Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Rumble Productions
Review by Dean Yannias

Also see Dean's recent review of Woman on Fire

Photo by Bruce Wong
Albuquerque has a fairly new sketch comedy/improv troupe that should appeal to almost anyone, but especially to musical theater fans (or fanatics). Jessica Wachs, one of the group's founders, told me how they came up with the name Rumble. They were having a pretty heated discussion about what they should call themselves, and Jess said, "Well, we don't have to have a rumble over this." Voila. Then they decided that, with a name like Rumble, they had to do a skit about West Side Story. Pretty savvy.

The amazing thing about this group is not that they do comedy, but that they are an a cappella comedy group. They make up songs on the spot. In keeping with their bent toward musical theater, they did an improv on "the 2016 Tony Award winning musical" (i.e., the musical that will win the award in 2017) based on an audience suggestion. At the show I attended, it was "Where are my socks?" Try creating a musical based on that, in no time at all. As usual with improv, some of it works, some is pretty lame, but I was impressed by their gutsiness in even trying.

The scripted, rehearsed skits work better. The West Side Story sketch is based on the premise that the Jets (here, the Tigers) are waiting for the rumble to start and badmouthing their rivals, but they keep getting told that they can't say that kind of thing anymore about immigrants. Then the other gang shows up, co-ed now, and accuses the Tigers of xenophobia and a lack of diversity. The premise is very clever, but it would have worked better if they had used the old slang pejoratives like "spics." Instead, the Tigers are talking about Guatemalans, as if Rumble were afraid of offending anybody except Guatemalans, and it loses a lot of its bite. Comedy is one of the few performing art forms that still dares to be offensive.

The best sketch, and the only one with costuming, is the group therapy session for patients with "Broadway Tourette's." They can't help erupting into songs from their favorite musicals and dressing like characters from them. There's Annie, a cat, The Phantom, Jesus Christ from Superstar, Elphaba from Wicked, and Anita from West Side Story. If anyone doesn't know what I'm talking about, the skit won't work for you.

Rumble has a variable number of cast members at each show, probably depending on who's available that night, and no fixed performance space. At the show I saw, the principal players were Jessica Wachs, Tieshia Francis, Kendra Brand, Elliot Smith, Ron Boulom, Virginia Benitez-Jones, Vanessa Hesch, and Nick Meyers (aka Nick Fury), who is an accomplished rapper for a white guy (can I say that?). The level of improvisational ability varies among the cast members, but overall, they're a talented bunch.

If you go to a Rumble show, it will obviously not be the exact same show that I saw. But they have enough talent on hand that I can pretty much guarantee that you'll have a good time and come away impressed.

Upcoming Rumble performances and venues can be found at or

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