Mike Sulprizio and Simon Yin in
A Charlie James Brown Christmas
(© Cheryl Games)
Mike Sulprizio and Simon Yin in
A Charlie James Brown Christmas
(© Cheryl Games)
A Charlie James Brown Christmas, the latest concoction from the comedy troupe The Troubadours, now at the Falcon Theater, is a riotous evening filled with jokes, dance, and fabulous singing. As in all the Troubadour's shows, they use a running musical motif of one artist -- here, the late, great James Brown -- as the show's basis. While many of his songs sound similar, his melodies make for rousing numbers and provide myriad opportunities for wild choreography. Luckily, choreographer Christine Lakin takes the famous dance moves from the 1960s and incorporates them brilliantly into the show.

Taking its inspiration from the classic Charles Schultz television special A Charlie Brown Christmas, the script distorts everything audiences hold dear about the Peanuts gang. For example, a mock Rod Serling provides a Twilight Zone episode of each character's future. Some are obvious; for example Peppermint Patty and her "girl Friday" Marcie become lovers. Others show the characters growing into such perverse families that even Charles Addams would have never imagined.

Moreover, the writers throw darts at everything from talk shows to Britney Spears. Like the kamikaze style of the movie Airplane, many jokes hit the target, while some fall flat. However, director Matt Walker keeps the momentum at such rocket speed that when jokes do fail, there are five more backups ready to attack.

Better still, the cast picks up the dead jokes, polishes them off, and throws them back at the audience. Their talent for volleying is almost as strong as Roger Federer's. What's more amazing is how a cast of apt comedians can also be such precise, vital dancers. Lisa Valenzuela as the all-consuming Lucy Van Pelt, Audrey Siegel as the precocious Sally Brown, and Beth Kennedy and Lynette Rathnam as blowhard Peppermint Patty and clingy Marcie, are particularly outstanding. One true highlight of the show is when Siegel hilariously imitates James Brown's high pitched emphasis in "Hot Pants," which is reminiscent of Eddie Murphy singing the praises of "Hot Tubs" on Saturday Night Live.

The group's regular costume designer, Sharon McGunigle, utilizes plush foam to turn normal humans into Cabbage Patch Kids -- a surreal look that both fits the style of the TV show and subverts it; while lighting designer Jeremy Pivnick uses bright lights to turn the Falcon into a circus, wild and full of mirth. Indeed, with its loud colors, absurdist costumes, and gleefully anarchic style, the uproarious A Charlie James Brown Christmas is like a psychedelic dream -- one you hope you'll never wake up from.