The Dodge City High School drama department will present "Wild Oats," a western melodrama by James McLure, at 7 p.m. March 21, 22 and 23 in the high school auditorium.
If you're looking for surefire ingredients for an entertaining evening at the theater, how about a couple of heroes, a villain and a damsel in distress.
Melodrama, a form of exaggerated theater, has evolved from a fairly serious genre in the mid-1800s to a rousing evening filled with bad puns and audience participation.
"We definitely need the audience to cheer the hero and boo the villain," said Cale Morrow, senior and one of the leading players in the production. "We break the fourth wall and talk to the audience all the time in this one," he said.
Morrow and junior Michael Russell play a couple of cowboys obsessed with Shakespeare.
"We kind of go around quoting Shakespeare all the time," Russell said.
"We're the self-proclaimed thespians of the West," Morrow said.
Following many of the conventional melodrama plot elements, the story brings Morrow's character to Muleshoe, Texas, where he is mistaken for the long-lost character played by Russell.
Morrow falls in love with the girl who is to be Russell’s wife and the plot thickens.
An evil farm owner complicates things and the forces are set up for conflict.
"We even get tied to the train tracks at the end," Morrow said.
Anne Kaiser, director of the play, had originally planned another script for the spring play but more people showed up for auditions than she expected.
"That's pretty much thanks to Cale's recruiting efforts," Kaiser said.
"Well, my choir classmates have a lot of secrets and blackmail is a useful tool. Facebook would have been abuzz if those kids hadn't auditioned," Morrow said.
With plenty of talent available, Kaiser and her cast searched through her library of scripts and came up with "Wild Oats," which has a cast of 40.
"We even added some can-can dancers," Morrow said.
The February snow storms caused the cancellation of a week of rehearsals but the cast and crew have rallied to get the show ready.
"We're having several rehearsals during spring break and everybody's pitching in," Morrow said.
The performances of "Wild Oats" will be Morrow's final appearance on the DCHS stage.
"It's tough — I'm sad. Every line I learn and every costume change — that will be the last time I get to do that here. But we have great younger students in the program so it will continue to grow. I'm just glad to be a part of it," Morrow said.
Meanwhile, Morrow said he and his fellow cast members just wanted to do a show that honors Dodge City.
Page 2 of 2 - "It reminds me of 'Blazing Saddles.' It's a tribute to all those old westerns. Now we just want to pack the house for the performances," he said.
IF YOU GO
What: "Wild Oats" a DCHS drama department production
When: 7 p.m. March 21-23
Where: DCHS auditorium
Tickets: Adults - $5, children - $3, 5 and under - free.
Students admitted free with I.D.
Gold cards honored.