"Gold Dust or Bust" Musical Play by Bad Wolf Press
    • 30-minute musical play for grades 2-6
    • Includes the script, teacher's guide, and audio recording (which contains a vocal and instrumental version of each song)
    • Simple to do - 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.

    Please scroll down to read the script, listen to the songs, read reviews, and get all the details about the play (plot, curriculum/content, educational standards, and vocabulary).

    Item # Description Availability Qty Break Price Quantity
    PLAY - For individual teachers or directors
    Order 1 copy of play for each teacher/director who will be using it. Includes permission to print/photocopy for all participating actors. Mix and match 2 or more plays to get them for $35 each.
    Downloadable Version of Play
    - You will receive a PDF and MP3 files
    Download 1
    Printed Version of Play
    - You will receive a Spiral-Bound Book and Audio CD
    In Stock 1
    Duo Version - Download AND Printed Book
    - You will receive 1) a PDF and MP3 files, and 2) a Spiral-Bound Book and Audio CD
    In Stock 1
    SITE LICENSE VERSION OF PLAY - For whole schools or grade levels
    Order 1 site license per school/site. Includes permission to print/photocopy for all participating students AND teachers. Why a site license? Because it's cheaper than ordering 3+ individual copies of the play.
    Downloadable Version of Site License
    - You will receive a PDF and MP3 files
    Download 1 $90.00
    Printed Version of Site License
    - You will receive 3 copies of the Spiral-Bound Book and Audio CD
    In Stock 1 $90.00
    Extra/Replacement Audio Recordings
    Downloadable Audio Files
    - You will receive a ZIP file containing individual MP3s
    Download 1 $12.00
    Audio CD
    In Stock 1 - 9
    Downloadable Audio Files (MP3) + Audio CD
    In Stock 1 $20.00
    Sheet Music
    Downloadable Sheet Music (PDF)
    Download 1 $12.00
    Printed Sheet Music
    In Stock 1 $8.00
    Downloadable Sheet Music (PDF) + Printed Sheet Music
    In Stock 1 $16.00


    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!

    Publication Information

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

    Song Samples

    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)


    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

    HALF OF CLASS (sings)
    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!

    SUTTER :
    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.

    SUTTER, MARSHALL, and SIX OTHERS (quietly):
    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.)

    Overall Customer Rating:
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    Customer Reviews: 9


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    Fun way to teach history!

    My students LOVE the music and I love that they learn so much about the Gold Rush! Such a fun way to learn history and improve reading fluency!


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    Gold Dust or Bust!

    We performed our play in a small extra classroom - due to Covid restrictions - and the CD was very helpful. I was able to play it in our small portable boom box. Perfect!


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    Gold Dust or Bust!

    We had a BLAST with this play. Everything about it was wonderful. I especially appreciate how the play plot and dialogue led to great discussion and side research. The costuming was super simple and I was able to score easy props from thrift stores and Amazon. We found youtube productions from other similar sized classed helpful too. The play fit perfectly with our study of the Gold Rush in Social Studies. The songs are catchy and fun to sing. LOVE THIS PLAY and look forward to performing it every year. Thank you!!!!


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    • Not a lot of main roles
    Students love it

    The students absolutely love the play. They were skeptical at first of the idea of doing a musical, but they have found their niche.

    No. California

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    • Great music
    • Funny lines
    • Good gold rush content
    • "less" speaking parts
    So Much Fun - For All!

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    San Diego

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    Gold Dust or Bust

    My kids look forward to performing the "Gold Dust" musical play each year! The kids in third grade watch with special interest as do the 5th grade (who have already presented it)! The entire student body enjoys the production! I enjoy the kids singing spontaneously during lunch and recess. The past two years I have kids memorize their parts. (on their own) A few kids each year really enjoy being on the stage crew. There is always a part for someone!

    New York

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    Wonderful play

    Wonderful play. We are putting on our production in one week! The students love the music and the comic relief. Thank you!

    Janesville, CA

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    • Easy to direct students
    • Catchy songs
    • Humor added to the play
    • multiple parts/groups
    • not too long
    • none!!
    Great way to finish our Unit!

    My fourth grade class did this play to finish off our unit on the Gold Rush. The songs are easy for the kids to remember and are catchy tunes. The way the play is set up made for easy grouping of students which made life sooo easy for me!

    I had some kids want to do just one part or song, and others wanted to be in as many as they could. The kids loved performing the play for other classes (our "dry run" before performing for families.) The parents loved the play, too!

    I'm shopping for something new this year, since I alternate grades each year (3rd and 4th) and don't want to do the same play each year.


    review-star review-star review-star review-star review-star

    • fun
    • music
    • great for 4th grade
    Great play!

    My students are enjoying learning about the California Gold Rush through the fun songs in the play!

    Additional Comments and Reviews:

    "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

    Common Core and Other National Standards

    History/Social Studies

    Language Arts

    National Core Arts Standards


    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

    Number of questions: 1
    Questions About "Musical Play: "Gold Dust or Bust""
    Q: Are scripts available in spanish?
    May 26, 2021 3:42 PM
    A: Unfortunately, no. We have one Spanish/English bilingual play, "Martina y Pérez: A Bilingual Tale," available here: https://badwolfpress.com/martina

    Frequently Asked Questions About Bad Wolf Products and Licensing

    How does your pricing and licensing work?

    A: In short: each teacher/director using the play should have a copy of it. That's it! Your purchase gives you the right to use the play with as many classes as you wish, to photocopy the script for your actors, and to put on as many performances as you wish. This one-time purchase gives you a lifetime license. See below for more information on site licenses (for 3+ teachers or whole schools).

    Q: What comes in the package?

    A: Every musical play comes with the script and a 12-page Teacher's Guide that provides lots of tips and advice for using the play from start to finish. It also includes the audio recording for the play, which has all the songs both WITH and WITHOUT vocals. Sheet music is NOT included with the basic package, but it is available for $12. Extra/replacement CDs are also available for $12.

    Every non-musical play comes with the script and the 12-page Teacher's Guide.

    Q: I'm just one teacher putting on a play. If I use the play with multiple classes, do I have to purchase multiple licenses?

    A: No! Your purchase gives you a lifetime license to be used with as many actors and classes as you wish. If other teachers/directors wish to use the play as well, they will need to purchase their own licenses.

    Q: Do I need to purchase scripts for students?

    A: No! Your purchase includes permission to photocopy the script for your actors.

    Q: What is a "site license"? How do I know if I need one?

    A site license is the economical choice when a whole school or grade level wants to put on the same play. Instead of each teacher/director having to purchase a script, the school/site can purchase a site license. This comes with three copies of the play (or one digital download) and permission to make copies for any additional participating teachers, as well as all the actors. You do NOT need to purchase both a site license and individual copies of the play; just buy one or the other.

    Q: I understand that I can get two or more scripts for $35 each. Do they have to be the same play?

    Nope! The discount applies whether you are purchasing multiple copies of the same show or single copies of multiple shows.

    Q: What is the difference between the printed and digital versions? Which one should I get?

    There is no difference in terms of content. The printed version of a musical play comes with an audio CD in a plastic sleeve in the back of the book. The digital version comes with two downloadable files: the script (PDF format) and the songs (individual MP3 files compressed in ZIP format). The advantage of the digital version is that you will not pay shipping and you can start using it instantly. Please read the question following this one about the technical requirements for digital files.

    Non-musical plays are available in the form of a printed book or a PDF file.

    Q: What are the technical requirements for the digital version?

    1. You will need to have Adobe Reader (free) or another software application that can open PDF files.
    2. You will need to be able to open ZIP files. The vast majority of computers should be able to do this without difficulty. If you wish to download the music directly to your phone or tablet, you will need to download an app that will open ZIP files. Many free ones are available.
    3. You will need to have some kind of audio player (such as iTunes or Windows Media Player) that will play MP3 files.

    Advanced technical knowledge is not required; but please note that we do not have the ability to offer technical support for issues related to digital files. If you are unsure, it is probably best to stick with the printed version.

    Q: What is your return/exchange policy?

    A: Bad Wolf proudly offers a 100% guarantee. You can always exchange a product for another or get a full refund. No time limits, no questions.

    Q: Is it OK if I edit the script?

    A: Yes! Consider the play to be a jumping-off point. You are always welcome to change or omit anything that doesn't work for your class, administration, or parents. You are welcome to rewrite lyrics, lines, or jokes -- or add your own! (The kids love doing this, by the way.)

    Q: How long does shipping take?

    A: We say that you should allow for one week within the U.S., but most orders are shipped the same day and arrive 1-3 days later. International orders usually take around two weeks to arrive.

    Q: Do I need to pay any performance royalties?

    A: As long as your admission price is less than $5 per ticket, you never need to pay performance royalties with a Bad Wolf show. If you decide to charge more than $5 a ticket, or if you are using one of our plays for a PAID workshop, camp, assembly, etc., pay only a low 1-2% royalty on gross revenues. See our royalty page to view the rates and pay.