Jan 30, 2005

Rockin' in the Small-Theatre World

I've got a confession to make: I've kinda taken the tireless Troubadour Theatre Company for granted. I saw their Midsummer Saturday Night's Fever Dream back in 2000 and found it a sloppy, hilarious romp, and then later their Twelfth Dog Night at the Falcon Theatre, admittedly with a pretty dead matinee audience, and found it... well, mostly just sloppy—still genial good fun but a little tired, shticky. As much as I loved hearing their actual and proposed titles—I once heard Troubie impresario Matt Walker rattle off a tantalizing roster of possibilities, including The Merry Wives of Earth, Windsor and Fire; Queen Lear; As U2 Like It; Pericles, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince of Tyre; Much a Doobie About Nothing; Little Richard III, and the holiday-show titles Smokey and the Miracles on 34th Street and Rudolf the Red Hot Chili Peppers Reindeer—I wondered if there was really much more to be milked from the classic-meets-classic-rock gimmick.

On the evidence of The Comedy of Aerosmith, which closes its sold-out run at the Falcon tomorrow, I shouldn't have doubted the depth of this troupe's multifarious talents, or the delightful depths to which they'll sink for a laugh. The Troubies, it seems abundantly clear, are the sort of homegrown local treasure that we should call to mind whenever we hear people say (as we still do) that the L.A. theatre scene is unoriginal or second-rate, or that there's no audience for live theatre here.

But what I loved above all in this hair-metal hoedown was how well this sort of groundlings-geared rock'n'roll clowning works in a small theatre format. The show was built for the Roxy nightclub, where it performed last summer, but even with a graying Falcon audience it rocked the house. Forget Rent—this, it seems, is the way rock music can work in the theatre. I've often wondered why more shows in L.A.'s small-theatre realm don't take advantage of the capacities of non-musical-theatre genres—folk, country, blues, rock'n'roll—to fill a space and entertain these venues' nightclub-sized crowds. Shows like Hedwig or Smoke on the Mountain, or the excellent folk-themed backstager Three Songs—even, if I may be so bold, the Appalachian Twelfth Night I music-directed in 2002—could be the models for a whole genre of music-theatre that takes full advantage of the immediacy and intimacy of small venues and the parlance of popular music.

And the Troubies shall lead us.

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