Review: Going West

Going West: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad; 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; $18-$23. B Street Theatre, 2711 B Street; (916) 443-5300, Through April 2.
Rated 4.0

If you grew up (or raised kids) locally, you have likely visited the California Railroad History Museum in Old Sacramento. Going West: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad is basically a 90-minute live-action version of this elementary school ritual, staged with five professional actors in a cozy venue, in a snappy neovaudeville style.

The ensemble cast includes B Street regulars Rick Kleber and his booming voice, John Lamb, Amy Kelly and Darek Riley, plus newcomer Jina Nam. Each has multiple roles (filthy-rich railroad barons, starving Chinese workers). They present the temptations of the flesh that could slow construction (cheap liquor, houses of ill repute) in a humorously indirect manner that kids will intuitively grasp.

There are also catchy tunes by composer Noah Agruss, incorporating accelerating engine rhythms, hammer-slamming work songs and fanfare-like, brassy, Copland-esque orchestrations.

One quibble: The script seemingly indicates the rails crossed the Sierra at “12,000 feet.” At last check, Donner Pass reaches 7,057 feet—a daring, impressive feat of 19th-century engineering, but let’s not gild the lily.