A guy in a red-and-black jacket of distinctly '80s vintage is out walking with his girl when, suddenly, they are surrounded by people performing angular, zombie-like choreography and singing about a "Chiller."
The reference, of course, is to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video, which has been re-created with a few wry twists to serve as the big opening dance number for Troubadour Theater Company's "Jackson Frost," presented at the Falcon Theatre.
The Troubies, as they are known, are those theatrical clowns so fond of pairing stage and screen classics with pop music to come up with such hybrids as "Much Adoobie Brothers About Nothing" as well as such holiday fare as "It's a Stevie Wonderful Life."
This time, the source material is the 1979 Arthur Rankin Jr.-Jules Bass stop-motion-animation television special "Jack Frost," which has been paired with the music of various Jacksons: 5, Michael, Janet, Joe, Freddie and even Jackson Browne. In the Troubies' hands, of course, the story comes out somewhat differently, with interpolations from across the cultural spectrum: Chippendales dancers; Massachusetts marriages; television references as diverse as "Welcome Back, Kotter" and "Lost"; and the infamous Michael Jackson baby-on-the-balcony incident.
The engagement was sold out even before it opened.
The story's narrator, originally voiced by Buddy Hackett, is the groundhog Pardon-Me-Pete. Joseph Leo Bwarie plays the part in "Cats" face paint and an Afro reminiscent of the ones sported by "Kotter" Sweathogs.
Pete recalls the time that Jack -- er, Jackson -- Frost became human so that he could woo the lovely Elissa, played by Audrey Siegel, while saving Jackson Junction from the local meanie. Dressed in blue-gray overalls with icicle epaulets, Michelle Anne Johnson portrays Frost with Michael Jackson-like whoops and shoulder shrugs.
Company leader and "Jackson" director Matt Walker, in bushy black mustache, handles the role of the meanie. His only friend is a puppet robot with its own malevolent personality. Lisa Valenzuela plays Papa, originally voiced by Larry Storch, more like Danny DeVito, complete with bald fringe and chest hair. The choreography, by Nadine Ellis and Bwarie, is accompanied by a red-hot four-person band. Even Beth Kennedy, on stilts as Father Winter, grooves along.
As always, the audience lives for those moments when the Troubies make mistakes or crack each other up -- infractions that draw penalty flags. The show fizzles at the very end, but not before the Troubies manage, once again, to put a twist on the holidays that is just this side of twisted.
Where: Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays
Ends: Dec. 30
Price: $30 to $37.50; sold out, call for standby information
Contact: (818) 955-8101
Running time: 2 hours