Once upon a time, the curtain opened in a vintage theater in a vintage town, revealing another curtain, shining with half-inch strips of gleam.

From behind that cheesy, satin-shiny curtain emerged a quartet of cowboys who seemed embarrassed to be there. They were backing the Title Singer, who was clad in a red, strapless gown that had seen better days. She sang the saga of Johnny Guitar and set the stage for the story of the Wild West hero that was about to unfold on the tiny Masquers Playhouse stage in Point Richmond.

If it sounds like a show from olden times, it's not. In fact, "Johnny Guitar, the Musical" is playing at Masquers right now, and through April 26. The mockumentary-style show is based on the unintentionally hilarious 1955 Western angst-fest "Johnny Guitar," starring Joan Crawford. The movie and the musical tell the tale of a love triangle or two, a land-grab, the railroad moving into cattle country, and just about every other theme that pervaded TV and big-screen Westerns in the mid-1950s.

"Johnny Guitar" joins the growing ranks of all-for-laughs satirical plays and musicals, many based on films and TV shows, including "Evil Dead: The Musical," "The 39 Steps" "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (currently in production at TheatreWorks in San Jose), "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" and Molly Bell's new spoof, "The Real Housewives of Walnut Creek: The Musical," opening April 17 at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in (where else?) Walnut Creek.

"Johnny Guitar" follows the 1950s film's silly storyline straight-faced but played for laughs. And Masquers succeeds wonderfully at spinning the zany yarn that begins in Vienna's (Shay Oglesby-Smith) New Mexico saloon in the late 19th century.

It appears it's going to be a quiet night at Vienna's saloon, when Johnny Guitar (Craig Eychner) saunters through the swinging doors, showing up for what he claims to be a musical performance there. Johnny is armed only with his six-string, which bears his name.

Then, The Dancing Kid (Peter Budinger) turns up, does a few steps, and proceeds to give Johnny the stink-eye. Turns out both men have a serious history with Vienna and still carry a torch for the saloon owner. The rivalry is on.

Things get uglier when villainess Emma (Michelle Pond), Vienna's longtime rival, turns up with her posse (Mark Enea, Coley Grundman, Chaz Simonds and J. Scott Stewart). Then McIvers (DC Scarpelli), a long-white-haired man in black shows up and announces, among other things, that the bar will soon be closed down and that there will be changes made in town, most of which will be unpleasant for Vienna and her side.

Even if you've seen only one Western in your life (and probably even if you haven't), you know where this train is headed -- to a confrontation that will resolve these issues in a hail of bullets.

No, it's not a particularly Ibsen-esque story, nor something one might turn to for literary nuance. It's there for laughs, and the cast, directed nicely by Robert Love, plays it delightfully for all it's worth, even when they're not letting on they're in on the jokes.

Tunes in the musical are a pleasant blend of doo-wop and cowboy Western, with some nice harmonies and funny lyrics. None, probably, will become a standard, but they help drive the show with the aid of the small orchestra directed by Pat King, who is also the pianist.

The sets, designed by Love, establish a handsome background.

Contact Pat Craig at pjcraig495@yahoo.com.

'JOHNNY GUITAR,
THE MUSICAL'
By Nicholas van
Hoogstraten, Joel Higgins and Martin Silvestri,
presented by Masquers Playhouse.
Where: Masquers
Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Point Richmond.
Through: April 26
Running time: 1 hour,
45 minutes
Tickets: $22, 510-232-4031, www.masquers.org