Longtime melodrama playwright Peter VanSlyke, whose pun-packed comedies have provided plenty of laughs for Desert Star Playhouse over the years, gives the legend of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock his own humorous spin in this revival of an early DSP favorite.This new version, directed by Edward J. Gryska, has a few updated punchlines. What's kind of amazing is how much VanSlyke can cram into a comedy that's only an hour, 20 minutes long (the standard length here - leaving enough time for the post-show olio revue).
There are a handful of intertwined plots - villainous Diamond Jack Butler hell bent for leather in his quest to gobble up Deadwood City, feisty Calamity Jane and her cool relationship with the standoffish Hickock, Paddy O'Leary and his fruitless Lucky Cuss Mine, bartender Elmo Whittle's passion for Old West tales, and author Ambrosia Hepsibah, who has a Gloria Swansonesque demeanor.
While the show doesn't really need "comic relief," Butler's two slow-on-the-uptake goons - Grizzly Bear Gibbons and Cimmaron Rose - add their two bits.
One of the show's best lines (or worst puns) comes near the end when Hepsibah, gushing passionately over Whittle, exclaims, "Oh, you just tickle me, Elmo!"
Gryska has a cast that includes a few DSP regulars along with some fresh, up-and-coming talent.
Julie Ann Christensen, in her second DSP show, gives a knockout performance in the title role. She has a terrific voice and a real knack for well-timed comedy.
Making their debuts at DSP are Christopher Joseph Rogers as Grizzly, Lynda Robyns as Ambrosia, Christopher M. Dives as Elmo and Dallas Forester as dastardly Diamond Jack - all of whom fit comfortably in the Desert Star style of fast-paced, physical comedy.
Paul Luscher, who looks like an overgrown leprechaun, is fine as Paddy - his not-quite DSP debut (he was an understudy in "Elvis - Viva Salt Lake").
Longtime DSP regulars, Scott Holman (Hic-kock) and Danielle Omer (Rose), along with pianist/musical director David Len Allen, also contribute considerably to the professionalism.
The 25-minute post-show revue, with a "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" theme, was directed by Holman. The melodrama's actors returned to the stage in "Desert Stars" baseball uniforms, then dashed through a musical montage of solos and ensemble bits, including snippets of Cougars and Utes fight songs, a "Who's on First?" routine and even a Seventh Inning Stretch sing-along for the audience.
The team also shifted into other sports as well, including a salute to the Utah Jazz (with Holman as a Jazz Bear look-alike) and David Len Allen performing the theme from "Rocky."