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Queen of the Roundup

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Queen of the RoundUp, Sweetback Productions, at TinFish Theatre. The western used to be a staple of TV. But that era ended around the time Mel Brooks gleefully mocked all the genre's cliches in Blazing Saddles. And nowadays we know too much about the dark side of westward expansion--the greed, the graft, the genocide--to believe those old stories about how the west was won. Amy Ludwig's Queen of the Roundup is no Blazing Saddles, but she and the madcap crew at Sweetback Productions manage to gore a few sacred cows in this parody western mocking gender roles: most of the cowboys are women and most of the whores at the local saloon are men in drag.

And everyone sings pretty much all the time. That's a good thing because David Cerda's original songs, which parody everything from cowboy ballads to disco to the cabaret pieces Marlene Dietrich growled in Destry Rides Again, are much sharper than Ludwig's aimless story. In typical Sweetback style, the performances range from rough and ragged to fairly good, with a couple of genuinely brilliant ones. Lon Ellenverger, also the show's music director, does a pretty fabulous Dietrich imitation. And Tracy Repep is winning as Cherry, the woman torn between life on the range and life as a dance-hall entertainer. This show may never reach the heights of Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, but it's still very entertaining. --Jack Helbig

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