THE FIRST JO-EL – Troubadour Theater Company at the Falcon Theatre – Los Angeles Theater Review

by Tony Frankel on January 5, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

Post image for THE FIRST JO-EL – Troubadour Theater Company at the Falcon Theatre – Los Angeles Theater Review

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO BETHLEHEM

When three slapstick wise guys – Gold (Matt Walker), Frankenstein (Morgan Rusler) and Myr (Brandon Breault) – show up in Bethlehem for the arrival of the Prince of Peace, innkeeper Nicholas (Jack McGee) sees gold coins, so he touts his impregnated and unwed daughter Letty (Katie Nunez) as the vessel of this miracle child; this way, he can sell out every room in his inn, much to the consternation of his wife, Greta (Lisa Valenzuela). Hence, when Joseph (Walker) and Mary (Katherine Malak) turn up, they are sent to the stable which contains a dancing ass that parodies Billy Joel tunes along with the rest of the characters.

Who else but the Troubadours could pull off a Christmas miracle like The First Jo-el? This silly and sweet send-up of the Nativity story is so packed with talented performers and musicians that only a Scrooge would dare look for something to criticize. The Troubadours aren’t going for sophisticated parody here, so don’t expect perfect rhymes or clear storytelling (it wasn’t until much later in the show that I realized that Beth Kennedy’s hysterical character on stilts, the Winter Warlock, was from a previous Troubie Christmas Parody). In a way, this show seems tailor-made for the legions of fans who have flocked to these very funny spoofs for years; there were a few moments (as with the Winter Warlock) when I could have sworn that I was crashing someone else’s party.

My favorite portions of the show are when the actors improvise with the audience, like family members who are performing at their annual Christmas Party. It harkens back to the best Carol Burnett sketches that had actors cracking each other up; as with Burnett, director Matt Walker and his crew actually make the audience feel like we are their friends, not just paying spectators.

The only quibble would be that the actors are miked to be heard over the amazing band, led by Eric Heinly, and then off-mike during the dialogue, which makes for uneven sound. Still, like a familiar Yuletide story, The First Jo-el had me warm and cozy as a hot toddy.

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Chelsea Sutton

The First Jo-el
scheduled to close January 16 at time of publication
for tickets, visit http://www.falcontheatre.com/first_joel.html

Comments on this entry are closed.