When writing the original musicals performed at Gaslight Melodrama, Michael Prince mines the local wealth of locations and cultural references. So in all these years, it's surprising that he's never taken the story to Buttonwillow. That all changes this weekend with the debut of "Buttonwillow Blues."
"This is actually our first Buttonwillow themed show, which we were all kind of surprised by," the Gaslight artistic director wrote in an email. "We have family that works in Buttonwillow and we've had many ties to the town over the years, so it seemed a fitting time to do one set there."
He said response from longtime residents about the show has been great so far.
"They seem really excited to get some recognition. I hope we don't let them down and they're ready to have a little fun with us."
That fun starts at Momma's Place, the "rip-roaringest juke joint in the whole town" run by Big Momma (Tessa Ogles). While Buttonwillow residents like Norm (Michael Kubik), Robert Johnson (Adrian Francis), Koko Taylor (Alyssa Bonanno) and Valerie Velvetta (Jennifer Prince) wouldn't want to be anywhere else, trouble looms on the horizon. Corbin Crane (Phil Beglin) and his dimwitted son, Cash (Matthew Thompson), looking to expand their ranching empire, have their sights set on razing the beloved watering hole.
Prince, who played guitar in a blues band as a teen, said he's always wanted to do a blues musical.
"The places I used to play in and the people I met along the way completely influenced this show, its setting and its characters."
With a closing number featuring an old blues standard with "a nice Buttonwillow stamp on it to bring it all home," Prince said this is a real barn-burner of a show.
"You're not quite sure who the real villains are or their true intentions, so there's a bit of a mystery element to it," he said. "It's also very funny and sweet. True friendships, true love blossoming. All the things that make life great!"
Following the show is the brand-new vaudeville revue, "American Bandstand 2020," written and directed by Gaslight musical director Warren Dobson.
Prince said of the revue, "It's about a group of old 'American Bandstand' regulars who used to appear on the show in the 50s and 60s and have now long since been retired and are coming back for a reunion. It's very funny and very musical and pays tribute to a wonderful time in America's musical past."
"Buttonwillow Blues" runs 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Gaslight, 12748 Jomani Drive. Tickets are $14-$25. Call 587-3377 for more information.