Brazos Theatre melodrama

Brazos Theatre regulars Melora Roach and Randy Carpenter, seen in last year's "Shootout At Sadie's Saloon," return for this weekend's "Showdown At The Rainbow Ranch" with at least one major change: Carpenter, last year's hero, is this year's villain.

Marcel van Es photo

The Brazos Theatre cast performing this weekend is accustomed to making up lines and situations in their regular mix of improv comedy and murder mysteries.

For this weekend’s performance of “Showdown at the Rainbow Ranch,” however, the cast will work off a complete script and on a set. The audience’s reactions, too, are known somewhat in advance, but that’s the point: It’s the theater’s fifth annual melodrama, complete with lusty booing of villains and rousing cheers for the good guys.

“It’s a lot more work, but this is more than a typical murder mystery,” said theater director Beth Richards.

This year’s story involves a damsel, Rainbow Heatherton (Jori Sutton), left in debt after her father’s murder and the mysterious death of the banker overseeing its repayment. There’s a new banker in town, Cadwell C. Cleaver (Randy Carpenter), demanding the money, now, or she loses Rainbow Ranch. Will no one intervene to help? Trick rider and sharpshooter Matthew Merryweather (Kade Hollis), maybe?

“That’s when things go crazy — of course,” said Richards.

With audiences primed, and encouraged, to boo, cheer and throw popcorn and paper wads, there’s always the thrill of the unexpected that keeps actors on their toes. With several of Richards’ nine-member cast experienced at improv comedy, that keeps things from spiraling out of control.

“Absolutely, it helps. If the audience makes you get off track, you can figure out how to get back,” Richards said.

Audience members can buy $1 bags of popcorn and $1 bags of paper wads for throwing purposes. Hungrier ones can buy $5 a la carte plates by the Hilton Waco.

The sole intent of the melodrama is to have a good time, which makes it ideal for families, Richards said.

“You can boo, cheer, yell and throw things,” she said. “You get to go to the theater and misbehave.”

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor