy Pivnick. has just the right rock-concert look, and Robert Arturo Ramirez’s sound design is equally rock-concert-ready. Design kudos go too to Corey Womack for her ingenious props and most especially to Matt Scott for Scaramouche’s puppet friends (and assorted other furry or feathered creatures).
Ashley Regan is stage manager, Mike Jespersen is technical director, and Aaron Batzdorff proves a standout onstage “backstage crew.”
From It’s A Stevie Wonderful Life to Frosty The Snow Manilow to The First Jo-el to A Christmas Westside Story to Rudolph The Red-Nosed ReinDOORS to Walking In A Winter One-Hit-Wonderland to this year’s The Snow QUEEN, it would indeed not be December at the Falcon Theater without the latest Troubies holiday treat.
If Freddy Mercury hadn’t already “bitten the dust,” he’d surely die laughing at The Snow QUEEN … and loving every minute of it.
Troubadour Theatre Company, Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank.
December 12, 2014
Photos: Jill Mamey