Ol’ West tomfoolery

Harry (Ben Johnson) and Jane (Mary Weigel) are sweethearts discussing their upcoming nuptials.
Harry (Ben Johnson) and Jane (Mary Weigel) are sweethearts discussing their upcoming nuptials. Sierra Star

If you enjoy spending hours curled up with a bowl of buttery popcorn watching old cowboy movies filled with scenes of dirty low-down gunslingers and unruly barroom brawls ... well, you’re in for a real treat. The Yosemite High School’s Theatre Department will perform Wild Oats, 7 p.m., April 20-22.

A comic romance from the Old West period, written with an American twist by James McClure, the play is based on John O’Keefe’s 1791 English comedy of the same name.

A raucous Old West satire, the play combines a bit of Shakespeare, western duels, slapstick comedy and old-time saloon music centering around the estranged Thunder clan, who have reunited because of the death of one of their own - Loftus Thunder.

The story comes to life with gunslingers and barroom fights, traveling actors, and dirty dealing sidewinders trying to cheat honest hard working townfolks out of their money, property and inheritance.

Wild Oats brings every element that we think of when remembering the Old West and mashes them together into a fun, romantic, silly, crazy night of fun,” said YHS Theatre Arts teacher Lars Thorson. “It’s more complicated than a traditional melodrama, with some Shakespeare and an amusing East Coast versus West Coast contrast.”

The craziness of Wild Oats can’t help but keep the young actors entertained while rehearsing their roles.

“I was born in the West, but raised in the East, so I’m a mix of cowboy and Shakespeare, a tough guy inspired by heroes like Hamlet and Romeo, a man’s man, yet poetic,” said Dylan Thacker, who plays Jack Rover. “The other cowboys call me crazy and eccentric, but the ladies love me.”

This is Thacker’s second year in Advanced Theatre, and his fourth play - one he calls his favorite.

“It’s fun because I have to switch often between different accents,” Thacker added. “I have to speak Shakespeare at least halfway convincingly, woo a girl, fight bad guys and save the day ... it’s a big job.”

Even though she’s been onstage for five years, this is senior Kendra Tapia’s first year in Advanced Theatre, and her first appearance in a modern production. All her other roles have been Shakespearean. In Wild Oats, she plays Kate Thunder, Rover’s love interest.

“I’m a high society woman, but am really more of a tomboy,” Tapia said. “This is a funny play. It’s upbeat and makes me laugh during rehearsals. There are sad parts, adventure, mystery, romance, and lots of comedy.”

The production features a cast of 25. Other actors playing leading roles include YHS seniors Alex Williams and Steve Schumaker. Juniors in important roles include Ben Johnson, Mary Weigel, Jacob Pitkanen, and Alli Ruiz.

Thorson considers himself fortunate to have Isabel McGoldrick, an accomplished pianist, in the class. In the process of learning many old west songs, McGoldrick will play live onstage during the performances.

“I think audiences will enjoy Wild Oats because it’s a very funny script with a lot of things you would expect - cowboys, saloon girls - and things you wouldn’t expect - an Irish Indian, a bizarre theater producer who is always accompanied by a talking sock puppet, trains and bears onstage,” Thorson said. “It’s wild and crazy and fast moving and includes clever word play, physical humor and music. It truly has something for everyone.”

Or, to put it in cowboy lingo - y’all saddle up and get to moseying down yonder for a rip-snorting good time, ya hear.

Tickets for Wild Oats, performed in the YHS theatre, are $7 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens, and can be purchased at the door.

Details: (559) 683-4667, ext. 256.

Mamma Mia

The YHS Theatre Arts Department will host a sing-along movie night, featuring the iconic 2008 jukebox musical Mamma Mia, 7 p.m., May 5, in the campus theatre. Tickets run $5 for all ages.

The songs made famous by the 1970s pop group ABBA will be shown with subtitles. Audience members are encouraged to sing along as they watch innkeeper Donna negotiate love and marriage for herself and her daughter. Popcorn and other snacks will be available for purchase.

Details: (559) 693-4667.