China is the traditional anniversary gift but when it comes to this fundraiser, it's Black Gold. The leading sponsor of the local Campout Against Cancer, Black Gold Productions is back for its 20th year this weekend with the melodrama “The Dastardly Doctor Devereaux.” 

For the past two decades, the all-volunteer theater group has put on a musical, first to benefit Relay for Life and now the Kern County Cancer Fund. Since its inception the group has raised nearly $500,000.

Taking place at the Woman's Club of Bakersfield, this anniversary show marks the return of "Devereaux," the most popular of its productions, which in 2005 played for five days to sold-out crowds of 230 seats with standing room only.

"We actually had to lock the door on our closing night to prevent a complete overflow," Mike Handren, CEO of Black Gold Productions, wrote in an email.

Handren said they upped the laughs in this new production, which centers on the evil Dogsbreath Devereaux (Adrian Francies), who's angling to marry the widow Lotta Cash (Jean Peters) to inherit her fortune and gain control of her late husband’s business, Hanover D. Cash Clinic. Aiding him in his plans is nurse Hilda Hatchett (Ericka Harper), whom he has promised to marry once he disposes of Lotta. It's up to Dr. Phil Good (Chris Selzer) and Wendy March (Stephanie Cates) to stop them before it's too late.

Last year's show, “A Pirate’s Life for Me," raised $10,000, bringing Black Gold's overall fundraising total to $505,000. Handren said they hope to raise another $10,000 through the show's five-performance run.

Proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorships go the cancer fund while proceeds from the cash bar and 50 percent of concession sales go to the American Petroleum Institute Scholarship Fund.

Volunteers with the API fund help set up and clean after as well as run the bar and concessions stand, which serves hot dogs, nachos, baked potatoes, popcorn, candy and soft drinks.

"You can make a meal out of them," Handren wrote.

Handren said everyone involved has had a good time putting the melodrama together and is looking forward to showtime.

He wrote, "This will be a very funny show and fun time for all."

“The Dastardly Doctor Devereaux” runs this weekend with additional shows on March 15 and 16.

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

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