Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL
Book and Lyric by Peter Kellogg
Music by David Freidman
Directed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Levey
Starring Clay Cartland, Michelle Knight and Hannah Laird
It even SMELLS like Arizona in here. Every so often, the posh WPPH crew does a little slumming, and tonight they wander back to a territory about as far from the Algonquin Club as you can find. Romance and injustice wander among the bales of hay and a cardboard jail house, and there’s band wearing hats so large you can’t even see the drummer. Johnny Blood (Clay Cartland) shot a man, just to make a plot point. Now he has two days to live unless he can get a pardon from the very evil and very Germanic Governor (Alexander Mrazek), and that will only happen if the governor gets a night of sweaty sex from innocent and soon to be nunified Susanna (Laird). What to do, what to do…. Suave Sheriff Green (James Channing) suggests swapping Susanna in the dark for the more negotiable dance hall floozie Bella Rose (Michell Knight) and as they say, hijinks ensue. The plot may be predictable, but the songs and the energy are not, and this musical shoot off like tourist who accidently ate a ghost pepper.
You’ve got it all: high energy dancing, a silly and implausible identity switch, an evil German accent, and a sheriff with heart of gold and other parts all in their right place. Clearly Johnny is too nice to shoot anyone in hate; he sort of accidentally plugged the irascible Wyatt Glover, the smallest Big Swede I’ve ever seen. Jail house security is honor system: the jail is made of foam core and has a hole in it so large Johnny risks falling out of it every time he acts. But Cartland’s Johnny wins you over; he’s sincere and gosh darn rooting, tooting funny. The calm center here comes from Sheriff Green (James Channing). He’s always the voice of reason, and better yet the man who can pick up a McGuffin and toss it in just the right direction. We all loved Miss Bella Rose, she seduces all the boys, even those of us in the back row. She and Johnny celebrate and get the best duet of the evening in “Just for You.” And don’t miss the earnest chastity of innocent Ms. Laird’s niave novitiate as she considers swapping her vow of chastity for a vow of continuous anti-chastity.
For a fluffy western horse opera, there some serious introspection about what vows really mean, whether a small sin to avert a larger one justifies it, and how a ramrod stodgy bureaucrat can be bought to his knees with case of terminal lust. Sex, music and a romance you can cheer for make this a special evening of Nietzsche and County music. It’s another triumph for the Winter Park crew, and not something that to miss. Wear a tux or wear your spurs, just make sure you wear something. They still have SOME standards down there.