This event was scheduled July 21-September 9, 2023.

If you’ve never been to The Great American Melodrama in Oceano, it’s time.

Their latest offering, Gold Fever at the Rough & Ready, is such a good example of the genre—the quintessential melodrama, so to speak—that it’s a perfect introduction if you’ve never experienced it before.

And the eight performers in the house for TGAM’s full evening of entertainment couldn’t make it any easier for you to do your part as a melodrama audience: the booing, the hissing, the cheering, the singing . . . they shamelessly encourage it, in fact, even in the midst of the really crazy antics that make Gold Fever such a delight.

Every single performer, and that includes musical director Joseph Ivan (who is present throughout the evening in his role providing excellent musical accompaniment and flourishes), contributes his or her weight in golden nuggets to the evening’s enjoyment.

Actually, it’s a “gargantuan” golden nugget that sets the show’s endearing chaos in motion and is the MacGuffin around which it revolves. An archetypal (and incredibly talented) cast of good guys and gals and bad guys and gals takes us on a satisfying ride through the California Gold Rush with lots of heroic action, love, betrayal, deceit, and villainy (that’s what the program says, and it’s true!).

The amazing Cameron Parker is the beleaguered but adorable sheriff of the town of Rough and Ready. Veteran show-stopper Meggie Siegrist is the town saloon-keeper. Toby Tropper, a wonder to behold in whatever role he plays, is the closest thing to a mayor. And Sydni Ramirez and Ekaterina Bouras keep us entertained as a rambunctious couple of rough ‘n’ ready local miners who don’t seem to be able to agree on anything. New to the Melodrama is Elizabeth Martinié as a visitor to the town, and Michael Wells does double-duty as both a crotchety local miner and the town villain who loves to sneer at the audience as much as the audience loves to hiss at him.

Everything about Gold Fever is designed to delight or distract you, as every good melodrama should. Natasha Harris has found ways to enhance a script by the inventive Neal LaVine that could stand on its own even without her creative direction and acute sense of timing.

On top of everything else, you get a history lesson about the 1848 discovery of gold in California. The play is based on the true story of the founding of the town during the Gold Rush, and even incorporates its brief secession from the Union when it formed the “Great Republic of Rough and Ready.”

So get ready to boo, hiss, and cheer when you stake your claim to a spot at an upcoming performance of Gold Fever at The Great American Melodrama. It’s local, live entertainment at it best.

:: Charlotte Alexander