A Christmas Westside Story
The Troubadours score again with this wonderful mash-up of two very different classics.
Somehow, the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and melodies of Leonard Bernstein work perfectly with Jean Shepherd's satirical story of a boy and his burgeoning love affair with a Red Ryder model air rifle.
Once again, Little Ralphiie (Matt Walker) lives with his hotheaded dad (Rick Batalla), his level-headed mom (Leah Sprecher) and his put-upon baby brother (Beth Kennedy), yearning for a BB gun. But a conspiracy between his mom, a teacher, and even Santa Claus seem to be preventing him from achieving his dream.
Wittingly, the troupe turn "Gee, Officer Krupke" into a plea for tolerance for the bullies Farkus (Brandon Breault) and Toady (Christine Lakin); "Something's Coming" now tells of a father's anticipation for his precious prize; the love songs "Maria" and "Tonight" are now tender anthems for that famed BB gun (personified with sultriness by Katherine Malak); and "A Boy Like That "is transformed into "A Toy Like That Will Shoot Your Eye Out."
The cast is at their best, showcasing that they're not only hysterical actors, but prime dancers and singers as well. Using a squeaky voice and wearing a nerdy blond wig, Walker (who has also directed the production) is an overgrown visual joke as the beloved narrator. One spends the entire show waiting for him to appear in the six-foot pink bunny outfit. (And when he does, it doesn't disappoint.)
Sprecher is the grounding force in the project as the comforting mom. Batilla, a master at pratfalls, twirls his legs and curses and throws out asides that are always worth a hearty laugh. The only shame is there isn't enough for Kennedy to do, and Lisa Valenzuela, a fantastic belter, has only a few scenes as the elementary school teacher.
Naomi Yoshida's costumes turns the adults into believable 10-year-olds of the 1940s, while Mike Jespersen's set looks appropriately like an urban jungle, with the steps reminiscent of West Side Story's famous balcony scene, but also substituting for the terrifying slide that kids are shoved down after being harassed by Santa.