From Bing to the Beatles: There’s a Method to the Troubies’ Merry Madness

Matt Walker, Isaac Robinson-Smith, Philip McNiven and Rick Batalla star in the TROUBADOUR THEATER COMPANY production of “WHITE (ALBUM) CHRISTMAS,” directed by Matt Walker and now playing at the Colony Theatre in Burbank.  PHOTO CREDIT: Colony Theatre

For 28 years of inspired insanity, the L.A.-based Troubadour Theater Company has wreaked
maniacal mayhem mangling modern and classic sources in order to manufacture mischievous
musical mishmashes upon the live stage. The Troubies’ – as this inimitable intrepid troupe is
monikered – mirthful mashups include 2014’s Abbamemnon (see:, which
combined Aeschylus’ first tragedy in his ancient trilogy The Oresteia with the Swedish band
Abba’s disco music. Haunted House Party is the Troubies’ adaptation of Roman playwright
Plautus’ 2 nd century B.C. comedy Mostellaria (see: And in 2021’s Lizastrata, which
blends Liza Minnelli songs, especially from Kander and Ebbs’ Cabaret, with Aristophanes’
Greek antiwar sex satire Lysistrata, first performed in Athens in 411 BCE (see:
During the holiday season the Troubies annually present not Christmas parades, but kinetic
parodies. This year the zany minstrels are offering a daffy combo plate curiously combining
1954’s musical comedy starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney (aka
“George’s Aunt”), White Christmas, with the Beatles’ 1968 White Album. It’s Irving Berlin
meets the Fab Four in White (Album) Christmas: What could possibly go wrong? Let me count
the ways – and let the games begin!
Breaking every rule – and fourth wall – in sight, the Troubies’ freewheeling adaptation of White
Christmas hews fairly closely to that old chestnut’s plot, about two WWII veterans, Bob Wallace
(Rick Balalla, who has a name made for comedy, in the Bing part) and Phil Davis (Philip
McNiven, who’s not sniveling in the Kaye role), who have become a duo act. Postwar they
pursue two showgirls, the voluptuous Betty Haynes (Cloie Wyatt Taylor in the Clooney part) and
the exquisitely long-legged Judy Haynes (ballerina Suzanne Jolie Narbonne in the Vera-Ellen
role), booked to perform at an inn in Vermont. It turns out that said establishment is owned by
Bob and Phil’s former commanding officer, General Waverly (Matt Walker unwaveringly plays
the Dean Jagger part – and also unleashed this madcap merriment upon an unsuspecting world
by adapting and directing White (Album) Christmas).
Throughout the approximately two-hour, two-act production with one intermission, various
Beatle songs from the White Album – which, as all Beatle-mania fans undoubtedly recall is a
double album, thus providing the Troubies with lots of material to draw from and grist for their
musical mill – seemingly seamlessly intercut with White Christmas’ storyline. The company
cleverly segues into the various songs with apoplectic aplomb (and a blessed obliviousness to all
sense of propriety), such as in a vignette about pirates which at first apparently inexplicably
appears onstage – until the buccaneer “Blackbird” provides the performers with a looney
rationale for launching into a wackadoodle version of Lennon and McCartney’s “Blackbird.”
Later, Betty’s sleepless night triggers an iteration of “I’m So Tired,” and so on.

Although members of the Troubadour Theater Company sing deranged renditions of the Beatles’
ditties, they wisely refrain from impersonating each member of the quartet, like some sort of
tribute band. Instead, the Troubies are joined onstage by four live musicians who belt out the
White Album’s hits – Kevin Stevens pounds the sharkskin, Ryan Whyman tickles the ivories,
Carlos Rivera plays the bass and Mike Abraham strums the guitar.
The Troubies exult in a commedia dell’arte panache and White (Album) Christmas has sight gags
galore, plus ad libs that evoke a sense of spontaneity and some projections (Batalla is also the
play’s video editor). I won’t spoil your fun by revealing what those rascally Troubies do onstage
when they croon “Mother Superior jumped the gun” during the performance of “Happiness is a
Warm Gun.” Briefly deviating (but what would you expect from a bunch of theatrical deviants?)
from the White Album per se, there is a tableau invoking the cover of the Abbey Road album.
Plus, there is one scene where four Troubies wear versions of the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour
(or was it Sgt. Pepper?) costumes crossed by Christmasy accoutrements (designed by Julian
And when one-woman circus virtuoso Dallys Newton sheds her little girl-like persona, clad as
the General’s granddaughter, to athletically twirl illuminated hula hoops in lingerie as “Helter
Skelter” blares, it’s enough to make you feel glad to be alive, if only to witness such skillfully
executed exalted goofiness. And there’s even a joke about the avant-garde “Revolution 9”
(Trotsky advocated “Permanent Revolution” – but nine of them?) Anna Aimee White is the big
show’s choreographer.
Not all White Album songs – after all, there are so many of them by those prolific mop tops –
make special appearances onstage. For instance, I don’t recall renditions of “Mother Nature’s
Son” and George Harrison’s “Piggies.” And the Troubies lost some great opportunities:
Although there is a version of “Revolution 1” cranked out, as this show is set in Vermont, there
should have been a character based on the Green Mountain State’s socialist Senator, Bernie
Sanders, singing a version of “Revolution.” Plus, given the seasonal spirit and the current wars
defiling this sacred time of year in the Holy Land and back in the ex-USSR at Ukraine, it would
have been lovely for the Troubies to perform one of the greatest Christmas numbers ever written
by a rocker, Lennon’s stirring “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” (BTW John, we still love you and
miss you and your effervescent music very much. Don’t get me started…)
Overall, the Troubadour Theater Company’s melodious mixture of the White Album and White
Christmas results in a cockamamie concoction that endlessly amused the sold-out crowd
(including aud members sitting at tables onstage – talk about “front row seats”!) at Burbank’s
Colony Theatre. Although to a purist absolutist, the treatment of a cherished sacrosanct gem by a
Troubie may be what Jack Ruby was to Oswald. But for their “gluttons for punishment” (what
these merry pranksters call their fans), the Troubies are, to paraphrase Proverbs 31:10 in a little
book you may have heard of called The Bible, “worth a price above rubies.”
However, I’d just caution parents that as the show is at times bawdy with some profanity, this is
one holiday production when ticket buyers may want to hire a sitter and leave the kiddies at

home while giddy grownups gleefully chuckle at and enjoy the raucous rockers’ spectacle of
elated sheer buffoonery of the highest order. A good fun time was had by all.
The Troubadour Theater Company’s White (Album) Christmas is being performed Saturday,
December 9 – Saturday, December 23 on Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 4:00
p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sundays at 4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at The Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St.,
Burbank, CA, 91502. Tickets are at or call the box office at: (818)558-7000.
FUN FACT OF THE REVIEW: The multi-talented director of the technicolor White Christmas
was the versatile helmer Michael Curtiz, who also made Hollywood’s greatest swashbuckler
ever, 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, and 1942’s beloved WWII drama Casablanca.

PHOTO CREDIT: Colony Theatre 1. Cloie Wyatt Taylor, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne and John Paul Batista 2. Mike Sulprizio, Isaac Robinson-Smith, Matt Walker, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, Rick Batalla, Philip McNiven, Beth Kennedy and Suzanne Jolie Narbonne 3. Philip McNiven and Suzanne Jolie Narbonne 4. Philip McNiven, Matt Walker and Rick Batalla star