After two years praising the patriotism of pickles in his "Star Spangled Patriotic Blast," Warren Dobson is calling it quits. Not with his annual celebration of America held at Gaslight Melodrama (where he is musical director), but with the co-starring cuke.
"The pickles were getting a bit out of hand and taking too much air space in the show," he wrote in an email. "They were fun, mind you. Hearing people in the snack bar during intermission yelling, 'I love pickles!' and everyone cheering every time someone bought one, certainly added an totally off the wall spark to the night. But we evolve, right?"
This year, the show opens the evening after the nation's birthday, but Dobson isn't worried about audiences still feeling the American spirit.
"The people of Bakersfield are pretty much rooted in family, proud of our nation, willing to defend it (You've seen our veterans parades), and just good people.
"Sure, we focus it all on July 4th, but the basic feeling holds long beyond that. Christmas lasts for months in the stores ... why shouldn't a patriotic holiday?"
The annual revue will include patriotic standards such as "America," "You're A Grand Old Flag," "This Land Is Your Land" and "God Bless America," with some audience participation. The show will also offer new features, such as a video tribute to Dobson's father.
"I've made a short tribute to my father, Clarence Dobson, who was aboard the USS Arizona when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. When they gave the order to abandon ship, he swam through burning oil until he was picked up by a boat. He was in the hospital for 10 months with burns over 70 percent of his body. He'd only been in the Navy a few months when that happened.
"I've told that story to people in the past, and several times they've gotten these concerned looks on their faces and asked 'Did he live?' Um ... hello. 1941. Do I look older than 75 to you? Don't answer that!"
Along with Dobson, the show stars Gaslight regulars Cheryl Toews, Alison Colson, Randy Toews and Kimberly Slikker.
"Cheryl, Alison and Randy are great singers and friends. We've worked together in many, many situations for about nine years. Kimberly Slikker is a fabulous dancer and has been with me in every solo show I've done in Bakersfield the past 10 years."
Also in a standout role is young Jack Prince, son of artistic director Michael Prince and actress-dancer Jennifer Prince.
"Jack will be a flag bearer again, and this year will be joined by his cousin (Kimberly's son) Morgan, who isn't even 3 years old, until a couple days after our last show."
Another special guest will be Dobson's nephew, Jordan, who is in the Air Force and who Skyped into the show when he was stationed in Japan two years ago.
"He just left Korea, and, after a short leave here at home, will be stationed in Germany, but he will be here the first weekend."
From saluting veterans to patriotic sing-alongs, Dobson said the show is a fun time for all.
"It's a positive night to join with others in appreciation of our country. With all the America bashing that goes on in other parts of the world, and worse yet, right here at home, it's good to be with people who appreciate what we have here, and love America.
"The night is filled with fun, laughs, a few tears, warm thoughts, pride, sometimes pickles, and you feel better about yourself and the world when you leave."