Arts & Culture

Great American Melodrama brings big bayou laughs to Oceano

The Swamp Crone (Emily Wold), Lazlo (Joel White) and Polly Montclair (Andrea J. Love) react as Lt. Alan Wexstad (Mike Lee) reveals he has retrieved the lost money case containing Polly's inheritance in the melodrama spoof "La Rue's Return," now playing at the Great American Melodrama in Oceano.
The Swamp Crone (Emily Wold), Lazlo (Joel White) and Polly Montclair (Andrea J. Love) react as Lt. Alan Wexstad (Mike Lee) reveals he has retrieved the lost money case containing Polly's inheritance in the melodrama spoof "La Rue's Return," now playing at the Great American Melodrama in Oceano.

Mischief and mayhem come to the Louisiana bayou as the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville kicks off its summer season with “La Rue’s Return, or, How’s A Bayou?”

This hysterical melodrama spoof by Edward Thorpe and Scott Cherney follows French criminal Jacques La Rue (Toby Tropper) as he seeks revenge on downtrodden Polly Montclair (Andrea Love), owner of the French Quarter bistro Chez What in 1875 New Orleans.

Polly, already depressed by the death of her father, is recovering from a poisoning attempt by La Rue, her ex-fiancé. He tried to murder her in order to take over the bistro.

La Rue spent time in prison for his crime and has now been released. He is determined to get back at Polly and her Cajun bartender, Ike (Nate Ruleaux), for sending him to jail.

Polly is also distraught about the possibility of losing the Chez What due to money problems.

Lt. Alan Wexstad (Mike Lee) arrives just in time to give Polly an unexpected inheritance from her father. But the scheming La Rue uses ditzy barmaid Mimi (Emily Wold) to trick the lieutenant and steal the small fortune.

With the help of Ike and Hungarian homeless man Lazlo (Joel White), Lt. Wexstad sets out to return the cash, save the bistro and win Polly’s heart.

Meanwhile, unsure about getting back her money, Polly seeks the help of a mysterious Swamp Crone (also played by Wold) to cast a spell on La Rue. The Swamp Crone joins the shenanigans to lure La Rue back to the Chez What for a final showdown. Throughout “La Rue’s Return,” there are plenty of hilarious pranks, amusing puns and even a swashbuckling swordfight to keep the audience entertained.

The play is directed by Eric Hoit with musical direction by Kevin Lawson. The set, designed by Brian Williams, recreates both a charming French Quarter bistro and the creepy bayou. The costumes, designed by Renee Van Niel, appropriately reflect the late 1800s.

The six actors in “La Rue’s Return” have great comic timing and make a talented ensemble.

Tropper is brilliantly funny as the evil La Rue, giving the audience every opportunity to boo and hiss. Meanwhile, Lee, as the gullible lieutenant, inspires the audience to cheer him on to victory.

Love combines both sarcasm and wit to play Polly, the damsel in distress.

Both Ruleaux and White show boundless energy as sidekick characters. And Wold, who also serves as fight choreographer, is delightful in both her roles as the barmaid and the Swamp Crone.

Performances of “La Rue’s Return” are followed by the “40th Anniversary Vaudeville Revue Part 2,” which features favorite songs, dances and sketches from past performances at the Great American Melodrama.

Highlights include the famous Water Glass Orchestra performing “Flight of the Bumblebee,” an incredible rhythm dance in rubber boots with bells attached and a medley of TV theme songs from the 1960s such as “Green Acres,” “The Addams Family” and “Mission: Impossible.” The revue is directed by Hoit, with musical direction by Lawson and choreography by Hoit and Katie Worley.

If you’re looking for something that the entire family will enjoy this summer, don’t forget to add a visit to the Great American Melodrama to your to-do list.

“La Rue’s Return”

7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; 6 p.m. Sunday; through September 19

Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, 1863 Front St., Oceano

$19 to $25

489-2499 or www.americanmelodrama.com

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