If you’ve been pining for a show that combines the rocking authority of “Takin’ It to the Streets” and the poetic genius of Shakespeare, your long wait is over. The Troubadour Theater Company has long been known for its felicitous mixtures of popular music and the Bard, and its new world premiere production, “Much Adoobie Brothers About Nothing,” is an entertaining continuation of this tradition.
It’s more like a wildly funny longform improv sketch than a typical play — with impromptu “applause meters,” frequent if hilarious deviations from the script and the cast whooping and milling about under a rotating red light whenever a car with an audible siren drives by the theater. But under Matt Walker’s first-rate direction, the whole experience is a rambunctious bundle of joyful comic anarchy.
The story, such as it is, follows the circuitous courtships of two couples. Benedick (Eric Anderson) and Beatrice (Jen Seifert) are too proud to admit their attraction to each other, while Claudio (Joseph Leo Bwarie) and Hero (Lynette Rathnam) are ready to marry save for the evil machinations of Don John (Walker) and his minions.
Anderson is a resplendent vision of 1970s cool in jeans and a long blond wig, looking like Jeff “Skunk” Baxter from the actual Doobie Brothers or perhaps a stray Allman brother. Anderson is less manic than the other performers, which works for the character, but he cuts loose effectively in “Without Love,” meaningfully taking the scrunchy off his ponytail. Seifert brings an amusingly acidic bite to her portrayal of Beatrice, and Bwarie and Rathnam are effective as the manipulated lovers.
Beth Kennedy often steals the show as the villainous Borachio, outrageous in a silly wig and a thin Fu Manchu moustache. She’s deliciously funny in a scene wherein she pretends to be Hero, sucking her “jicama-flavored” feet for good measure, and she got the biggest laugh of the night when she tried to match Borachio’s bug-eyed countenance on a poster by putting ping-pong balls on her eyes. Daren Herbert displays comic talent and a great singing voice as Don Pedro, and Audrey Siegel is terrific as Ursula, equally adept at dancing, singing or playing the cowbell.
Walker, the head jester in a troupe of talented clowns, is obviously good enough to play the Shakespeare lines straight, but he’s even better at letting his quicksilver wit have free range. Musical director Eric Heinly heads up a tight band, and Nadine Ellis’ choreography fills the stage with constant high energy.
The main thing the Troubadour Company strives to provide is a sense of freewheeling fun, and with “Much Adoobie,” they succeed admirably.