Those irreverent rascals of theatrical mayhem the Los Angeles-based Troubadour Theater Co. have once again melded a work of William Shakespeare with a contemporary rock icon, filtered through its brand of comedia dell arte zaniness. As usual, the troupe is hilarious. Previous Bard-rock amalgams include “Romeo Hall and Juliet Oates” (Hall & Oates), “A Midsummer Night’s Fever Dream” (the Bee Gees) and “12th Dog Night” (Three Dog Night). Roaming freely around the expansive John Anson Ford outdoor amphitheater, Troubadour has its way with the dark and complicated romance “All’s Well That Ends Well,” enlivened considerably by the infusion of the funky rhythms of Kool and the Gang. Award-winning director Matt Walker helms with his usual well-honed satirical flair.
Though the company conspires to wreak havoc on Shakespeare’s plot, the storyline manages to stay intact. Driven forward by the facile four-piece ensemble led by keyboardist David Barker, passion-driven Helena (Beth Kennedy) relentlessly pursues her monumentally disinterested hubby, Bertram (Walker), to the infectious sounds of such Kool and the Gang hits as “Jungle Boogie”; “Hollywood Swingin'”; “Too Hot”; “Get Down on It”; “Misled”; “Lady’s Night”; “Cherish”; “Joanna”; and a rousing, show-closing full-company outing on the infectious flag-waver “Celebration.” In and around the plot and the tunes, the company continually bombards the senses with endless shtick and comic bits.
One highlight features the medically skilled but less than comely Helena utilizing awe-inspiringparaphernalia to cure the deathbed-ridden king of France (Morgan Rusler). Later, when the ever-grateful king allows Helena to select which courtier she would have as a mate, the production turns into a comical dating game in reverse as each of the royal bachelors campaigns to deflect her selection of him as a spouse.
Walker’s Bertram gives double take a new meaning in his repugnance at being chosen Helena’s eternal mate.
Kennedy is a hoot as the facially challenged heroine whose overbite could serve as an aircraft landing strip. Kennedy plays every turn in Helena’s odyssey to win Bertram with a deadpan earnestness that is as captivating as it is hilarious.
Walker is deliciously over the top as the haughty but callow Bertram, who would rather be killed in battle than share a bed with Helena. His seduction by his wife (in disguise) will finally come with all the shtick of a burlesque bedroom skit.
Musically, the troupe is impressively in sync with the distinctive sound of Kool and the Gang, particularly power-lunged Lisa Valenzuela, who performs quite nicely as Bertram’s mother, the Countess.
The production is aided considerably by the lighting of James Smith III and well-balanced sound design of Steve Barker.