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CAST: Carla Jo, Bailey, Stephanie Bell, Donna Tina Charles, Bill Garritty, Stephen Hughes, Victor Isaac, Darrin Jaques, Adam Lebow, Sarah Marsh-Newman, Jonfavor Monsalve, Ariadne Shaffer, Christienne Wadsworth, Yulia Yemelin and Melissa Zafarana


BACKSTAGE WEST (Laura Weinert)

"A Christmas Thrance 2001," presented by the Outlaw Style Thrance* Company at the McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. Mon.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Dec. 7-19. $15. (323) 860-6503. "Thrance." It's not exactly theatre; it's not exactly dance. But is it enough of either to have a kind of peculiar appeal? The Outlaw Style Thrance Company presents an energetic, vaguely ironic revue of Christmas music that argues both for and against its adopted mixed medium. At its best we get to see thrance applied expressively to an Ellington rendition of "The Nutcracker Suite." At its worst--during many a pop Christmas classic presented on this evening--we get the awkward feeling we've been transported to a lipsyncing portion of a local talent show, only no one is lipsyncing. Jessica Schroeder has provided plenty of choreography (there are 22 separate numbers) and Etta Ray has assembled closets full of inventive costumes to make this production a colorful one, which it is. It happens to be a somewhat confused one, as well.

Most of the performers are trained as actors rather than as dancers, which means that, while the choreography is abundant, it's not terribly complex. This can be a problem for the solo pieces and smaller numbers (the majority are smaller numbers), as there just doesn't seem to be enough happening onstage to merit the pieces' existence. While there is some attempt to capture each song's dramatic attitude through exaggerated gestures and facial expressions, much of it becomes a kind of hammy mugging to music. Sure, we can't expect anyone to turn the Beach Boys' "Merry Christmas Baby" into Henry V. But we can ask for more than cardigans, swaying, and smiles.

During the Ramones' "Merry Christmas I Don't Want to Fight," we get a punked-out Carla Jo Bailey strutting about aggressively. In Darrin Jaques' interpretation Chandler Travis' "Merry Christmas Anyway," we get to see his lax, cavalier, screw-it-all attitude. Christienne Wadsworth wisely brings some wacko dance moves to her comical version of Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas," and Adam LeBow brings a charming paranoia to Louis Armstrong's "'Zat You, Santa Claus?"

There are brief flashes when the troupe seems to acknowledge the inherent absurdity of thrancical performance, and these moments shine. A thrance to Billy May's "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Mambo," complete with stylish brown costuming and antler headgear, is a highlight, especially as there are enough thrancers onstage to make the simple choreography look full and impressive. Yet the irony comes and goes in this production, and when it goes we get nervous. Fewer songs, more group dance numbers, and a consistently satirical tone might give this production more of an appeal to adults. As it stands the revue is a nice chance to hear some Christmas music and get the kids excited for the holiday season.

LA WEEKLY (Terri Roberts)

Director-choreographer Jes sica Schroeder’s holiday hybrid show is a candy cane twist of theater and dance but without that confection’s sticky sweetness. Instead, she takes darker seasonal sentiments such as frustration and apathy, and flavors them, as the title suggests, with a "slightly sarcastic" sense of fun. Schroeder mixes familiar holiday tunes (Elvis crooning "Blue Christmas") with the less familiar ("I’m Getting Nothing for Christmas") and with lesser-known versions of popular favorites (Chandler Travis singing "White Christmas"), then choreographs them with a focus on attitude. The 15 performers are not professional hoofers (no perfectly pointed toes or amazing extensions here), and don’t look for character development or subtext, either. Everything’s right on the surface. The aim is kind of goofy, campy entertainment; the execution slightly sloppy, with lots of finger-snapping and cheesy, big-toothed grins, coupled with scowling expressions, slunk shoulders and impertinent dispositions.

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