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CHiPS the Musical

The Troubies spoof of the 1970s television show is thinner than their best fare, but still full of plenty of laughs. logo
Matt Walker and Rick Batalla in CHiPS the Musical
(© Chelsea Sutton)
The Troubies are hands down the best musical comedy troupe in Los Angeles, making audiences laugh show after show as they typically spoof a classic text (either from literature or pop culture) beyond recognition, and then add in a musical motif from a famous contemporary artist like Elvis Presley or Stevie Wonder to comment on the content. Their latest offering, CHiPS the Musical, at the Falcon Theater, is once again filled with the sort of topical humor, naughty quips, and prolonged hazing of the audience that will have the crowds laughing.

But the show, while satisfying, is not among their best. Sending up the misogynistic and homophobic television show of the 1970s, about a pair of ultra-macho highway patrolmen, results in a fairly thin and rambling story. You can sense the cast knows the text to be flimsy. Even as they go off on their usual improvisational fodder and many of their hurled quips land a bulls-eye, one is aware that there are plenty of moments in this two-hour production that could have been easily tightened.

The use of composer Henry Phillips' original songs also proves to be a less successful choice. On the plus side, the tunes are valid for the period and have a good beat. However, they are not very memorable, and many don't enhance the story. Moreover, some of the cast strain to hit their notes -- and it's often the display of the performers' top-notch musical abilities (in dance and singing) that help makes the Troubies such an outstanding group.

Sherry Santillano's sets include a humongous television which makes fun of 1970s television rear projection -- at one point Ponch and John ride their bikes through grocery stores and on a roller coaster. And the costumes by the always inventive Sharon McGunigle remark on why the 1970s was known as "Jiggle TV."

Still, the cast gives the material their all. As ladies man Ponch and sidekick John, Rick Batalla (the show's author) and Matt Walker (the show's director) strut in their skin-tight uniforms, flirt with all the women, and protect the world. Michelle Anne Johnson precisely hits the appropriate blacksploitation vibe for the period; while the always hysterical Beth Kennedy, playing an albino leader of an Eco-Terrorist group with a killer stare and an outfit swiped from Ziggy Stardust, milks every line, pratfall, and throwaway joke to perfection. And even if Caroline Gross' Spanish Web act seems more poised to dazzle the audience than further the plot, she magnificently twists her legs and hands around two curtains and performs other acrobatic marvels.

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