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Troubadour Theater Co. will ditch pop hits formula for 'The Frogs'

February 16, 2010 |  4:01 pm

 TroupeGiven that Aristophanes' 2,400-year-old comedy "The Frogs" ends with a Biggie vs. Tupac-style throwdown between Euripides and Aeschylus over who's the baddest tragedian of them all, it would have seemed ripe for translation into Troubadourese -- the theatrical language that L.A.'s Troubadour Theater Co. has more or less patented by merging classic plays and stories with famous pop music oeuvres, while taking extreme comic liberties with the original scripts.

It has been going on uninterrupted since 1999, when "Twelfth Dog Night" begat an approach that has grown to include, among many zany others, "Fleetwood Macbeth," "Romeo Hall and Juliet Oates," "The Comedy of Aerosmith," "It's a Stevie Wonderful Life" and a recent dip into ancient drama with the Elvis-driven "Oedipus the King, Mama!"

But now for something completely different, as some comic troupe or other once said. "The Frogs" won't be hip-hopping or alighting on familiar rock when Troubadour debuts its version in three free (but reservations are required) public readings March 19-20 as part of the Getty Villa's ancient theater series. The idea is to abstain from the hits and write some original music and songs to go with a recent adaptation by New York City-based playwright David Greenspan.

"As tempting as it might be to use Toad the Wet Sprocket, or the Turtles, Byrds, Beatles or Stray Cats to tell the story of 'The Frogs,' we will be playing it straight, as it were," reports lead Troubadour Matt Walker. "The idea for this show is to serve the play first, and see how we are at composing and arranging our own music."

The Getty's theater program specialist, Norman Frisch, approached Troubadour with the idea of doing "The Frogs" with originals instead of covers, Walker said. And if fellow Angeleno stage humorists Culture Clash can do it -- as they have with Aristophanes' "The Birds" and "Peace," which was last summer's outdoor production at the Villa -- why not have a go?

Fans of the Troubadours' hit-fueled antics need not fear an end to those festivities, Walker said. Among the concepts for future shows the company is mulling are "The Merry Wives of Earth, Wind & Fire," "Little Richard III," "Titus Nirvanacus," and a kids' show, "Lady and the Supertramp."

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Matt Walker, left, and Eric Anderson play Hamlet and Ophelia in Troubadour Theater Co. production "Hamlet the Artist Formerly Known as Prince of Denmark." Credit: Eddy Will

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Getty Villa's theater series to feature Aztecs, vengeance, warfare, love -- and singing frogs

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