Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Telenovela Christmas Carol (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

'Tis the season--for eggnog and decorating the tree, for Santa Claus and songs of Frosty, Rudolf, Bells and Little Drummer Boys.  Also, time for new iterations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  Because new versions abound, with successful ones returning at least for a time.

A Telenovela Christmas Carol, from Force of Nature Productions, emerged from the fertile imagination of Sebastian Munoz with Adam Neubauer.  Munoz appeared in as well as directing last year's Telenovela introducing us to these characters.  This year he also stars, which ultimately worked but must have left the man exhausted.  (I spoke to him afterwards--yeah, he was tired, although it never showed onstage)

The plot?  Pretty much what you expect.

Bitter rich tequila manufacturer Pedro Azucar (Munoz) makes life hell for his family, including sons Gerardo (Neubauer) and Mike (Gloria Galvan), daughter Palomita (Leah Wasylik), his worker Henry (Nicole Craig) and many others.  Especially around this time of year.  He was the villain in last year's play so naturally enough fills the Scrooge role.  The man's fury even extends to a poor child selling chiclets (Mona Park).

Naturally on Christmas Eve he has earned visit from his late wife (Jennifer Novak Chun) whom he murdered, so rather gleefully tells him he's to be haunted by three more ghosts.  What follows is a trip down memory lane to show the error of his ways--the details adapted to the specifics of this ongoing story.  Much like any time Dickens' most famous story gets stapled onto something else.  And it works!  That is why people keep doing it!

Of course one reason this works lies in how the show adheres to the style of those wonderful Spanish-language not-quite-soap operas with their over-the-top passions, ridiculous plot twists (especially involving sex), and the thick accents the entire cast uses.  "Yes" becomes "chess" for example.

So we follow the past already established and now fleshed out, his first love (Redetha Deason) eventually lost to former best friend (Brian Felson), amid painful memories of the sister introduced him to tequila!  Along the way lots of zany humor as well as some genuinely moving moments -- such as the Ghost of Christmas Present (Anne Westcott) trying to gently prepare him for "Who comes next."

So there is the essence of this show--fun, with some real emotion on top.  The whole cast is having fun, including Adam Shows, Jessica Weiner, Bianca Flores, etc. almost everyone playing multiple roles, with singing and dancing added to the mix just...well, because!  Why not?  With the added (welcome) announcement another Telenovela story is on its way!

A Telenovela Christmas Carol plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm until December 18, 2016 at the Archway Theatre 10509 Burbank Avenue,  North Hollywood CA 91601.

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