A triple-threat-tastic cast give the holiday-season-musical-spoofing Troubies’ How The Princh Stole Christmas their multitalented all (and the Prince catalog gives them plenty of hits to rock to), but with only a handful of recognizable characters and the thinnest of plots to satirize, the latest from the Troubadour Theatre Company falls short of the brilliance of previous Troubies greats.

 Like Troubies shows past, How The Princh Stole Christmas takes a well-known tale (in this case the 1957 Dr. Seuss children’s classic and its 1966 animated TV adaptation), stirs in an iconic recording artist’s Greatest Hits, and spices the mix with wink-wink jokes, topical humor, and adlibs, this time round ensuring there is “no license infringed” by setting the story not in Whoville but in Howville (because “this way nobody pays Dr. Seuss”).

 Director Matt Walker stars as the “mean [formerly green] one” (turned purple for reasons that will be obvious to anyone familiar with the artist once “formerly known as Prince”), Beth Kennedy is his antler-adorned pet pooch Max, and Katie DeShan is teeny-weeny “Mindy Jew How” (who like Cindy Lou Who before her, teaches a grouch the meaning of Christmas), with Rick Batalla’s Mayor completing the cast of recognizable “Hows of Howville” and Maegan McConnell’s Applephonia added as Princh love interest.

 The late great Prince gives the Troubies cast plenty of hits to perform with ingeniously tweaked lyrics, including “Raspberry Beret,” “Erotic City,” “U Got The Look,” “Controversy,” “Little Red Corvette” (redubbed “Little Red Coquette” in honor of redheaded Applephonia), “Sexy M.F.” (now the less explicit “Sexy Mayor Focker”), and of course “Purple Rain.”

If only Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas gave the Troubies enough story and characters to hang two acts on.

Even the troupe’s patented brand of topical humor falls somewhat flat this year, relying as it does on a President who, like his frequently mentioned fellow sexual predators, is no laughing matter. (A lighthearted “Haven’t you even heard of the hashtag #metoo?” fizzles.)

 That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty to entertain in How The Princh Stole Christmas, not the least of which are rhymes that would do Dr. Seuss proud.

The itty-bitty-handed title villain is another memorable Walker creation, Kennedy wows not only as the homonym-loving Max but as the 10-foot-tall Winter Warlock (back again with his patented hand tricks), and Batalla once again proves himself a master of both impromptu and scripted adlibs.

 Soprano extraordinaire McConnell debuts pop pipes to rival Mariah’s, DeShan not only makes for an adorable half-pint-sized Mindy but her Dorothy Howveyouvebeen joins Suzanne Jolie Narbonne’s Sheila Howitzer and Cloie Wyatt Taylor’s Wendy Howareyou (aka Princh’s three-and-only Instagram followers) in some abfab girl-group harmonies, charismatic Isaac Robinson-Smith shows off his own rafter-reaching vocals as choir director Howard P. How, and Eric Strand’s balletic grace joins Narbonne’s to tour-jetéstic effect.

 Add to these Troubies treasure Lisa Valenzuela (who provides big-voiced preshow entertainment, doubles as Mayor’s Wife and Mrs. C, and provides delicious sound fx), Michael Sulprizio’s droll Narrator Nick, Bradford Barnes’s dynamic Jerome Howsitgoin, and Tyler King’s multipurpose Headset Howdy, and you’ve got a Troubadour Theatre Company cast to equal the Troubies’ best.

Nadine Ellis choreographs one Hi-NRG music video-ready production number after another with music director/drummer Eric Heinly and the Princhmas band (John Hart, Linda Taylor, and Ryan Whyman) providing bang-up back-up throughout.

 How The Grinch Stole Christmas looks as fabulous as it sounds on scenic designer Christopher Scott Murillo and properties designer Corey Womack’s Santas Village set, one that takes full advantage of the extra-large El Portal stage, and Halei Parker’s uber-imaginative Technicolorrific costumes (and some equally delish wigs) illuminate the stage almost as must as Skylar Johnson vivid lighting. Kudos too to Daniel Tator for his pitch-perfect sound design.

 Womack is stage manager. Kyle Pollitt is technical director.

After more than twenty years of mashing up pop music legends from Billy Joel to Barry Manilow to Fleetwood Mac to ABBA with tales ranging from Hollywood to Shakespeare to Claymation, the Troubies know how to put on an entertaining evening of laughter and song. How The Princh Stole Christmas may not match the Troubadour Theater Company’s best, but even minor Troubies offers its share of holiday delights.

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The El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
December 26, 2017
Photos: Ed Krieger


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