DEADWOOD DICK -- At the Gateway Theater, Fourth and E Southwest. Group rates can be had. Call USA-0000. (How d'ya like that number?)
It could, maybe ought to, call itself "The Washington That Washingtonians Never See": a buffet dinner (steamship round of beef, fried chicken, beef burgundy and the like); a free tour of a wax museum (Old and New Testament scenes, American history with an emphasis on the role of blacks and -- the newest addition -- the Duke, John Wayne, looking as stiff in wax as he did in life); some silent films and sing-alongs ("Bill Bailey," "Bye-Bye Blackbird," "Four-Leaf Clover" and others we all remember); and a hiss-the-villian melodrama straight out of the 1890s.
Sound pretty Midwestern? Well, as Al Jolson used to say, you ain't heard nothin' yet. The windup, an "olio [medley] entertainment," wraps you, the cast and the Nation's Capital in the flag and a couple of George M. Cohan songs.
Well, why not? That is, after all, a good part of what people come here for, isn't it? American traditions, old-fashioned values, good clean fun. There used to be a song that said "there's a little bit of corn born in all of us," and if the show at the new Gateway Theater can't squeeze a little out of you, you must be pretty dry husk.
The evening's centerpiece, themelodrama "Deadwood Dick," invites audience participation -- at a risk: On one recent night a member of the cast looked a member of the audience straght in the eye and invited him to go bore a hole in his head and let the sap run out. It's also perfectly clear, at all times, just which are the good guys and which the bad ones. And all the laughs are intentional, more or less -- "rather less of more than more of less," to quote a line from the show.
The whole works, the debut of a theater tied in with the Gray Line tours and the National Wax Museum, is unabashedly commercial; but so, for that matter, is opera, and the plot of "deadwood Dick" is fetched no farther than that of your run-of-the-mill Verdi or Puccini opera. And if the music isn't exactly Verdi or Puccini -- well, with them you don't get a good dinner thrown into the bargain.