Melodrama promises love and laughs

Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

The Footlight Theatre Company, in cahoots with Hurst Ranch, will present the melodrama "Song of the Lonesome Prairie, or Poem on the Range," on Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 20 at 17415 Highway 108 in Jamestown.

The evenings will include a Wild West dinner, vaudeville show, miniature train ride and two-act melodrama.

The first train to Dirt Clod will leave at 5:30 p.m.The vaudeville show starts at 5:45 p.m., followed by a tri-tip, chicken or vegetarian dinner at 6 p.m. and melodrama at 7 p.m.

General admission is $40. Dinner tickets require reservations 48 hours in advance. Show-only tickets are also available for $25. Student and senior discounts are available.

Due to mature subject matter and mild violence, children under 13 are not advised.

When a straight shooting singing cowboy known as the Canyon Kid returns to Dirt Clod, he finds his hometown in the grips of a tyrannical "hanging judge" named Basil Kadaver and his evil co-horts - the slinky Gypsy seductress Nastassia Kinky and her half-witted brother, "Two Gun" Boris. To make matters worse, The Kid also discovers that his childhood sweetheart, Darla Darling, is engaged to a desperado who is now the town sheriff. Will the Canyon Kid defeat the bad guys, win back the love of his life and restore justice to Dirt Clod?

Every performance begins with a train ride on the miniature Hurst Ranch Railroad.

An 1890s style musical vaudeville shows begin at 5:45 p.m., featuring performances by local old timey bands.

Featured the first two weekends will be Faux Renwah, with the Lava Cats playing on Sept. 19 and 20. The remaining acts will be announced.

At 6 p.m., with the ringing of the dinner bell, a three-course Western BBQ is served up by the Historic National Hotel of Jamestown.

The play begins at 7 p.m. as the sun begins to set over the "Dirt Clod Lagoon." Audiences are encouraged to boo and hiss the villains, sigh and swoon for the heroine and cheer the hero.

The cast includes Richard Carr, a newcomer to the Tuolumne County theater scene, as the Canyon Kid. Michele Tennant plays the Kid's sidekick and Alexis St. Onge makes her stage debut as the sweet, stunning and totally naive heroine, Darla Darling.

The Canyon Kid is opposed by Art Delgado as the conspiring Judge Basil Kadaver. Anthony De Page plays "reformed" outlaw Dalton Doolin, Valerie Smusz is the femme fatale Nastassia Kinky and Aaron Bennett plays the dim-witted deputy "Two Gun" Boris.

Don Pierazzi and Susan Chapman round out the cast as the forgetful Mayor Donald Darling and his flighty, loving wife Honey.

"Footlight seeks to honor what has been an American tradition since acting troupes rode stagecoaches from town to town performing throughout the West, including right here in the Mother Lode," said director Anthony De Page. "'Song of the Lone Prairie' is a great example of our region's custom of Western melodrama."

Written by local playwright Scott Cherney, this play was originally produced at the Palace Showboat Theatre at Pollardville, a venue that for a long time honored melodrama, vaudeville and even high noon stunt shows.

"Cherney has been an integral part of keeping melodrama alive for many years, and Footlight is honored to be able to produce his play," De Page said. "Furthermore, the Hurst family and staff have been wonderfully supportive in this new theatrical endeavor. Their unique venue is an ideal match to Footlight's Western theme."

For reservations, call Hurst Ranch at 984-4040 or visit

The Union Democrat
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