Living in the 21st century, we may not think that entertainment of a different age can still thrill us. But that's where the Gaslight Melodrama Theatre & Music Hall is set to prove us wrong, starting with its season opener, "The Good, The Bad and the Funny."
As is Gaslight tradition, the season starts with a Western (last year was "Showdown in Shafter"), which is the hallmark of melodrama theater.
"The Western is definitely the most classic form of melodrama," said show writer-director Michael Prince. "The style began in the early 1800s and is a true American art form."
The production takes place in the sleepy little town of Bakerspatch, where the sheriff has just stepped down.
Filling the power void is Black Bart -- "the most dastardly bad guy that's ever walked the plains" -- played by Jay Stodder. But the mangy villain must contend with bar owner Johnny Goodman, old prospector Crusty Joe McGillicutty (both played by Matt Thompson) and the Jolly Mollys, played by Jennifer Prince, Coryn McBride, Ali Dougherty and Elisa Robinson.
For the first Gaslight Western he wrote on his own, Prince said he took great inspiration when it came to creating the Jolly Mollys, sisters who were given the same name by their mother, the original Jolly Molly.
"I really wanted to add some of the quirkiness that our other shows have to the genre of the Western. Hence, that's why there is the Jolly Mollys. Normally in a Western, the saloon girls are supporting characters or background eye candy, and I really wanted to bring that to the forefront and let them get the laughs."
He credits wife Jennifer and the rest of the cast with helping ease the writing process.
"The Jolly Mollys are pretty jolly throughout the whole show. They were really fun to write. Having the cast that we had made my job much easier. ... I had such a good time writing this show. It's got a quick pace to it and everyone really has a chance to shine.
"I am partial to any scene involving the Jolly Mollys. My wife, Jennifer, was very helpful in what those scenes became."
Along with this being Prince's first Western, the show is also the 25th he's written for the Gaslight.
He said the genre is one that's as relevant as a form of entertainment today as it was in the 1800s.
"As far as I'm concerned, any time is a good time for melodrama. With the amount of seriousness and overwhelming negativity in the world, it's good to break away for a couple of hours to relax and laugh."
The laughs continue even after Black Bart gets his comeuppance thanks to the vaudeville revue "Love Makes the World Go 'Round," written by Gaslight musical director Warren Dobson, which follows the main show.
"Warren's vaudeville is a big love letter to love ! Warren is even in the revue and plays a giant Valentine's Day heart. It's like taking a tour around the world and celebrating the power of love at every stop, even in Oildale."
Prince won't be able to rest much even after the run of "The Good, The Bad and The Funny" ends March 6. He's already busy working on the rest of the theater's season.
"We have a lot of really fun shows coming up this season. I'm writing all the shows for the theater this year, so my notebooks are pretty full as of now.
"'Hooray for Hollywood' is going to be a big musical set during the golden age of cinema with star-crossed lovers and evil studio bosses. Plus, we have 'Cruisin' Chester,' which is our sort-of equivalent to "Grease" but set in Bakersfield during the 1950s. Then there's 'Rosedale!' (like 'Dallas,' but funnier), which is our parody of all things soap opera. All in all, we have a pretty fun year planned here at the Melodrama."