Johnny Guitar

By staff June 22, 2007


The Golden Apple’s musical comedy version of an old movie Western provides summer laughs.


By Kay Kipling


You never know where or how inspiration will strike in the theater world. Take for example the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre’s current production of Johnny Guitar, a musical sendup of a Hollywood movie starring Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden.


It’s easy enough to see how the original story, a Western full of melodramatic flourishes and more than a touch of Freudian-tinged sexuality issues, is ripe for parody. Still, the movie dates from 1954, which either means the musical’s creators (Nicholas van Hoogstraten, Martin Silvestri and Joel Higgins) have been carrying around this idea for a while or that they may have discovered a passion for the piece one night on TV’s Late, Late Show.

Melissa Minyard and Kyle Ennis Turoff in the Golden Apple’s Johnny Guitar


Either way, the basic storyline remains the same: In late 19th-century New Mexico, a tall stranger with a guitar (Brian Minyard, who also directed) arrives in town at the request of an old flame, Vienna (Melissa Minyard), a sultry saloonkeeper who’s also had a tangled relationship with the criminal Dancin’ Kid (Jeff Pierce) and faces an unreasoning hatred from town tycoon Emma Small (Kyle Ennis Turoff). Vienna wants Johnny for protection, but she doesn’t want anyone killed—a wish that may be hard to fulfill once Emma’s vendetta against her swings into high gear.


The setup makes for lots of posturing against the Western-themed set (the show opens with a bale of sagebrush rolling across the stage), as characters face the audience in their holster-laden leather pants and evoke plangent chords from the musicians when speaking significant bits of dialogue. And the entire cast has the right approach to this sort of show, making it clear they get the joke but not overdoing things to the point of silliness.


So Johnny Guitar makes for a pleasant summer evening’s entertainment—although it’s a bit hard to see why, fun though it is, it deserved to win the 2004 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. Guess those critics just fell in love with a man named Johnny Guitar (cue guitar chord here).


Johnny Guitar plays through Sept. 2 at the Golden Apple; call 366-5454 for tickets or visit




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