With real-life natural disasters in the news this week, it's a relief that the tornado headed to Tehachapi is a fictional one. And it will take such a force of nature to bring Tarzan, Jane, a talking gorilla and an evil witch from the African jungle to the Tehachapi Mountains. Leave it to Gaslight Melodrama and its new production, "Tarzan Takes Tehachapi," to accomplish such a feat.
This show is definitely played for laughs, said Michael Prince, the Gaslight's artistic director and show writer.
"It's very silly," he said. "Just the fact that Tarzan has been sucked out the jungle by a tornado and plopped in Tehachapi gives you an idea of the silliness we’re going for."
Why Tehachapi? Along with the alliteration of the title, Prince said it's a tribute to their loyal fan base from up Highway 58.
"We have a lot of people from Tehachapi who come to our shows. They always ask, 'When are you going to do one in Tehachapi?'"
This one's a doozy. Tarzan (played by Justin Salinas), along with his lady love, Jane (Ali Dougherty), and talking gorilla pal, Rakaka (Michael Kubik), is carried by winds across continents and oceans to Tehachapi. Upon landing, the trio are found by Callous Clydesdale (Jay Stodder), the dimwitted fish and game warden, who aims to exploit Rakaka for the town's benefit. His daughter, Janice (Alyssa Bonanno), has a different predatory aim as she sets her sights on Tarzan.
"Janice is the ultimate spoiled brat," Prince said. "Never looks up from her phone unless it's something she wants."
"The minute she seems him (Tarzan), the thunderbolt goes off and the fantastic '80s music starts. She heads toward him in slow motion. It’s very silly."
The show also features a showdown of sorts contrasting the goodness of humanity, embodied by Timmy (Chayce Perlis), a local youth who just wants to help the trio get home, and dark forces at work, thanks to Rasputia (Jennifer Prince), the sorceress of the African jungle.
"They call her the Tehachiwitch in Tehachapi," Prince said of the character played by his wife. "She’s kind of immortal, the face of all evil. ... She's totally bent on trying to save her youth and immortality."
That slightly sinister edge among all the silliness helps the show fit into the run slot, which continues past Halloween to Nov. 10.
"We always like to get into the Halloween season. People don't normally think of Tarzan as a Halloween show. It's fun but not with really spooky elements."
The vaudeville revue accompanying "Tarzan" is a whirlwind of its own, "Warren Dobson's 'Wizard of Oz," whose story also begins with a magical tornado.
Dobson, a lifelong "Oz" fan and Gaslight musical director, pitched the revue independently of the melodrama.
"Warren and I did not plan this at all. ... That’s his favorite movie of all time. He has a 'Wizard of Oz' Christmas tree and the topper is the Emerald City."
"Most of the set is from his last birthday party, a 'Wizard of Oz'-themed birthday party."