Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Canyon Kid Rides Again!

"This here's a song of the lone prairie

It's a tale of woe and of misery

It's a tale of right and a tale of wrong

All about the weak and the very strong"

(sung to the tune of BURY ME NOT ON THE LONE PRAIRIE)

So begins SONG OF THE LONE PRAIRIE or POEM ON THE RANGE, a western comedy melodrama originally written over twenty years ago by yours truly and produced on the stage of the Palace Showboat Dinner Theater at Pollardville.

When the straight shooting, and guitar strumming singing cowboy hero known as The Canyon Kid, returns to Dirt Clod, Missouri, he finds his hometown in the grips of a tyrannical albino “hanging judge” named Basil Kadaver and his evil co-horts, including the slinky gypsy seductress Nastassia Kinky and her half-wit brother, Two Gun Boris. To make matters worse for The Kid, he also discovers that his childhood sweetheart, Darla Darling, is engaged to Dalton Doolin, a known desperado who is now the town sheriff. The action culminates in a knockdown, drag out slugfest on the streets of Dirt Clod when justice at last triumphs and The Canyon Kid saves the day.

Yeah, it was a hoot, all right, at least that's what the critic for The Stockton Record said. It was the best review I had received up to that point.

SOTLP (aka SOTLIP) was actually the best melodrama script I ever wrote. It represented the culmination of everything I had learned up to that point at Pollardville, the place I had considered my "college". You see, I got to do everything I ever wanted to do in show business at the place we called the Ville-acting, writing, directing, producing, stand-up, singing, dancing, improvisation and so on and so forth. This included my apprenticeship as a stunt cowboy performer in Pollardville Ghost Town all the way to my post-graduate studies as the writer/director/master of ceremonies on the Palace stage. It was the best time of my life and SONG OF THE LONE PRAIRIE was pretty much my grand finale.

It began as a possible running character in the Ghost Town, though it never got out of the idea stage out there. The character of Two Gun Boris, however, did end up in one of the gunfights, since it was written specifically for Grant-Lee Phillips who was working there at the time. But I knew that The Canyon Kid needed to be the hero of a melodrama and so it began. Previously, I had co-written LARUE'S RETURN with my best friend Edward (Max) Thorpe and had flied solo with THE LEGEND OF THE ROGUE which Bill Humphreys had admirably interpreted on the Ville stage. Ed had concocted the initial story for LA RUE before our collaboration while the script for LEGEND actually only took me a week . But SONG took a few years to put together. I had an idea here and an idea there, but nothing came together.

Then I hit on the idea of the albino hanging judge as a villain, probably inspired by Stacy Keach's character Bad Bob from John Huston's LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN written by John Milius. (Yes, I just mashed Bad Bob and Judge Roy Bean together and came up with an albino hanging judge. I always was the clever boy) Some of the early drafts involved a lot more about Judge Basil Kadaver that, unfortunately, got lost in a fire. There had been a great scene involving the judge as a baby, throwing a hangman's noose over the side of his bassinet. I never could recover those bits nor could I muster up the inspiration to recreate them, unfortunately. The other characters that popped out of my head-Charlene Atlas, the female blacksmith and Two Gun Boris' hot as balls gypsy fortuneteller sister, Nastassia Kinky, more than made up for it.

I was off and running after writing and directing three back-to-back vaudeville productions at the Ville as well as assisting my mentor Lou Nardi with his two shows. Finally, SONG was starting to take form and in early 1987, I finally finished my lil' ol' magnum opus and was allowed by producer Goldie Pollard to direct it as well. (I think this was more economical this way-getting a script and a director for one lump sum-but an opportunity is a damn opportunity and I am eternally grateful for the chance)

Casting the show as easy as pie and I couldn't have asked for a better cast-EVER. Greg Pollard was the aw shucks epitome of The Canyon Kid. Bob Gossett fit Judge Basil Kadaver like a glove. As an albino, he looked just like a walking skeleton. Elaine Slatore was dead-on perfect as Nastassia, as funny and sexy as only she could be. Two Gun Boris was claimed and owned by John Himle. No one could have been better Dalton Doolin than Tony Petrali. Layne Randolph and Paula Stahley as the Mayor and Charlene were on the money. The came two actresses out of left field. Suzi Yelverton, all of fifteen years old, played the heroine's mother without a hitch. Then, for my heroine, Darla Darling, I had the pleasure of directing Leslie Fielding in her one and only Pollardville show. She was underplayed her role to perfection, a stark contrast to the regular melodramatic heroine which caused her to elevate her character to new heights.

At the time I was directing SOTLP, I had been immersed in two other projects at the same time. I was working as a second assistant director on my first feature film RETURN FIRE: JUNGLE WOLF II (a story I'll save for another day) and producing/promoting/hosting my very own comedy open mike night at the Ville, an off-shoot of my burgeoning (and was it burdening?) stand-up career following my first place showing in the one and only Stockton Comedy Competition. I was really running myself into the ground fast. In fact, I collapsed from exhaustion about five weeks into shooting. Oh well. I needed the rest apparently.

While recovering, I had a brilliant idea of an ending for SONG-a fight scene to beat all fight scenes, one that would involve every member of the cast and from everywhere in the theater-on stage, off stage, in the audience and so on. And so it was. The Canyon Kid fought Dalton Doolin. The Mayor had it out with the Judge. Darla and her mother took on Nastassia. And finally, Charlene punched it out with Boris. They all duked it out in the name of entertainment. It was my version of the BLAZING SADDLES fight and put this show over the top.

SONG OF THE LONE PRAIRIE opened November 6, 1987 and ran until May of 1988. What a great run and, if I say so myself, what a great show. Bob Gossett recently ran a copy of SONG on Portland cable access. While the video and sound quality was crude, it still holds up.

Now twenty years later, I expanded the script a bit (kind of George Lucasing it into a "special edition") and published it.

The cover sure do look purty, done it? The cost is $8.95 for paperback and $5.00 for a download e-book. Performance rights are available too since this was the whole point of publishing it to begin with. Well, that and to satisfy my long beleaguered ego. (Okay, everybody, in true melodrama style give me an "AWWWWWWWWWWW...........") Since LARUE'S RETURN has had some success on stage, I t felt it was high time to get SOTLP out there so others can enjoy it as well. Yes, I'm damn proud of my work. What of it? More info about performance rights can be obtained by e-mailing me at:

To buy SONG OF THE LONE PRAIRIE or to read a free preview, go to my storefront at:

Until next time, pardners, happy trails to you, until we meet again...

(Sorry, Roy. I couldn't resist)
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