“Butched Cassidy and the Sun Burnt Kid” is the 27th musical-melodrama-spoof show I’ve reviewed at the Desert Star Playhouse. You’ll have to pardon me if I’ve run out of synonyms for “wacky.”
The new show is typical Desert Star fare, and that’s a good thing. It takes a familiar story, turns it into a musical, clearly defines the heroes and villains, and crams it full of pop-culture references, bad puns and MAD Magazine-style broad satire.
Our heroes are two Old West outlaws, Butch Cassidy (Jay Haws) and the Sundance Kid (Scott Holman, also director), who have wandered into a place called Murray, Utah. They’re wanted dead or alive, but the ineffectual sheriff (Matt Kohler) doesn’t want any trouble. Besides, the tongue-tied Sundance has won the affection of local schoolteacher Etta Place (JulieAnn Christensen), while Butch is trying in vain to woo local medicine woman Dr. Quack (Holly Braithwaite).
Trouble starts a-brewin’ when local bad guy Deadeye Dawson (Ben E. Millet, also writer) cheats Etta’s drunken father Jed (Spencer Ashby) out of his copper mine. Butch and Sundance are determined to get it back, but Deadeye — half assisted, half double-crossed by his girlfriend Floozy Du Jour (Kerstin Anderson; understudied for this review by Liz Thornell) — won’t let his old grudge against them die.
The intrepid troupe of clowns performs with glee and a characteristically strong sense of absurdity and mayhem. There are few really great jokes, but there aren’t many groaners, either.
The music (directed and accompanied by Ben Mayfield) is better than usual, and the song-and-dance numbers — usually nothing more than amusing interludes — are among the highlights of the show. In particular, Holly Braithwaite does a great mock-sexy dance while Butch serenades Dr. Quack with “Doctor, Doctor,” following it up later with a stripper-style “Let Me Diagnose You,” which she belts out with Gypsy Rose Lee gusto.
There are some unusually good parody lyrics, too, in that they actually rhyme when they’re supposed to and have the right number of syllables (these are not always prerequisites, nor does it usually matter). The first act ends with a parody of “Tomorrow” from “Annie,” starting with these lines: “We hope you enjoyed the first act/All the critics tell us it’s the worst act.”
Not this critic. Both acts are equally funny, and the show is a fine entry into the Desert Star pantheon of slapstick goofiness.
The Desert Star had undergone renovations, culminating in the addition of a new steak restaurant on the premises. We ate there before the show, really just so we could say we did so, as it was too expensive to eat there all the time. We each had a "Big Cowboy," which is actually the name of a steak, not a person.