First came Giaccomo Puccini, now Carol Calkins and Bobby Joyce Smith have tackled The Girl Of The Golden West -- though not quite in the same way. Whereas Puccini turned the Western romantic potboiler into an Andrew Lloyd Webber-style, sung-through opera, Calkins and Smith, assisted by musical director Lisa Otey, will offer a campy, rootin'-tootin' musical adaptation of David Belasco's play. Girl Of The Golden West (also the source of Puccini's opera) begins previews Jan. 9 and opens Jan. 10 at Tucson's Gaslight Theatre.
It's the story of a notorious outlaw redeemed by the love of a good woman. "Come and meet the girl who lived among gamblers but gambled only once," the press release reads, "an angel to the poor devils with gold fever -- the girl with the golden voice they called, `Girl Of The Golden West.'"
Subtitled, "No Noose Is Good Noose," the show will feature Donna Davis, David R. Fanning, John Brownlee, Brooke Davis, Joe Cooper, Glenda Young, Peter Van Slyke and Tim Gilbert. A live country band will back the proceedings.
Carol Calkins, director and adapter of Golden West, told Playbill On Line that she's tried to stay true to the play's melodramatic origins, even as she takes every opportunity for comic bits. "This production is less silly than most of the ones we do, but there's still room for silly stuff, family-oriented Disney stuff, like in the chase scene. The characters all ride foam horses and use their own legs to get around. The horses mirror the characters, as when Nina Michel Torena has a horse with a mantilla, and Sherriff Rance's steed has its own badge."
One big change over the Belasco and Puccini versions is in the character of Rance, who is here a standard hissable villain rather than the complex and ultimately sympathetic figure drawn by the original playwright and composer. "For Gaslight, you really need the guy with the black moustache to be the bad guy. Someone the audience can boo. At the same time, we dropped the character of Wowkle, because she didn't really fit the plot, and we have to be especially sensitive to Native-American concerns." For tickets ($10.95-$12.95) and information on Girl Of The Golden West, which runs through March 22, call (520) 886-9428.
--By David Lefkowitz