Theater review: 'CHiPS the Musical' at the Falcon
Director Matt Walker also stars as John, the blond bewigged CHP officer whose exploits with his lady killer pal, Ponch (Rick Batalla, who co-wrote the show with Henry Phillips) are prime fodder for parody. The duo’s skin-tight uniforms are so restrictive they have to wriggle like live bait on a hook to sit down.
Like the original television series that inspired it, “Chips” is set in the mid 1970s – a time of bad hairdos and social transformation. Sexist officers are carted off to Camp Sensitive for Orwellian aversion therapy. “Synthetic albino” eco-terrorist, KG (always hilarious Beth Kennedy) sports a towering white Mohawk that could cut through any glass ceiling.
Walker’s loose yet rigorous staging allows plenty of segues into pure improv. Original musical numbers, choreographed by Nadine Ellis and backed by musical director/drummer Eric Heinly and a live band, keep the Falcon rocking.
The design elements are superlative, particularly Sharon McGunigle’s costumes. Improbable rear projections behind John and Ponch’s “motorcycles” (actually souped-up mountain bikes) elicit roars, as does a bizarre flashback sequence in which John’s dead circus-performer wife gives birth to triplets in mid-air. To say anything more would be gilding the already-shining chrome of this fast-paced vehicle, which runs on high-octane laughter and never slows down.
-- F. Kathleen Foley
“CHiPS the Musical,” Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Ends July 25. (818) 955-8101. www.FalconTheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.