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THEATER REVIEW

Brand new bag for Peanuts gang

'A Charlie James Brown Christmas' is a raunchy, wacky and funky holiday treat.

December 26, 2007|F. Kathleen Foley | Special to The Times

Listen up, Los Angeles. If you haven't yet experienced the Troubadour Theater Company, you have a brief window to rectify that deficiency. The troupe's latest show, "A Charlie James Brown Christmas," is currently running at the Falcon.

For anyone who isn't familiar with the Troubies, as they are affectionately known among local theatergoers, a brief recap is in order. First and foremost, the Troubies are an indigenous Los Angeles treasure whose indescribably wacky parodies blend classic source material with popular music. Past efforts have yielded such gems as "Fleetwood Macbeth" and "It's a Stevie Wonderful Life."

Over the last decade, the group's annual Christmas shows have become a highly anticipated tradition. "A Charlie James Brown Christmas" will not disappoint. This outing is loosely based on the beloved animated perennial, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," set to the music of James Brown. An early sight gag -- James Brown's signature gold lame cape striped with the familiar black zig-zags from Charlie Brown's T-shirt -- is just the opening salvo in an entertainment rich with merriment and raunch.

A mild warning is in order. The raunch factor should be considered by those with young children, or by those who are squeamish about occasional sexual references. At intervals, Rod Serling (group founder Matt Walker, who also plays Snoopy and directs) interrupts the narrative to "flash forward" to the future lives of the Peanuts gang. Peppermint Patty and Marcie, for instance, become life partners, while Sally, clad in form-fitting hot pants, slings hash at Hooters. And when Snoopy and Woodstock hook up and reproduce, let's just say the results of their union are not pretty. So, moms and dads, it's your call. The show is definitely not geared for little ones, but the tot on the front row seemed patently delighted when Snoopy peed on his parents.

The Troubies have always been inspired goof-meisters, but in the past could be notably casual in terms of production values. (The technical contributions of "Fleetwood Macbeth" were lumped together under the credit "stuff we needed made or built.")

Not so here. Under Walker's ever-inspired guidance, the latest production is unfailingly polished and professional, beginning with the seven-piece band, helmed by music director and percussionist Erik Heinly, and extending through all the production elements -- Jeremy Pivnick's lighting, Robert Arturo Ramirez's sound, Sherry Santillano's set and Sharon McGunigle's vivid costumes.

Choreographers Nadine Ellis and Christine Lakin put the cast through a series of lively musical numbers, while Lisa Valenzuela, who plays Lucy, regularly stops the show with her roof-raising vocals. Beth Kennedy's butch Peppermint Patty and Audrey Siegel's coy Sally are standouts among these talented performers -- all improvisationally gifted clowns who frequently break the fourth wall to interact with a delighted audience.

If you are lucky enough to score a ticket, you too might become a roaring, rapt spectator in this "Peanuts" gallery.

--

'A Charlie James Brown Christmas'

Where: Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank

When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays,

4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 4 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Ends: Jan. 20

Price: $20 to $37.50

Contact: (818) 955-8101

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

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