Butch Cassidy and . . . who?

So . . . you might be a little confused when the curtain rises on The Great American Melodrama’s latest offering in Oceano: Butch Cassidy and the Sunburnt Kid. That’s because, in true Melodrama fashion, almost everyone onstage throughout the production fumbles with Butch’s friend’s name, never getting to Sunburnt, let alone Sundance. There’s Steampunk, Seahorse, Sunscreen, even Samsung and Sunset Drive-In . . . well, you get the picture. 

Jeff Salsbury, Sydni Abenido, Gabrielle Smith and Hank Fisher in Butch Cassidy and the Sunburnt Kid. Photo courtesy The Great American Melodrama

The running gag is one of several great ones besetting the fastest-gun-in-the-West Kid (played valiantly and artfully by Jeff Salsbury). He mostly plays the straight guy for outlaw Butch (Hank Fisher, definitely and deliberately playing the gunslinger a bit dimmer than you might remember Paul Newman in the iconic 1969 movie). 

As a matter of fact, there’s not much here that resembles the film . . . except for the bicycle scene accompanied by the Oscar-winning Best Original Song Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, updated to a very amusing duet on two scooters instead of one bike (in, again, true Melodrama fashion). Butch and the Female—with a capital F—Dr. Quién (Sydni Abenido in full take-charge mode every time she’s needed and she’s the only one who can help) are hilarious not only in this episode, but all the other will-she-or-won’t-she-see-the-good-in-Butch scenes that drive the plot to a happy conclusion.

There are other plot points, of course. Deadeye Dawson (a cackling, dead-on Meggie Siegrist) is scheming to take over the local mine, the local saloon, and anything else she can get her hands on with the help (or shall we say in spite of the help) she receives from the less-than-literate local sheriff (RJ Magee making his first and we hope not his last appearance with the Melodrama). Dawson’s bartending partner Clem (Central Coast native and uber-talented Mike Fiore) is smart enough to see right through Deadeye, singing a strident rendition of You Don’t Own Me, and leading the company through a rousing chorus of “You gotta know when to hold ‘em” when Deadeye and Butch go head-to-head in a card game with pretty high stakes.

The local drunk Jed (Jay Campbell at his loose-limbed best) adds to the shenanigans, as does his daughter Miss Etta (a charming Gabrielle Smith) who is smart enough to figure out the Kid’s proper name and thus receive his love-sick admiration in return. It turns out that the women in this production have all the strongest parts, who save the day in more ways than one. Credit director Suzy Newman with recognizing that and giving the ladies full rein to revel in those victories.

Of course a melodramatic western wouldn’t be a melodrama without at least one woman tied to the railroad tracks awaiting rescue. You won’t be disappointed—in fact, you will be delighted at the inventive way the production team handles the threat of the approaching train (and it goes without saying that Butch comes through for his lady love). 

The cast sings and dances their hearts out, wishing the audience in the end “We hope you have the time of your life.” That we do is thanks not only to them, but to the members of the production team behind this show who deserve special recognition. Lighting design by Cody Soper and sound design by Lanelle Chavez are outstanding. Kudos to stage manager Kristal Georgopoulos, scenic designer Ian Peggs, costume designer Renee Van Niel, production manager Trinity Smith, and production assistant Kayleen Harshbarger for expertly (and seemingly effortlessly) handling the complicated bits of stage business required. 

Case in point: The Sun-kissed (or maybe the Sunnyvale?) Kid at one point in the evening’s revelry demonstrates the true technique of the fastest gun in the West, a bit of business that Salsbury and crew executes with excellent precision and comedic timing.

Gunfights, outlaws, high-stakes card games, the lure of the Old West . . . Butch Cassidy and What’s His Name Again? delivers them all plus a rootin’ tootin’ good time at the Melodrama this summer.

Butch Cassidy and the Sunburnt Kid continues through August 6 at The Great American Melodrama in Oceano. More Information