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Theater review: 'The First Jo-el' by Troubadour Theater Company

December 16, 2010 | 11:58 am

Jo-el1 A young, unmarried couple expect a baby, which has her father in a stew. What will the Bethlehem neighbors think? Then three wiseguys, with Jersey accents and a violin case, stumble into town following yonder star, and in Daddy's mind, a light bulb flashes.

Literally. A light bulb illuminates above his head.

Soon, he's got the whole town singing along to his idea.

Such a mash-up can only be the work of the Troubadour Theater Company, which keeps working its way through the canons of Western literature and popular television, infusing timeless tales with classic-rock soundtracks. This Christmas, the Troubies are combining the Nativity with the music of Billy Joel to deliver "The First Jo-el." It's mighty clever and a whole lot of fun.

The biblical source material is treated with reverent irreverence, but worry not, because most of this stuff is made up. That young couple? They're not Mary and Joseph; they're Letty and Manolo. Some 20 of Joel's songs are wryly interpolated. Sample: Stop being so ornery, Daddy, or she's "Movin' Out." In a manger, a five-piece band performs away.

As Christmastime iconography -- slightly warped and repurposed -- piles up, the Troubies deliver tongue-in-cheek commentaries on Information Age insta-news and Mideast relations, with all manner of pop-culture references tossed in.

Jo-el2Director and Troubie ringleader Matt Walker hangs farther than usual outside the performing spotlight, which focuses especially brightly on power-piped Katie Nuñez and good-natured Matt Morgan as the parents-to-be, as well as on Lisa Valenzuela as the earth-motherish mother, Jack McGee as the sour-but-sweet papa, and Morgan Rusler in a bust-a-stitch turn as Frankenstein -- this last because the wiseguys are (mis)named for the gifts they carry: Gold, Frankenstein and Myr (short for Murray).

This being the Troubies, the show also includes laugh-meter tests of jokes-in-progress and much clowning overall -- as well as a less-expected tear or two. "You May Be Right," I may be crazy for this show. As for you, no "Pressure," but tickets are going fast.

-- Daryl H. Miller

"The First Jo-el," Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 4 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Some exceptions. Ends Jan. 16. $34.50-$42. (818) 955-8101 or Running time: 2 hours.


Theater review: 'Jack Frost,' Meet the Jacksons

Theater review: 'Oedipus the King, Mama!'

'A Laugh-Meter Reader' profile of Matt Walker

Photos: Top, Matt Morgan and Katie Nuñez as Manolo and Letty. As Myr, Frankenstein and Gold, Brandon Breault, from left, Morgan Rusler and Matt Walker. Credit: Chelsea Sutton.