Where do ideas come from? That'a a pretty open-ended question, especially when put to creative types like Michael Prince, artistic director for the Gaslight Melodrama. So when asked about his inspiration for his latest show, "Once Upon a Time in Taft," which debuts Friday, he went for the laughs in true melodrama style.

"It’s funny. I used to ask that question to Warren (Dobson), our musical director. And he'd say, 'You know, Mike, I’m just a faucet. And I have no idea what’s going to come out.'"

What's coming this weekend is a throwback to classic melodrama followed by "The St. Bartholomew's School for Wayward Boys annual 'Salute to Broadway,'" a brand-new musical revue from Dobson (more on that later).

"It's kind of more traditional melodrama than we've done recently," Prince said of "Taft." "But still the same kind of wacky out-there style we’re known for."

With Taft in the title, it's safe to assume oil is what's at stake — and everybody is looking to lay a claim, from good-hearted Bradley and Nicolas Turtledove (Shawn Rader and Chayce Perlis) to the devious Boss Tweed (Jay Stodder) and his boys Billy (Josh Lubatti) and Wyatt (Garret Lawrence). Even Aunt Trudie (Jennifer Prince) and niece Nadine Spacklewhack (Tessa Ogles) are looking for an angle.

"They're owners of the local saloon who wrongly feel they need a man to succeed in life. ... These classic saloon girls — we haven't done anything with that (classic type of character) in a really long time."

All three groups are vying for the oil lease and Prince said some of the show's funniest moments are when everyone is on stage playing off one another.

The cast, many of whom were in "Robin Hood of Rosedale," which ended its run last weekend, are excited to open the new show. That's not surprising, Prince said, given the Gaslight's longer show run (up to nine weeks opposed to the average three weeks).

"By the seventh or eighth week, everyone is itching to get that (new) one up in front of an audience."

"Once" will be followed by Dobson's new revue about a Broadway tribute put at a school for wayward boys that is run by nuns.

"No one has any expectations of it being any good but it turns out being the best they've ever put on,"" he said of the show within a show.

Prince said it's a solid half-hour of full-blown musical fun.

"Warren hasn't done a big vaudeville musical tribute like this in a long time. He’s done Broadway tributes before in years past but not like this."

"Once Upon a Time in Taft" runs 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Gaslight Melodrama, 12748 Jomani Drive. The show continues through Sept. 9. Tickets are $25, $23 seniors, $14 children. For tickets and information, call 587-3377.

Head to the coast

Many people are headed out of town this summer and for theater fans going west, we have just the ticket.

The Central Coast Shakespeare Festival launches this weekend in San Luis Obispo with a production of "Much Ado About Nothing." The comedy exploring gender roles and deception stars former Bakersfield actor Miguel Torres as Don Pedro, the prince of Aragon who sets all the action in motion. 

"Much Ado About Nothing" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday, and continues July 23 (6 p.m.) and 7:30 p.m. July 28-29 and Aug. 3-5.

If the Bard is not your bag, the festival also includes "Almost Maine," nine short plays by John Cariani exploring love and loss in a "remote, mythical almost-town." Performances are 7:30 p.m. July 20-22, 27 and 30.

The festival is held at Filipponi Ranch, 1850 Calle Joaquin Road in San Luis Obispo (off Highway 101 and Los Osos Valley Road, near KSBY studios).

Tickets are $12-$20, available at centralcoastshakespeare.org or at the box office, which opens one hour before showtime.

Guests are encouraged to bring their own picnic, lawn chairs and warm clothing. Filipponi wines will be available for purchase as will water, deli salads and deli combo boxes from Piemonte’s Deli.

More information at centralcoastshakespeare.org.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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