Hot on the heels of last year's "A Christmas Carole King" comes
another skewed take on a yuletide classic from the Troubadour Theater
Company, "It's a Stevie Wonderful Life," now playing at Burbank's
The Troubies use the 1946 film "It's a Wonderful Life" as a
blueprint for the story, then warp it just enough to fit in the best
of Stevie Wonder for its musical numbers. It's supremely silly and
relentlessly self- referential, yet never less than laugh-out-loud
All the familiar faces from the perennial Frank Capra fable are
present, but in some extreme forms. Director Matt Walker assumes the
role of disillusioned George Bailey, but with a giant "Jackson Five"
afro and Jimmy Stewart drawl.
Most of the major plot points remain, leaving plenty of room for
each cast member to add their own satirical touches and wildly
divergent takes on tunes like "Superstition," "You Are the Sunshine
of My Life," and "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing."
Morgan Rusler's wheelchair- bound codger Mr. Potter stands out, as
does Erin Matthews' wide-eyed take on George's patient wife, Mary.
Lisa Valenzuela tops her expert comic timing only when she sings the
sweetly rendered "Send One Your Love."
Jennifer Seifert memorably takes on dual roles as George's
daughter, Janie, and the town tramp, Violet, who belts out the
incongruent but lively "Part- time Lover." And Caleb Rapoport
provides an uncanny Christopher Walken impression.
But this production is director Walker's showcase, from the sweet
serenade "My Mary Amour" to the big closer "Signed, Sealed,
Delivered, I'm Yours." And the little side jokes sprinkled throughout
infuse the proceedings with spontaneous energy -- as if the spoof is
being created at that instant.
The troupe often breaks character, chastising each other when they
miss a line and embarrassing latecomers to the theater. They even
perform a preview of their next show "Fleetwood Macbeth."
These constant antics somehow manage to avoid overwhelming the
inherent sentiment provided by the tale, while musical director Andre
Holmes' band provides funk- tastic backup on songs you'll never hear
the same way again.