“Showdown at the 5-Ring Ranch: Seven Bribes for Olympic Brothers” is the Desert Star Playhouse’s Olympic-themed musical/spoof/melodrama, and it boils its comedy down to the basics: Make a reference to something familiar to the audience, and the audience laughs.
Utahns are holding a rodeo to celebrate their heritage. “If they wanted to celebrate their heritage, why wouldn’t they just have a Jell-O bake-off?” asks one of the characters. Most of the jokes in this particular show are as simple (read: obvious) as that one, though some are more clever, and all are delivered with enthusiasm and flair.
It’s set in the Old West version of Utah, sort of, except that they’re about to host the Olympics. The bad guy, Mitt Ornery (Steven Fehr), owns most of the land in town but has his eye on the 5-Ring Ranch, owned by a fiesty old coot named Grandpa Bidwell (Scott Holman, who also directed and adapted the script from an original piece written by Michael Claridge).
Grandpa won’t sell, and his grandkids, Chet (Christopher Glade) and Virginia (Holly Braithwaite), back him up 100 percent.
So Mitt and his brassy, dim-witted henchwoman Sally (Arika Schockmel) — she’s the requisite Desert Star character who misunderstands words and gets stuck under things a lot — enlist the help of Rosie O’Grady (Kathleen Richardson), who runs a tavern, to force the 5-Ring Ranch out of business. This includes hiring a non-bathing cattle-rustler named Skunk (Holman again).
Meanwhile, Grandpa’s ranch hand Dave Johnson (Joel R. Wallin) is in love with Virginia, who is waiting for a white knight to sweep her off her feet.
Holman is all crazy energy, as usual, as Grandpa and Skunk. Wallin, making his second appearance at the Desert Star, contributes some nice musical moments, most notably his “L-O-V-E” song sung to Virginia. (“E is every hour/That I’ve lurked outside your shower.”)
The cast’s eagerness to ad-lib and tendency to break character make for some amusing surprises. Monday night, the biggest laughs came from Holly Braithwaite having a giggling fit and Holman reminding her, “WE say funny things, and THEY laugh,” referring to the audience. “If you’re going to enjoy yourself this much, I want you to start paying $12.”
Should you go? It’s worth about $12 for an evening of silliness and slapstick.