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We'll never be royals? Gaslight's 'Duchess' has something to say about that

We’ve heard a lot of talk about the royals lately but what about the monarchies of Kern County? Gaslight Melodrama takes a fun fairy-tale approach to its latest show, “The Duchess of Delano,” which opens this weekend.

The show's name may be familiar to Gaslight fans as it was the one that was a week from opening when everything was shut down last March.

Its inspiration came from last year's royal talk when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they would step down as senior royals. Now the couple is again in the news after an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey.

But Michael Prince, the theater's co-owner and artistic director, said the connections end there since the Gaslight show has very little basis in reality.

"Everything in their whole world blew up but by no means is this a direct parody," he said.

This "Duchess" treats Delano and McFarland "like they're royal kingdoms and Kern County is kind of a fairy-tale land."

In the show, King Delano (Jay Stodder) has a daughter, Megan (Ali Dougherty), but a long-lost daughter, Kate (Jennifer Prince), emerges, throwing a "kink in the chain" of who is the true duchess of Delano.

Adding further complications is when Delano is invaded by the forces of McFarland, led by its lord (Michael Prince) and duke (Adrian Francies), who falls in love with Megan.

The show also stars Jack Prince and Warren Dobson, the theater's musical director, in a small role.

Prince said the laughs start with the first scene.

"It’s a really fun opening introducing all the characters. Some are marching through on horses, really elaborate wooden horses. It's got these quick funny bits that are spitfire-fast that i get a chuckle out of."

"Duchess" keeps up the humorous pace all the way through the closing number, allowing audiences a chance to leave the real world for a couple of hours. 

Prince said, "I know it sounds so cliche because I say it every time but this one is really more of an escape with how ridiculous and over the top this is."

The show is followed by the vaudeville revue "Bits and Pieces," penned by Dobson.

"It really falls more in the line of classical vaudeville style," Prince said. There's a parody of how to make cowboy movies and other unrelated scenes.

"Everybody gets to show off their talent. It's a smorgasbord of fun."

The theater returned to indoor performances late last year with its Holiday Extravaganza and then "The Good, The Bad & The Funny." "Duchess" brings it back to the season that was postponed due to the pandemic. Prince said they plan to continue this year with its previously planned season that includes "It All Happened In Haggin Oaks," "The Mobfather," "The Mummy Knows Best" and the annual Holiday Extravaganza.

"We're continuing on with what we didn't get to do last year," Prince said. "To have all our season passholders to come in and use those now, it's a really nice feeling."

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