Shoot 'Er Up

Take a nice long look at the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, any Miss Texas contestant or the Texas Bikini Team. It's pretty obvious: Men really dig women in Western gear. The fringe vest exposing a smooth midriff, the bolo over the bikini -- it's enough to steam any guy's Stetson. Problem is, most Westerns leave the real cowboy stuff to the gents.

But hold yer horses: Seems a Connecticut-born carpetbagger has ridden in to modernize one of the most static of theatrical and film genres -- the Western -- by way of a show with a cast of 15 cowgirls. And luckily, the production isn't all bland and PC about female empowerment. All Female Cast Western Musical was concocted by Keith Reynolds, whose murky mind devised the twisted theatrical company Slump and its annual Christmas production, replete with a Mrs. Claus fixated on self-pleasure, caged monkey sex slaves and more Kris Kringle flatulence than Cartman could string together if he had an extra hour on South Park. Reynolds's past shows include titles like Penishead and Penishead II. Suddenly this guy wants to liberate women from stereotypes? Why the all-female cast?

"Well, I like 'em," he says of women in general. "And I thought it'd be neat. Usually Westerns are all male -- you think of cowboys and the Old West. These women are playing traditional male roles, all the rough-and-tumble parts."

The women definitely do tumble. Within the first ten minutes of Musical, there's an all-out all-woman brawl. "The scene opens with a hanging," says Reynolds. "It's like a celebration. They hang a cattle rustler, start drinking, then everyone gets in a huge fistfight." We're then introduced to the evil sheriff and her cowgirls plotting and singing "Raise the Prices on the Vices." Their nefarious scheme: to squeeze the working man -- er, woman -- and raise the price of whiskey from one cent to two, then eventually three cents per shot. "The people hate it," says Reynolds.

The situation calls for a mysterious stranger to enter town, and sure enough, we meet the furtive Loan Stranger. Immediately threatened, the evil sheriff tries to force our heroine to kiss her holster in a show of submission. But the Loan Stranger won't have any armament smooching and sparks a 15-cowgirl shoot-out. Later, a narcoleptic cowgirl is incarcerated when she can't pay her liquor tab (while she dozed at the bar, the price went up a penny per shot). All hell breaks loose when the Loan Stranger and friends stage a jailbreak and decide to take back the town. What ensues is a mammoth classic Western chase, which Reynolds calls "a horse chase without the horses." Another high point: a cattle stampede played by all the women, dressed in cow cutouts.

Reynolds deserves credit for taking 15 ladies in Western gear -- playing with guns, kissing holsters, catfighting -- and not creating campy Saturday-night Cinemax. "I'm into empowerment," he says. "In a lot of comedy shows, the women are the sexy dancers and the men are comedians. I think these women are hilarious."

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Steven Devadanam
Contact: Steven Devadanam