Gold Dust or Bust

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Gold Dust or Bust

An Easy-to-Use California History Play for Elementary and Middle School

Grades 2-6
20 minutes
(2 or more Book/CD sets @ $30 each)

In Stock.

Includes script, teacher's guide, and audio CD. The CD has all the songs recorded twice: first with singing, so you and your students can learn the songs, and then without voices so your students can perform without us singing along.

And if you ever have any trouble or questions, you can contact us at any time for help.


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For individual teachers/classes:
Book/CD - $39.95 for 1, $30/ea for 2+
Hint: order 1 for each teacher. (details)

For 3+ teachers or whole schools:
Site License - $75.00
Comes with 3 copies of book/CD plus unlimited photocopying rights (details)
School/site name:

Musical extras:
Piano/Guitar Score - $9.95 (details)
Extra/Replacement CD - $9.95

Or order by phone, fax or PO

This 30-minute musical play can be done as a complete play, skits, reader's theater, or you can just sing songs. No music or drama experience needed!

Our musical review of the Gold Rush presents the highlights of the great stampede of 49ers to the California goldfields. From Sutter's Mill to Mad Mule Gulch, Sacramento to Fiddletown, the land's gone nuts with Gold Fever. Guiding us on our tour is the remarkable Luzena Wilson---wife, professional cook, innkeeper, commodities gambler, banker, and founder of a city. So whether you set your wagon on the Overland Trail, sail across Cape Horn, or wade across the swamps of Panama, get yourself to the mother lode, where tents turn into jeans, a dozen eggs cost ten dollars, and the mud's so deep the cows disappear.

Gold Dust or Bust is a great complement to your curriculum resources in elementary and middle school history. And, like all of our plays, this show can be used to improve reading, vocabulary, reading comprehension, performance and music skills, class camaraderie and teamwork, and numerous social skills (read about it!) -- all while enabling students to be part of a truly fun and creative experience they will never forget!

Author: Ron Fink (Composer) and John Heath (Book and Lyrics)
ISBN: 978-1-886588-11-0
© 1998 Bad Wolf Press, LLC

"Gold Dust or Bust cemented the gold rush for my class - it's forever with them now! Next school year I'm moving to a 5/6 grade class and can't wait to do another Bad Wolf Press musical. In fact, I've already had several teachers and parents asking me where I got this play. It was fabulous - the kids were superb, the music was wonderful and the parents loved it. Many, many thanks for a great and easy production. Keep writing and composing!"

---Wendy Buchanan, Teacher, (3rd-4th grade), Vinewood School, Lodi, CA

"We loved the music---catchy tunes and lyrics with a cute, funny narrative. Students learned their history via the songs. Very enjoyable! The show brings the curriculum alive, encouraging cooperation as well as other life skills. It gives the students a real sense of pride."

---Sheree Stenberg, Teacher (4th grade), Waldo Rohnert School, Rohnert Park, CA

"The recorded music is outstanding---the students loved it. The plays are great for critical thinking. They build confidence, reading and language skills, and develop a community of learners working together. I want to order all the plays!"

---Paige Powell, Bathgate Elementary, Mission Viejo, CA

"The kids love it. There is a lot of content embedded in the songs. I wasn't going to do it this year, but one of my colleagues really wanted his kids to see it so he convinced me to do it."

---Vivian Chen, Teacher (4th grade) Multnomah Elementary, Los Angeles, CA

"My students learned state standards while singing, dancing, and having a marvelous time. The musical allows students to have a positive experience while learning facts, as well as making lasting memories with friends."

---Michelle Skidmore, Teacher (4th/5th grades) Ladera Ranch Elementary, Ladera Ranch, CA

"Gold Dust or Bust sticks to the curriculum extremely well. People go away with the songs stuck in their heads! The humor is the clincher. Makes me want to do your plays year after year!

"I think the play helps tremendously with the retention of information. The kids can connect the concepts (standards) easily with the songs, movements, dialogue, and of course, the rehearsals! It also was a great way to get the parents to come to our school (community involvement). Our principal was impressed that we had a full house on the day of the play, and we were only the 4th grade putting this on! Also, when we put this play on during the last days of the school year, testing is over, we are more relaxed, and the other classes get to come and see a play! These are few and far between, now that there are budget cuts. No one can afford the 'professionals'. What a self-esteem booster for the 4th graders putting on the play!"

---Leslie Macek, Teacher (4th grade), Spinelli Elementary, Antelope, CA

"Fun humor and super songs. This is a terrific first play (easy to stage)."

---Kathy Wilbur, Teacher (4th grade), Prairie Elementary, Sacramento, CA

"After the play we studied textbooks of the Gold Rush and were able to make connections to characters from the play versus characters of the 49'ers Day. It brought a deeper understanding of the hardships."

---Christina Carmelich, Teacher (4th grade), Cloverland Elementary, Oakdale, CA

"The play is filled with fun that's accessible."

---Nancy Rogers, Teacher (4th grade), Jordan Elementary, Whittier, CA

"Awesome play! My fourth graders loved doing this play and they learned so much more than they could from any social studies text. I even convinced the other two fourth grade teachers to do the play in their classrooms, too. Thank you!"

---Colleen Myers, Teacher (4th grade), Las Flores Elementary, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA


Flexible casting from 11-40 students.
Use as many Overlanders, Argonauts, Merchants, etc. as desired; one student
can also play more than one role. Note that roles are not gender-specific: Sam
can easily be played by a girl, for example; see our comments on page 30 of
the Teacher's Guide .


This is the first one-third of the script:

Luzena Wilson
John Sutter
James Marshall
Gold Fever Singers
Pan Miners
Carnival Barker
Johnny the Announcer
City Miners
and a Chorus made up of all students who are not playing roles at the time.

(The CLASS enters from either side, or is already on stage in two groups. During several
short instrumental breaks in the song, the STUDENTS put together a giant map of California
on the back wall of the stage. The map has San Francisco and Sacramento labeled, as well
as the Gold Rush country outlined.)

Song 1

Sleepy northern California
In 1848
We've got ranchos and steers
Just a few pioneers
And tons of real estate.

Sleepy northern California
In 1848
There's no smog in the air
We've got grizzly bears
And we're not yet a state.

But grab your picks and shovels, friends
It's all gonna change real soon
Gold dust or bust
Gold dust or bust
Start singing a different tune.

Abandoned ships will fill the bay
They'll bob and float around
You can't keep the crews
When they hear the news that gold's been found.

Eggs will cost three dollars each
You'll live in just a shack
It's too much for some
But most who will come aren't going back.
So grab your picks and shovels, friends
It's all gonna change real soon
Gold dust or bust
Gold dust or bust
Start singing a different tune.
Gold dust or bust
Gold dust or bust
Gold dust or bust
Gold dust or bust.

(CLASS exits. LUZENA and BECKY step forward)

LUZENA (to audience): Hello. My name is Luzena Wilson. I was one of the first women to
come to California during the gold rush. This is my friend Becky, and we'll be your guides today.

BECKY: You're in luck. It's January 24th, 1848, and we're near Sacramento at a new saw
mill owned by John Sutter. Luzena, you know what happened here on this fateful day?

LUZENA: I sure do.

BECKY: It's the day I discovered gold and started the gold rush. I was fishing for trout and
accidentally hooked a gold nugget the size of a Land Rover. The rest is history.

LUZENA: Becky, let's not start that again. (to audience)
Becky tends to lie a little bit.

BECKY: I remember it like it was yesterday. That nugget was putting up a heck of a fight.
I was using ten pound line and a peanut butter sandwich for bait when...

LUZENA (interrupting): Becky! We're here to watch a man named James Marshal discover
gold on land owned by John Sutter. Here they are.

(THEY step aside as MARSHALL rushes on stage from one side, racing up to SUTTER
who enters from the other.)

MARSHALL: Captain Sutter, Captain Sutter, I found gold near your saw mill.

SUTTER: Are you sure?

MARSHALL: Absolutely! I had it tested. You've got gold on your land. Gold! Gold!

SUTTER: Quiet down, Marshall. We need to keep this just between me and you. (sings)

Song 2 - Listen now!

It's our little secret
It's just between us
Our little secret
Let's not make a fuss.

Our little secret
We won't tell a soul
(THEY sing the last three words loudly)
Nobody needs to find out we found gold.

It's our little secret
We'll just tell our friends
Maybe a cousin
But that's where it ends.

Our little secret
We don't have a doubt
No way our secret can ever get out.

We found gold
We found gold
We found gold
But it's a secret.

It's our little secret
So don't talk too loud
If we are careful
We won't draw a crowd.

ENTIRE CLASS (as many as possible crowding on stage):

Our little secret
No one here will cheat
We all are masters of being discreet.

We found gold We found gold

We found gold We found gold

We found gold We found gold

But it's a secret
a secret
a secret
a secret...

It's our little secret
It's just between us
Our little secret
Let's not make a fuss.

Our little secret
We won't tell a soul
Nobody needs to find out we found gold.

(SUTTER and MARSHALL join class in exiting. LUZENA and BECKY enter)

LUZENA: Of course, the "secret" was soon out. In December of 1848, President
ames Polk announced to the entire nation that huge amounts of gold had been found
in northern California.

BECKY: President Polk was a great man. He invented television, and so a grateful
nation named their favorite card game, poker, in his honor.

LUZENA: Becky, stop it. None of that is true. However, the entire nation did catch
gold fever. From New England to New Orleans, people dreamed of getting rich in California.

(THEY exit, as GOLD FEVER SINGERS appear)

Song 3 - Listen now!

Gold fever
All over the place
Gold fever
A terrible case
Oh gold fever
It's deep in my chest
Gold fever
We've gotta go West.

I dream of golden nuggets (Do-be-do-bah)
Gold dust in golden buckets (Do-be-do-bah)
This bug is so outrageous (Do-be-do-bah)
It's terribly contagious
Do-be-deh-do-bah, la la la la.

Gold fever
All over the place
Gold fever
A terrible case
Oh gold fever
It's deep in my chest
Gold fever
We've gotta go West.

(This concludes the first one-third of the script.)

Sample Songs

Click on the song name to hear samples. Please note that internet song samples have low fidelity and rest assured that the CDs we sell sound much better! (This player requires Flash. If you have any trouble hearing the samples, just contact us for help.)

Full Song List

1. "Gold Dust or Bust" (opening)
2. "Our Little Secret"
3. "Gold Fever"
4. "The Overland Trail"
5. "We’re Argonauts"
6. "Just One Pan Away"
7. "We are the Children of Miners"
8. "We’re Merchants"
9. "The Winter-time Blues"
10. "Gold Dust or Bust"(ending)

Common Core and Other National Standards

History/Social Studies

Language Arts

Fine Arts

  • National Music Standards 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8 for K-4th, Standard 1 for 5th-8th
  • National Theater Standards 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8 for K-4th, Standards 2 and 6 for 5th-8th
  • National Dance Standards 1 and 2 for K-4th


King Midas
golden fleece
El Dorado
Mother Lode
peter out

Historical Terms
saw mill
James Polk
Overland Trail Sierras
mining camp
Native American California
hydraulic mining
Sam Clemens
Ernest Hemingway