‘The First Jo-el’ Rocks Around the Christmas Tree


Myr (Brandon Breault), Frankenstein (Morgan Rusler) and Gold (Matt Walker) in Troubadour Theater Company’s “The First Jo-el” at the Falcon Theatre.

A combination nativity/“cholo” story set to the music of Billy Joel, the Troubadour Theater Company’s anarchic production of The First Jo-el joyfully celebrates the holiday season. Entertaining for young teens and ageless adults, the spirited presentation contains excellent acting, singing, and dancing.

“Say Goodbye to Hollywood” as the Troubies tell the nativity story through two couples: Joseph (Matt Walker), Mary (Katherine Malak), Letty (Katie Nunez) and Manolo (Matt Morgan), while employing the music of Billy Joel. In this story, “The Uptown Girl” is “Movin’ Out” to the manger when “They Tell Her About It.”

Director Matt Walker keeps the action humming along with the up-tempo beats, a lot of energy and mayhem of the typical Troubie production, aided by the rocking accompaniment of the house band. The ensemble seems to be enjoying themselves immensely, and the enthusiasm is contagious.

Morgan brings a winning charm to the insecure but energetic Manolo. Nunez is warm and engaging as Letty, with a gorgeous singing voice. Jack McGee and Lisa Valenzuela share great chemistry and excellent singing as innkeepers Nicholas and Greta. Morgan Rusler almost steals the show with his game dancing wise man Frankenstein. Walker does a fine job as always, winking at the audience and keeping us in on the joke.

The production staff excels as well, most notably choreographer Molly Alvarez, with her exuberant hoedown and other intricate yet goofy dances. Mike Jespersen’s gorgeous sets and Jeremy Pivnick’s artful lighting add to the visual feast.

The First Jo-el energetically rings in the holiday season.

The Troubadour Theater Company presents The First Jo-el Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. through January 16 at the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr. in Burbank. There are no shows December 24, 25, 26, 31 or January 1, but there is an added performance Tuesday, December 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $34.50-$37 on Wednesdays/ Thursdays and $39.50-$42 for Fridays through Sundays. Student tickets cost $27 with valid ID. Visit www.falcontheatre.com for tickets, or call (818) 955-8101.

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