Monday, May 01, 2006

Chico's Angels Returns!

I'm going to "break form" and do something a little different this time. One of my favorite underground theater shows, Chico's Angels, is getting ready to return to L.A. with the third installment, and I am so excited I thought I would post the story I wrote on the show here for all you folks to read. If any of you are in L.A., you absolutely MUST come out and see this show. It's one of the funniest things you'll ever see. (P.S. All the photos included in this post were taken by yours truly.)


The underground sensation Chico’s Angels returns with the world premiere of its campiest episode yet, Chicas in Chains.

In a small black-box theater in the basement of Los Angeles Mexican restaurant Casita del Campo, a cold-blooded killer is on the loose. Just as he is about to make his big getaway, however, three “female” private detectives in high heels spring up on him, pull out their guns, flip back their hair, and yell, “Stop, or I’ll choot!” It can only mean one thing: Chico’s Angels, the uproariously successful underground hit that spoofs a certain ‘70s TV sensation, is back.

Having delighted audiences with two previous “episodes” that debuted in early 2004, the live series about “three little Latin girls who went to the police academy”—and failed to graduate—is set to continue with the long-awaited premiere of its third installment, Chicas in Chains. Co-written once again by self-professed Charlie’s Angels fanatic Oscar Quintero (who plays the blundering Kay Sedia) and director Kurt Koehler, the new installment continues to put its trio of detectives in a series of humiliating situations for the sake of solving a case.

This time out, the Angels go undercover as high schoolers in order to find the coed hooker who witnessed an unsolved murder—and end up getting tossed in the slammer for solicitation. Fans of Charlie’s Angels may recognize the scenario, which Koehler says was taken from two classic episodes. “We’ve taken the basic premise of the original, and cha-cha-fied everything,” Koehler explains. “In this one, we’re lampooning a bunch of Broadway musicals, so if Charlie’s Angels were ever a Broadway musical with Latino men playing the roles, um, this is what you would see.”

It’s that kind of riotous and twisted spin on a nostalgic guilty pleasure that has made Chico’s Angels a breakout success at the Cavern Club Theater, routinely playing to sold-to-capacity crowds during sporadic limited engagements. The brainchild of Quintero (who says he became a fan by sharing a bedroom with two Angels-addicted sisters), Chico’s Angels spins bitchy drag sensibility, colorful camp excess, and retro zeitgeisty fun into comic gold. Originally conceived as a film, the show was quickly refashioned as a stageplay when Cavern Club manager Mr. Dan encouraged Quintero to do it live. “I didn’t see that at all,” Quintero laughs, adding that it was Koehler who helped him see how it could work in front of an audience instead of cameras. Confirms Koehler, “I’m such a theater queen that I said, ‘We are doing it live and we’re going to do it really cheesy!’” (Thus, an airplane flight is represented by tugging a plastic toy plane across the stage on a clothes wire as the Angels bicker in a recorded voice-over, while high-speed boat chases are played out in a similarly “low-rent” way.)

After debuting in January of 2004, the show became an instant hit, with audiences frequently picking favorites among the three wacky Angels, who also include the serious-minded Chita Parol (Martin Matamoros in the “Sabrina” role) and the promiscuous Frieda Lay (Danny C. subbing for Farrah—minus the skateboard). “We wanted to do what they did in the movie and create three original characters: the smart one, the slutty one, and the dumb one,” says Quintero. “They always solve the case, but it’s always strictly by accident.”

Another thing audiences do is carry on during shows, shouting and commenting on the action and provoking the actors to break character. “I always break,” confesses Quintero. “I make such an effort not to, but the audience loves that.” And that’s half the fun, according to these cut-ups. “I think the reason we break is because we’re surprised the audience laughs so much at something,” Danny C. chuckles. “You hold your pose waiting for the audience to die down, and then they don’t and it gets you thinking, ‘Wow, I guess that was funny.’” For his part, Koehler couldn’t be happier that the show has been a hit on stage. “That’s the whole magic of live theater—the connection you have with the audience,” he declares. “It really peps you up when they say, ‘Places.’ You get so excited. Of course, the margaritas from the bar help.”

The cast is aware of their cult following—claiming that they’ve seen audience members return up to four times per episode—and are anxious to see it go even further. Though he confesses that he feared that they’d run out of ideas after wrapping up last year’s Love Boat Chicas (“I thought, ‘How do you solve another case with three airheads?’” he laughs), Quintero is still anxious to see the shows immortalized on film. “We’d love to take it on Comedy Central or one of the new gay TV networks,” he professes. Koehler agrees, adding, “We got ourselves into a rut thinking we’d written everything. But we really haven’t; this can keep on going.” (Meanwhile, the two comic hams have also paired for the film short Taco Chick and Salsa Girl, a spoofy vamp on the Kroft Superstars show Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.)

All involved concur that, while their show spoofs Charlie’s Angels, it’s done with nothing but love. “We’re all huge fans of [the original show]” admits Koehler, who adds that the cast has recieved validation of the highest form: “We had one of the writers from the [original] show come to see Chico’s Angels, and he practically fell off his seat from laughter. We felt like that was one of our biggest compliments.” Then, without missing a beat, he adds, “Of course, maybe he had just had too many margaritas and thought he wrote the show.”

Not that anyone’s complaining, Koehler stresses: “Hell, we’ll take that.”

“Chico’s Angels 3: Chicas in Chains” will debut at the Cavern Club Celebrity Theatre at Casita del Campo (1920 Hyperion Ave. in Silver Lake) on May 12. For more information, see or

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