What happens when you put together a few Carlos Santana songs, a group of spirited (borderline crazy) talented actors, a quite clever writer, and the holiday season? THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTANA CLAUS happens, now presented at El Portal Theatre by the Troubadour Theater Company.

Truth be told, the song lyrics have been altered to fit a wild story in which Santa Claus decides to take a break and cancel Christmas. This is a Santa (Rick Batalla) like none you’ve seen before – a bilingual, often inappropriate Santa, who likes to show the hair on his chest and is (deep down) disappointed that nobody believes in him anymore. Thankfully, Mrs. Claus (Giana Bommarito) has some sense left in her and puts a plan in motion to get Christmas back on schedule. The cast of 14 is tremendously funny, with delightful comedic timing and a knack for fixing, on the spot, just about anything that may go wrong (except for the sound issues out of their control).

This is a funny, relaxed show, that will make you laugh out loud and that, if you’re not on the lookout, will make a joke or two at your expense (the latecomers on Sunday can testify to this). I attended the Sunday show because it was one of two “Chips and Salsa Sundays” on the calendar that offer a Salsa dance class – plus chips and (tomato) salsa – included in the ticket price. The dance class is led by John Paul Batiste, the talented Spanish Elf in the cast. The basic steps were welcomed by a large group of theater going, non-dancing folk that had a great time at trying them out. (The next Salsa Sunday will be held on Dec. 23.)

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John Paul Batiste leads the Salsa dance class after Sunday’s performance.


It’s obvious that the Troubadour Theater Company has a loyal following. The audience recognizes particular characters and welcomes them to the stage enthusiastically. It’s probably the result of years of attending similar shows that, in between laughs, are very much in tune with current events and are (unavoidably at our present time) infused with political jabs.

If you want to attend a show that will make you both laugh and enjoy Santana’s music, THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTANA CLAUS is your chance. The music is performed by a band on stage, and it’s actually quite good.

THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTANA CLAUS performs through Dec. 30. Tickets are available here. El Portal Theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd, in North Hollywood 91601.