Theater Review: Westside Christmas story is a gas

December 16, 2011|By Lynne Heffley
  • Ralphie (Matt Walker), Santa (Brandon Breault) and First Elf (Suzanne Jolie Narbonne) in Troubadour Theater Companys A Christmas Westside Story at the Falcon Theatre. (Photo by Chelsea Sutton)
Ralphie (Matt Walker), Santa (Brandon Breault) and First…

“When you’re a kid, you’re a kid all the way….”

“West Side Story” meets Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun in “A Christmas Westside Story,” the latest pop culture mash-up from the deliriously daft Troubadour Theatre Company, running through Jan. 15 at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank.

This anarchic troupe of clowns is known for mining comedic gold from inspired pairings of stage, TV and film classics with classic rock ’n’ roll. “As U2 Like It,” “Fleetwood Macbeth” and “It’s a Stevie Wonderful Life” are examples of past Troubie hilarity.

Here, the company, led by artistic director Matt Walker as “A Christmas Story’s” BB-gun-obsessed fourth-grader Ralphie, approximates a bit of Jerome Robbins’ iconic “West Side Story” choreography with surprising verve and gleefully tailors the equally iconic songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim to fit the 1940s-era holiday classic by humorist Jean Shepherd. Lines from the film are incorporated into the dialogue verbatim.


It’s a pretty gutsy effort. But pratfalls, somersaults and all manner of acrobatic physicality are part of the company’s signature style, and the actors prove up for choreographer Molly Alvarez’s crisp, Robbins-inspired, high-jumping, shoulder-hunching, finger-snapping, skirt-flapping dance numbers. The cast’s strong vocals are another plus. (At one point, sly ringmaster Walker, who also directs the show, does a wickedly spot-on Aaron Neville impression.)

The show, despite being a parody, would be far less successful without the cast’s serious commitment to this song-and-dance framework, and without the muscular, expert on-stage band (musical director Eric Heinly on drums, Kevin Stewart on bass, Linda Taylor on guitar and Brian Baker and Cameron Graves on keyboards).

It’s a hoot when Leah Sprecher as Ralphie’s mom sings “A Toy Like This (would shoot your eye out)” to the tune of “A Boy Like That,” her voice throbbing with passion, while mood lighting by veteran designer Jeremy Pivnick — who contributes mightily to the proceedings — enhances the melodrama.

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