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Claps for 'Chaps!'

[whitespace] Chaps! The Thames They Are A-changin': Jennifer McGoldrick and Ric Iverson try to bring a Western twang to the BBC in 'Chaps!'

Dave Lepori

Musical revue returns to The Stage with holiday additives

By Heather Zimmerman

IT'S BEEN A little less than a year since San Jose Stage Company first performed Chaps!, a musical revue of 1940s C&W music, but it's not hard to see why the company is already staging it again, this time with a seasonal twist. In fact, with the addition of some Christmas songs to this revival of sorts, I can easily envision Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner's musical comedy becoming a holiday favorite at the Stage.

The title's pun is a good indication of the goofy, slapstick direction the play takes--referring to cowboy garb and the reluctant, reserved staffers at the British Broadcasting Company who must fill in when a C&W music troupe on tour from the U.S. fails to appear in time for a special Christmas broadcast to the troops during World War II. Keeping a stiff upper lip, the intrepid chaps don some chaps and do their best to convince listeners that they're hearing--and the "studio audience" that they're watching--American cowboy entertainers Tex Riley and his Holiday Round-up. And the BBC crew does a fairly convincing job until they stop singing and start speaking, trying to add some down-home twang to their Queen's English.

The comedy is pretty much as broad as the open prairie; the cast tackles it artfully and with obvious relish. Alex Perez's choreography turns up the volume on the comedy even more as, in full Western regalia, the surrogate cowpokes awkwardly mimic the American troupe's dance moves for the benefit of the studio audience.

Chaps! is almost nothing more than a parade--and an extensive one at that--of the Western music popular in the 1940s and Christmas songs, from "I'm an Old Cowhand" to a playful intertwining of "Jingle Jangle Jingle" and "Jingle Bells." But with the ensemble cast's positively buoyant stage presence and excellent voices, not to mention strong backing from a four-piece band, Chaps! might even make a fan out of a country-music Grinch like me.

Chaps! plays at The Stage, 490 S. First St., San Jose, Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm, plus Tuesday (Dec. 22 and 29) at 8pm, Saturday (Dec. 26 and Jan. 2) at 2pm, through Jan. 17. Tickets are $16-$22. (408/283-7142)

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From the December 10-16, 1998 issue of Metro.

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