🎭 HFF19 #7: A Wild West Day: “Gunfight at the Not-So-OK Saloon”

userpic=fringeYesterday was a quieter Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) day: only one HFF19 show, followed by an evening of traditional theatre, seeing a show for a second time. There were some common themes, as both shows were Westerns, and to do with women … but that was about it.

Our Fringe show was Gunfight at the Not-So-OK Saloon (HFF19, WWW, FB) at the McCadden Theatre. This show was advertised with the simple line:

In the style of Gilbert and Sullivan, “Gunfight at the Not-So-OK Saloon” is an irreverent musical comedy set in the Old Wild West.

I’m not sure I’d go quite as far as Mssr. Gilbert and Sullivan. It was a great Fringe show, and would have been a perfect headliner at the Tumbleweed Festival, a “wild-west” equivalent of the Renaissance Faire. However, the show was not ready for prime time — “prime time” being the traditional Opera or Operetta stage. For that, it needs some work and to decide what it wants to be when it grows up. But as a Fringe show, it was strong.

The show takes place at a saloon at some unspecified location in the old West. The downstairs saloon is run by Floyd; the upstairs “girls” are managed by Nettie. One of the girls — and the singing headliner — is the redhead Hope, who is currently engaged the the sheriff of the town, Sheriff Sunday. One day, a stranger named Chance wanders into the saloon. Chance is looking for a girl he knew in the nun’s orphanage; a girl he promised to save himself for and eventually marry. A red-headed girl named Hope. Off all the bars in the world, and all that rot.

You can predict much of what happens at that point. They try to hide Hope’s past from Chance. Hope’s behavior is filled with clues to give it away, but Chance is clueless and sees none of it. The Sheriff arrives and eventually realizes what is going on and a gunfight ensues. But some improbably circumstances conspire to end the gunfight and resolve the ending.

The show was written by Brooke deRosa (FB), who also did the music and lyrics. For a Fringe show, the story is strong, and the music is entertaining (although a bit operatic, which isn’t a surprise given the performance and the background of the author). The staging is cleverly realized, and the performances strong.

But if the show is intended for a longer life, it needs to figure out what it wants to be — and needs some dramaturgy. Right now, the show is a little bit campy and a bit serious. A bit operetta and opera, as it were. But that doesn’t work. If it is to be a serious opera — which the music sometimes seems to want — it needs to embrace the operatic tropes. If the push is for the humor and the Gilbert and Sullivan style, it needs to embrace that. It needs to up the tempo and the playfulness. It needs to play to the camp, so to speak.

But the show also needs some dramaturgy. When looking at the main characters — Chance and Hope — a simple question is: do they change from the beginning of the play to the end? I didn’t see a strong change. Circumstances happened around them, but they never really changed or grew or transformed in any way. The people around them needs to serve as the catalyst — humorous or not — for that change. Were they? Yes, there was a revelation that subverted the fight and provided the backstory; however, that revelation was deus ex machina, defined by Wikipedia as “a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and seemingly unlikely occurrence, typically so much as to seem contrived.” Yes, that happens in Gilbert and Sullivan, but it is also typically foreshadowed (and it today’s modern musicals, is terribly old-fashioned).

There are some other characterizations, beyond the fact that the well-touted redhead is brunette. In the ensemble, Francine’s character keeps making asides about how essentially she doesn’t want to be there. But these asides come out of nowhere — and more importantly, they lead nowhere. The behavior of that character, which separates her from the other ensemble girls, is seemingly for no purpose.

However, as I noted, this is Fringe. It is rare that a show is fully realized — especially a new show, as opposed to a Fringe presentation of an established play or musical. When looking at this as a Fringe show: it is executed well, has fun songs, loads of humor, and quite fun to watch. There’s lots of laughter. That’s really all you can ask for in a Fringe show: a safe and fun ride without a train wreck. This clearly meets that goal, which explains the sold-out run.

Under the direction of Jennifer Clymer (FB), with choreography by Julie Bermel (FB), the production holds the audience’s interest and the actors bring reasonable characterizations (if not slight over-characterizations, but that’s the nature of G&S camp) to their characters.

In the lead positions are Jonathan Matthews (FB) as Chance and Jade Bates (FB) as Hope. Matthews had a lovely voice, and captured the clueless nature of the character well. Bates had a face that reminded me of a young Shirley Jones for some reason, which combined with a lovely singing voice to make her a delight to watch.

Operating the saloon were Christopher Anderson-West (FB) as Floyd and Nandani Sinha (⭐FB, FB) as Netty. Both had strong voices and were having fun with their characterizations; we had seen Sinha before in the 5-Star Beauty and the Beast.

The Sheriff was portrayed by Phil Meyer (FB). He brings a great playfulness to the role, as well as a great voice.

Creating was is essentially the background ensemble is Monica Allan (FBLucille; Jason Chacon (FB) Abe; Rosa Evangelina (FB) Francine; Spencer Frankeberger (FBGabe; Jessie Massoudi (FBJanine; and Anthony Moresi (FBWyatt.  In general, the ensemble was strong, and I enjoyed watching their background characterizations during a number of scenes. There were a few points where their faces seemed disinterested and out of character, but I’ll write that off to Fringe as they seemed to be quite into character at other times.

No design credits were indicated. Other production credits: Jenna Jacobson (FBStage Manager; Constance von Briesen (FB) CostumesGunfight at the Non-So-OK Saloon was produced by Trial Run Productions (FB).

Gunfight at the Not-So-OK Saloon (HFF19, WWW, FB) has three more performances at Fringe: 6/21 @ 10pm, 6/23 @ 830pm, and 6/29 @ 5pm. All are supposedly sold out, but tickets may be available through the Fringe website.

Bronco Billy - The Musical (Skylight)After our one Fringe Show of the day, we paid a return visit to Bronco Billy – The Musical at the Skylight Theatre (FB). I’m not going to write up the show again — you can read my original writeup for my thoughts on the show. I’ll note that it was as good on the second viewing as it was on the first: just a fun evening with great music and great performances. I did learn that the show has been extended to July 21, so ignore what you see on the poster, and visit the Skylight Theatre (FB) to go and see the show after Fringe is over.


Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2018-2019 season], and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

The the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has started. If you are unfamilar with Fringe, there are around 380 shows taking place over the month of June, mostly in the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd between 1 bl W of La Brea to 1 bl E of Vine, but all generally in Hollywood. On a first pass, there were lots I was interested in, 30 I could fit on a calendar, but even less that I could afford. Here is my current Fringe schedule as of the date of this writeup. [Here’s my post with all shows of interest — which also shows my most current HFF19 schedule. Note: unlike my normal policy, offers of comps or discounts are entertained, but I have to be able to work them into the schedule with the limitations noted in my HFF19 post]:

Key: : Non-Fringe Show/Event; °: Producer/Publicist Arranged Comp or Discount

As for July, it is already filling up. The first weekend of the month is still open. The second weekend brings An Intimate Evening with Kristen Chenowith at,The Hollywood Bowl (FB).  The third weekend of July brings Miss Saigon at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), followed by A Comedy of Errors from Shakespeare by the Sea (FB)/Little Fish Theatre(FB). The last weekend of July brings West Side Story at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). August starts with an alumni Shabbat at camp, and The Play That Goes Wrong at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). August ends with Mother Road at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB), and we might do rush tickets for Alice in Wonderland as well. In between those points, August is mostly open.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!