The Witches of Westchester/Gaslight Melodrama
Day Trippin' with Mel
October 28, 2023
It's the month of October, the month of Halloween and spooky good times ... and what better way to celebrate the month than to enjoy some of those good spooky times at the Gaslight Melodrama Theater in Bakersfield.
The Gaslight is "an old-timey theater featuring family-friendly melodramas and musicals, plus American food, beer and wine." Housed in a bright red barn-like structure, the theater is small and intimate. It boasts that it is the "first privately owned performing arts venue [by Jennifer and Michael Prince] to be conceived, designed, financed and constructed as a theater in Bakersfield history." Happily, it is a great success and shows regularly sell out.
Friends Leila, Julee and Lauraine and I were lucky enough to get seats to the current show – "The Witches of Westchester" – and went down the hill a couple of weeks ago to experience it.
The play, written and directed by the owner of the theater, Michael Prince, features witches Broomhilda, Lucretia, and Pam, plus Colonel Baker the storyteller, the villain Mr. Gilliam (and his assistant Renfro), and a lone piano player. It also features lots of opportunities to boo the villain and cheer the heroes, numerous laughs, and lively song and dance numbers.
In addition to the main show, we were also treated to an old-time "vaudeville review" featuring more singing and dancing in another little Halloween-themed mini play.
It was a fun and enjoyable afternoon for most of us, although the scariest thing that happened during the show was that an audience member fell out of her chair (suffering some sort of serious medical event) in the middle of the first act; houselights came up and the show was stopped for a time. Paramedics were called and arrived quickly and the woman was able to wave goodbye to us all as she left on the gurney.
The show went on to its conclusion, but another audience member passed out at the end of the show and more paramedics were called. The actors were all consummate professionals and handled each emergency with calm and expediency. I also think it's worth mentioning that all of the audience members reacted calmly, kindly and respectively and helped move tables and chairs.
I don't think that kind of "excitement" is common at the melodrama, however, so you can probably plan to enjoy it without the appearance of paramedics!
In true melodrama tradition, the actors at the Gaslight take your tickets and work the snack bar (and sing a song to anyone who puts money in the tip jar) and buss tables afterwards. The snack bar, by the way, has great food (hotdogs, pulled pork sandwiches, pizza, baked potatoes, salads, candies, buckets of popcorn, sodas, beer and wine, and more).
Doors open 45 minutes before showtime, which we put to use getting some of those yummy snacks. Seating is reserved and in groups of four around tiny cocktail tables. The theater is laid out so that there are really no bad seats, but we were happy to have gotten into the center section on the end of a row.
The Witches of Westchester runs through Nov. 11 so you still have time to see it – I suggest getting tickets early as the shows typically sell out. The annual Holiday Extravaganza is up next (and always sells out early): Nov. 24 – Dec. 23.
To get tickets call (661) 587-3377 or go by the box office at 12748 Jomani Drive. Note: the box office is closed Wednesdays. Online, you can see a seating chart and menu and other information at themelodrama.com.
If you go, the theater is located in northwest Bakersfield at 12748 Jomani Drive. I took Highway 58 to the 99 and exited onto Rosedale Highway. West on Rosedale Highway to Allen Drive and right (north) on Allen, then a right turn onto Jomani (you can see the red barn from Allen).
The theater is accessible but mention if you need special consideration as the seats are placed close together. Chairs are padded straight back chairs. Shows are offered on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Tickets prices vary, food is additional.
Julee, Leila, Lauraine and I all had a great time with our melodrama experience, and we finished it off with ice cream treats at Dewars (off Calloway) on the way home. A wonderful way to spend a fall afternoon!
© 2023 Mel Makaw. Mel is a local writer and photographer and avid day-tripper and melodrama lover; she welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.