×

A Christmas Westside Story

There's no earthly reason why the 1983 cult classic "A Christmas Story" should comfortably converge with Robert Wise's Best Picture tuner of 1961, but go figure: "A Christmas Westside Story" is one of the cleverest efforts in their 10-year history.

With:
With: Rick Batalla, Brandon Breault, Kristin D'Andrea Condon, Joseph Keane, Beth Kennedy, Christine Lakin, Katherine Malak, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne, Robert Petrarca, Monica Schneider Leah Sprecher, Lisa Valenzuela, Matt Walker.

When the Troubadours, LA’s resident vaudeville ensemble at Burbank’s Falcon, blend the right source material with the right songbook, their alchemy can’t be beat for sheer zaniness. There’s no earthly reason why the 1983 cult classic “A Christmas Story” should comfortably converge with Robert Wise’s Best Picture tuner of 1961, but go figure: “A Christmas Westside Story” is one of the cleverest efforts in their 10-year history. Helmer Matt Walker (who also essays Ralphie, excellently) cranks out a new Yuletide attraction annually, but this one has enough piney scent to establish itself as an evergreen perennial.

If you know either the Jean Shepherd-inspired pic or the Jets/Sharks tuner – and everybody right down to the late Osama Bin Laden probably falls into one of those two categories – references will be easy to grasp. No memory of Darren McGavin is necessary to appreciate Rick Batalla’s inspired harrumphery as Ralphie’s Old Man; you need never have enjoyed Natalie Wood’s “I Feel Pretty” to howl as Monica Schneider’s female-gam lamp (here called “Lampy”) becomes pretty and witty and bright.

As it happens, little Ralphie’s pining for a Daisy BB rifle offers a darn good analogue to Tony’s longing for Maria. So the Troubies slay you when Ralphie’s mom (winning Leah Sprecher) warns “A toy like that/Will shoot your eye out.” And when the gun comes alive in the fetching form of Katherine Malak, Walker croons a love song to the tune of “Maria” and slays you all over again.

Wittily inserting Jerome Robbins moves, choreographer Molly Alvarez translates “Cool” into a scorching hot “Triple Dog Dare Ya” routine leading up to the legendary moment when boy tongue meets metal flagpole (Joseph Keane’s Flick is immensely appealing). Only the takeoff on “Gee, Officer Krupke” falls flat, because no one’s really established a reason for it to be sung.

Through it all, musical director Eric Heinly performs a Christmas miracle in bringing not just Leonard Bernstein’s melodies, but also echoes of the famous orchestrations, to the Falcon’s stage.

Because the narrative is so tight, the company can afford to put story occasionally on hold to taunt latecomers, provide lap dances to customers and generally mock its own Hellzapoppin aesthetic. They even find time for the fabulous Christine Lakin to wax rueful on how underused she is this time around (which, alas, she is).

Meanwhile, translating kid brother Randy into an Aspergerian genius allows Beth Kennedy to silkily, effortlessly walk off with every scene she’s in. The absence of her “Winter Warlock” character, a mainstay of numerous Troubie shows, is felt (if memory serves, he even showed up at “The First Jo-El,” when Billy Joel met Bethlehem). But as Shepherd himself knew well, Santa never brings you everything you wish for.

Popular on Variety

A Christmas Westside Story

Falcon Theater, Burbank; 130 seats; $42 top

Production: A Falcon Theater presentation of a Troubadour Theater Company production of a musical in two acts by the Company. Directed by Matt Walker. Choreography, Molly Alvarez. Musical director, Eric Heinly.

Creative: Sets, Mike Jespersen; costumes, Naomi Yoshida; lighting, Jeremy Pivnick; sound, Robert Arturo Ramirez; stage manager, Corey Womack. Opened Dec. 9, 2011. Reviewed Dec. 15. Runs through Jan. 15, 2012. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MINS.

Cast: With: Rick Batalla, Brandon Breault, Kristin D'Andrea Condon, Joseph Keane, Beth Kennedy, Christine Lakin, Katherine Malak, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne, Robert Petrarca, Monica Schneider Leah Sprecher, Lisa Valenzuela, Matt Walker.

More Legit

  • David-Alan-Grier-Blair-Underwood

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood to Star in 'A Soldier's Play' on Broadway

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood will star in a Broadway production of Pulitzer-Prize winning drama “A Soldier’s Play.” The play, written by Charles Fuller, is set in 1944 and follows a murder mystery centered around the death of black Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (played by Grier) who is found on a Louisiana army base. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content