How The Princh Stole Christmas!
Reviewed by Paul Birchall
Troubadour Theater Company
Through December 31
The Big Purple meets the Big Green in this lively and happy holiday musical fusing the songs of Prince with a spoof of Dr. Seuss’s venerable “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Oh, it is silly entertainment, to be sure, but so jolly, and such a cotton candy holiday gift for Troubadour fans that it would be positively Grinch-like for a critic to cavil with any of the show’s shortcomings, as if there are any.
The Troubies are appearing at the El Portal’s Debbie Reynolds Stage for the first time, and if looks are any indication, it’s a move that appears to suit, with the larger playing area allowing for broad humor and unexpectedly lavish production numbers.
In this parody, names and places (and song lyrics) have been tweaked to avoid copyright “Who-turneys”, but otherwise the tale will be immediately familiar. The legendary anti-Christmas beast is renamed the Princh — combining Prince and the Grinch, geddit? But otherwise, this is the same mean ‘ole fellow we recall from childhood. Assayed with brilliant crankery by Troubie artistic director Matt Walker, and caparisoned in a splendid purple fur suit, the Princh roars and sneers his loathing of Christmas and vows to steal all the gifts from “Howville,” (the non-actionable iteration of Seuss’s Whoville). He teams up with his best (and only) friend, his dog Max (Troubie stalwart Beth Kennedy, in one of the year’s most fashionable dog suits) to sneak into town and grab all the How-folks’s presents. But his heart is gradually warmed by a sultry How-gal in a beautiful raspberry beret named Applephonia (Maegan McConnell).
The arcs of the feathery storyline are punctuated with parodies of Prince’s songs, including “Purple Rain”, “Little Red Corvette” and “Let’s Go Crazy!” The collectively developed script is rich with brilliant puns and hilariously calculated lunacy — I was hoping the song “Purple Reindeer” would be spun into an available single after the show. And the piece evokes a gleeful atmosphere that’s part send-up and part homage to theatrical pantomime.
There are Prince jokes and Dr. Seuss gags — but also an undercurrent of political allegory, as the Purple One occasionally appears to be standing in for the vile “Orange One” in Washington DC. For long time Troubie fans, there’s even a brief cameo from the Winter Warlock (Kennedy), who wiggles her long, chopstick-like fingers in a delightful bit of stage business.
Walker’s direction of this frothy material is impeccably crisp, from his first appearance as Princh in spooky silhouette to a gag or two that poke fun at this year’s main theatrical spectacle, Hamilton, and the general public’s inability to secure an affordable ticket. Halei Parker’s Seuss-like costumes, and Christopher Scott Murillo’s artfully modular set provide strong stagecraft to anchor the goofiness. The show’s mix of deceptively simple comedy, energy, and tight musical numbers is an indubitable delight for the Troubadour company’s longtime fans – and it makes a wonderful offering for others wanting something new and innovative for the holiday season.
El Portal Theatre, 11206 Waddington St., North Hollywood; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Sun., 9 p.m.; through December 31. (818) 508-4200 or www.elportaltheatre.com. Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with an intermission.