A couple of con men, Sam Goode (E.E. Bell) and Red Willie Magaw (Walter Winston Oneil), dupe the townsfolk into believing that Sam is a preacher. And when outlaws Julie (Kathi Gillmore), her husband Leeroy (John Bisom) and brother Ben (Benjie Randall) rob the local bank, there’s little tranquility left in Esperanza.
The tale is told in a series of vignettes as each of the many characters’ stories unfold. The creators’ intention was clearly to weave a tapestry of the Old West. However, the jumbled melange of characters and story, combined with confusion in the underlying theme, results in an unfocused evening.
The love story between Adam and Julie (two interesting characters played with verve by Hawkins and Gillmore) is given short shrift by the aimless shenanigans of the con men and the attendant events in town.
Creators could refashion the piece by fleshing out the two central characters. Many scenes with the con men and townspeople seem like filler, both in the book and score. While some of the musical numbers, including “Western Star,””The Mandolin Waltz” and “It’s a Temporary Romance” rise above the rest, most of the music needs to be revamped for show to have a shot at advancing.
Despite the material, performances are generally excellent, with Gillmore a standout with her gorgeous voice, hitting every emotional beat with vigor and confidence. Hawkins is also fine, although somewhat restrained in his role. Bell and Oneil are energetic, if a bit too broad. Bisom is a convincing villain, often a difficult task in musical comedy.
The Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities clearly embraced this piece with enthusiasm as the production values attest, with wonderful set by Ed Gallagher and costumes by Pamela Shaw.
Direction by Irv Kimber is also excellent, although he might have been able to squeeze a little more character detail from the admittedly slim book.