Who’s got the bubble?


Shelby Hockaday, Gus DeBacco and Nathanael Williams prove that kids have as much bubble and buzz as sarsaparilla in the musical <i>Fizz</i>.

Shelby Hockaday, Gus DeBacco and Nathanael Williams prove that kids have as much bubble and buzz as sarsaparilla in the musical Fizz.

Photo By Miranda Jesch

The desert sky is dark and full of stars. The coyotes, rabbits and lizards emerge to play. But what’s that in the sky? A bird? A plane? A cowboy?

In BAC Stage Kids’ world-premiere performance of Fizz, an airplane engine coughs and sputters to a stop, and the flying cowpoke Lonesome Luke (Gus DeBacco on certain nights; the entire cast is played by two sets of child actors.) gently touches his one-man aircraft down in a seemingly bleak and fuel-less wasteland. A sign says, “Welcome to Windy Gulch, test your headlights next 845 miles.”

“I’m Lonesome Luke, Cowboy Aviator of the Western Skies,” Luke says with a slight wink and a flip of the finger at his aviator’s cap.

To salute their guest, the stars and animals sing “Welcome to Windy Gulch.” For being such younglings, the cast (ranging from age 4 or 5 to about 13) has surprisingly refined voices. But things are only cheery for so long before the villain, Professor Plunk (Jacob Linstrom), and his flunky Two Bits (Nathanael Williams) show up.

Plunk is obsessed with bringing Windy Gulch “into the modern age” via some new-fangled Plunk-only-knows mega center. Maybe a mall, or a power plant, or an amusement park. We never find out what particular evil scheme Plunk has up his sleeve, but he belts out enough evil laughs, “Wha ha ha ha,” to indicate that he’s up to no good. Not to mention, every time he comes onstage, the Placard Placement Professionals (Ariel and Abigail Scott) hold up signs that say “Boo"—versus Luke’s “Hooray” sign.

The first group of desert folk Luke runs into is a party of miners, who briefly come out of their mine to sing “Paddling the Underground River,” do an adroit Riverdance-style jig and give Luke a banjo. Luke also runs into Hareless and the Hare Band (Kimberly Matus, Mary Austin and Jill Shufelt), who earn very little sympathy but a lot of laughs with their song “Rich and Famous is so Hard,” and the space robot Org (Stephanie Kulla), who gives Luke a map “in a secret language that no one understands.” Even when she isn’t the crucial part of a scene, Stephanie’s doing something very funny and robot-like in the background.

It isn’t long before Luke meets Sagebrush Sue (Shelby Hockaday) at her Windy Gulch Sarsaparilla Parlor, only to find out she is running out of fizz for her sodas. Luke sets out looking for the only thing that can restore the fizz, the Lost Nugget.

Gus and Jacob’s exaggerated mannerisms as Luke and Plunk are hilarious and prove that these child actors know the meaning of farce and comedic timing. Shelby plays Sue sweetly and confidently and demonstrates an impressive voice in the song “Sarsaparilla’s Gotta Fizz.” Nathanael as the yes-man Two Bits plays his part to hearty laughs, often just enthusiastically repeating the last couple words of everything Plunk says. Many of Plunk’s lines are ridiculous declarations of professional experience, like “Let me see that, I’ve attended seminars, I subscribe to three chat rooms … I own postcards to Greece, Egypt and Rome.”

Written by local artists Chris, Darla and Danita Bayer and directed by Darla, Fizz is an audience-interactive musical that holds children’s attention while tickling the adults’ wit. The songs are silly and sweet, and there are some adorable scenes that, in themselves, are worth the drive to Carson City. Case in point being when the tall Luke waltzes to jewelry-box music with the tiny ballerina stars. During this scene, the Placard Placement Professionals hold up signs that say, "Ahhhhhh."