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'Six Guns' brings music and laughs to the wild west

CLEARWATER

Taking in the musical melodrama Six Guns and Sasparilla is a bit like watching a political convention.

Attendees boo, hiss and cheer for the heroes and villains. There's plenty of drama, but it's offset with comedic lines and bouncy musical numbers. The ending is predictable, bright and happy.

Six Guns and Sasparilla runs through Sunday at the Francis Wilson Playhouse.

Wear your cowboy boots and enjoy an old-fashioned sasparilla while perusing "The Art of Broadway," a new art exhibit in the lobby gallery featuring 150 years of Broadway posters.

The private collection is owned by director Jason Fortner and includes a replica poster from Black Crook (circa 1862). Said to be the first Broadway musical, the production featured half-clad women and the devil and was therefore considered quite scandalous for its time.

It was 1998 when theater veterans Fortner and Jason Tucker collaborated to create Six Guns for a fledgling theatrical company in Seminole. The original version had a huge cast, giant sets, enthusiastic audiences — and ran on for hours.

The second run of Six Guns was in 2006, when Eight O'Clock Theatre presented a revised edition featuring a leaner length, some new songs and plot changes.

Now, the cast of Wild West characters are back in the saddle again, watching the cactus grow in 1873 "Vulture Gulch," while audience members ponder the pressing questions of the day: Will the dastardly villain force the bored schoolmarm (a dull job in a town with no kids) to marry him? Will the bookish sheriff, "the clumsiest gun in the west," save the day?

And, will the not-so-virtuous Diamond Ruby fit into her original saloon dress that she wore almost 20 years ago?

The answer to the third question is a resounding "yes."

Francesca Guanciale Jay, 52, who is reprising her role as the saloon's hostess, said she was delighted that the red dress she wore in the original production — one designed to lavishly showcase a woman's curves — was stashed away in the playhouse's wardrobe department. She was even more thrilled that it was still a perfect fit.

This time around, she'll have a new sidekick. Her 14-year-old daughter, Skylar Jay, is joining the cast as one of Diamond Ruby's saloon girls.

"I'm so happy to do this show again," she said. "The plot is crazy, the audience participates and all of our characters are big and overdone."

Others re-enacting their roles include Lou Russo playing the town's mayor and undertaker, who, as the narrator puts it, "is happy to see our new citizens arrive and even happier to see them depart."

Russo said he wanted to be in the melodrama again "because it's so much fun, the music is great to sing — and the dancing's not too difficult."

A cast of more than 30 actors, ranging in age from early teens to late 70s, fill the roles.

Newcomers to the show include Evan Fineout and Michael Sporck as bumbling henchmen Rufus and Remus (think Dumb and Dumber). In their efforts to help out bad guy Sebastian Sinister, they seem most adept at stealing scenes.

"The fact that this is a new show and that no one knows what to expect inspires us to do our very best," said Fineout, 18.

Added Sporck, 19: "Ninety percent of the audience won't have seen or heard of this show until now. It's kind of cool because when you play one of these characters, it's your own."

>>IF YOU GO

'Six Guns and Sasparilla'

Where: Francis Wilson Playhouse, 302 Seminole St., Clearwater

When: Today through Sunday; tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Tickets: Adults $26; students with ID, $15. Available by calling the box office at (727) 446-1360 or online at FrancisWilsonPlayhouse.org.

'Six Guns' brings music and laughs to the wild west 07/27/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 27, 2016 3:56pm]
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