Editor’s Note: The 32nd Annual International Fringe Theatre Festival will be held May 16-29, 2023 at different venues in and around Loch Haven Park and downtown Orlando. Freeline Media will be previewing the shows right up to the festival date.
By Paul Castaneda
ORLANDO — The Orlando Fringe Festival is known for shows returning across several years, often with different interpretations of the source material. This is sometimes a blessing (when creativity leads to the familiar revealing new adventures) or a curse (when tired or hackneyed approaches are milked for every last dollar). With the coming of Bullock & The Bandits-Back In The Saddle! at the 2023 Festival, you can pretty much expect the blessings to lead the way.
Orlando Fringe Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and local actor extraordinaire David Lee is back with his Bullock & The Bandits band, inviting us to join them at the (wink wink) Bullock Hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota, apparently well known for outlaws and heroes that continue to roam around years after shuffling off their mortal coils. Presented by Susan Jacome Turner and Ant Farm Productions, this go around features Bryce Hayes, Tanner Kaiser, Tom O’Hern, Randall Scandal and 2022 Orlando Fringe Critic’s Choice Award recipient for Best Musical Performance, Matt Lynx, along with special guests Kristie Jane and Eddie Cooper.
This is the second go around for Lee as Sheriff Bullock at the Orlando Fringe, having premiered the character and concept at last year’s Fringe to much acclaim and then resurrected it (pun intended) at the Renaissance Theatre last October, where it is also residing at Fringe this time around. Lee conceptualized the show based on equal parts of fascination with music he grew up listening to on the radio “with my Mom in the car,” his obsession with outlaws, bandits, heroes and heroines of The Wild West and love of the Deadwood HBO show and movies. This time around, Lee promises to “channel the musical talents of many artists: The Doors, The Black Keys, Steely Dan, Ray Charles, Allison Kraus, Dave Matthews, and even Taylor Swift.”
By the way, lest you think Sheriff Bullock and friends are a mere concoction from Lee’s talented mind, he shares that he “started doing research on the town and learned that it is allegedly haunted, especially the Bullock Hotel where, former Sheriff Seth Bullock set up shop after retiring from the law. His ghost is still believed to haunt the town and the hotel to this day. The Bullock Hotel and Deadwood are considered two of the most popular Ghost Hunting spots in the USA”.
I don’t know about you, but we sure can’t wait to see this one!
Freeline Media reached out to David Lee to get the scoop on this one.
Freeline Media: We’ve seen a lot at Fringe, but a haunted saloon musical seems rather unique. What are the origins of this show?
DAVID LEE: My fascination with music I grew up listening to on the radio with my mom in the car, how that influences how I listen to music today, and at the same time, my obsession with Outlaws and Bandits and heroes and heroines of The Wild West.
FM: Tell us a bit more about your experiences in Deadwood, S.D., and how that impacted the show’s creation.
DL: I’ve seen the Deadwood HBO show and the subsequent movie many times, and loved them! I started doing research on the town and learned that it is allegedly haunted, especially the Bullock Hotel where former Sheriff Seth Bullock set up shop after retiring from the law. His ghost is still believed to haunt the town and the hotel to this day. The Bullock Hotel and Deadwood are considered two of the most popular Ghost Hunting spots in the USA. Wild Bill Hickock was shot across the street in a saloon while playing cards and is buried in the cemetary there along with Bullock and some others. I took the notion a bit further and took the liberty of creating a show where a large handful of historical figures of The Wild West not only haunt the hotel but also play in a band front lined by Sheriff Bullock in the saloon on the property.
FM: Do you have a background as well in ghost hunting, and will you be bringing any ghosts to the show?
DL: No background in ghost hunting … I just like creating music with a group of multi-generational musicians and playing Wild West Dress Up! We do indeed plan to call forth the ghosts of the town, not just the ones that reside in the hotel. The audience might possibly be haunted a bit as well.
FM: How do you plan to recreate the Wild West on your Fringe stage?
DL: Well .. that’s a bit of a surprise …
FM: Give us an idea of the music in this show, and what we can expect from the musical bandits.
DL: In this version of the show, we channel the musical talents of many artists: The Doors, The Black Keys, Steely Dan, Ray Charles, Allison Kraus, Dave Matthews, and even Taylor Swift, to name a few.
Where Can I Saddle Up For This Show?
The show dates are:
- Wednesday May 17 at 9 p.m.
- Thursday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m.
- Saturday May 20 at 9 p.m.
- Sunday May 21 at 9 p.m.
- Thursday May 25 at 6:30 p.m.
- Saturday May 27 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday May 28 at 9 p.m.
Paul Castaneda is an Orlando actor, stage director, playwright and sales professional, and the co-founder of the Greater Orlando Actors Theatre (GOAT).