With a charming and mostly new cast, the Great American Melodrama has premiered its first summer show, “Gunsmokin,’ or All Riot On the Western Front.”
Directed and choreographed by Adrian Balbontin, directing his first production at the Melodrama, “Gunsmokin’” is very entertaining, with crazy characters and funny dialogue. It was written by Scott Holman and adapted by Jordan Richardson.
Perky LaPett (Kat Endsley) owns just about everything important in town, including the saloon, where everyone congregates. Endsley, in her first show at the Melodrama, is very good as the mean and conniving Perky, who wants to chase everyone out of town so she can own all the property when the railroad comes to town.
Endsley plays evil very well, and she doesn’t need the weasely mustache that most villains wear in melodramas like this.
While most of the men in town are afraid of, or in love with, Perky, two strong-willed women, Kit (Molly Laurel) and Patty Poundcake (Crystal Davidson) step into the forefront to battle wits with the evil doer.
Laurel with her conviction and Davidson with her sassiness make a good duo.
Perky’s sidekick is Jimmy (Alex Sheets), the bartender with a lousy nickname. Jimmy is as clueless as he is dumb, and Sheets does a nice job using a voice reminiscent of the old Gabby Hayes and Walter Brennan characters in old Westerns.
Kraig Kelsey plays Mayor Maynot, a man afraid of his own shadow, who is under the spell of Perky. Steven Freitas is Nathaniel J. Wilson, a reporter from New York City, who tries to help the women fight off Perky as he falls in love with Patty.
The two standout performances were Von Cleve Lewis as Larverl Kimball, the deputy in the town, and Philip David Black as gunslinger Owen Caldwell.
Lewis is sweet as the clueless deputy, who begins to grow in confidence as he begins to realize his love for Kit. He is never really sure of what he needs to do, but he continues in a dim-witted but charming way to find an answer in the battle.
Black plays the cocky and arrogant outlaw whose name creates fear whenever it is mentioned. Yet the audience can see right through his bravado, to see a very goofy and dumb bad guy. Black and Lewis, also both in their first performances at the Melodrama, are very good.
Kit and Patty finally come up with a plan to get rid of all the bad guys. Kit, dressed like a man, comes into town as the new sheriff, who has a tough reputation sold to the town by Patty.
Both sides continue to try to gain the advantage until the final showdown.
Laurel and Lewis have a couple of cute scenes where Larverl tells the new sheriff all about his love for Kit, not knowing he is telling her face to face.
One of the best sequences is a hilarious brawl in the bar between the sheriff and Caldwell. It is a slow-motion choreographed fight, where both warriors announce their patented moves, then attack their opponent with the move.
The conclusion to this story is satisfying, as everyone finds love and satisfaction and good defeats evil.
There are a few songs performed throughout “Gunsmokin’,” with musical accompaniment by Mark Pietri. The set design by Brian Williams and the costumes by Renee Van Niel are both excellent and add to the presentation.
The vaudeville revue that followed the play was called the “TGAM Wide World Of Sports,” directed by Jake Liam McGuire.
The revue is basically a tribute to several classic bits that revolve around sports. Several scenes and characters are lifted directly from old Saturday Night Live programs, like the disturbing cheerleaders played by Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri — done here by Endsley and Kelsey — and a group of Chicago fans sitting around talking about the Bears and the Bulls.
Black and Freitas also did an abbreviated version of the classic Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?”
“Gunsmokin’” was very entertaining and offered several outstanding opportunities for new cast members to make a good impression, which they did, but the vaudeville revue needed some originality added to the verbatim classic sketches.
B on the Brad-O-Meter