A long ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . we used to go to indoor concerts without thinking twice. For over a year, the folks at Tucson’s Gaslight Theater and Oro Valley’s Gaslight Music Hall have been eager to come back inside, and this month they finally did.
The Gaslight Theater closed its indoor shows on March 16, 2020, initially planning to only close until April 16 – but we all know how that turned out. Instead of waiting to return to indoor shows, they took care of a ‘best of’ series of outdoor shows throughout the summer, which featured many of their classic musical numbers, as well as their own. distinctive costumes and wacky humor.
The Gaslight Theater finally kicked off its 2021-22 season on June 10 with Space Wars, a musical parody of Star Wars. The comedy show mixes elements from new and old Star Wars movies, featuring characters like Duke Starfighter, Princess Layla, and Dark Visor.
“We chose Space Wars as our comeback because it’s one of our most amazing tech shows,” said Heather Stricker, General Manager of Gaslight Theater and Gaslight Music Hall. “There is so much to watch: the costumes are amazing and the music is awesome. But on top of all that, it’s hilarious. And it’s not just funny for Star Wars fans, it’s funny for little kids and adults who have never seen Star Wars. This is just one of those shows where no matter where you are from or how old you are, there is something for everyone.
The two-hour show features lasers, spaceships, outrageous costumes, and plenty of popular songs reworked with sci-fi lyrics. Gags include light effects mimicking the warp speed of a spaceship, robots roaming the stage, arms severed by a lightsaber, and more. As with any Gaslight show, there are plenty of hilarious lines in it, but even funnier than the scripted jokes, the actors try to make each other laugh and improvise around technical difficulties.
“I think our nerves are bigger than before, just because we haven’t done it for a while. But other than that it’s like coming home because it’s our second family, ”Stricker said. “Just being back in our theater is special. We have also made some changes in the future. We are a very stereotypical theater. We’ve been doing similar things for the past 43 years, so with a shutdown for over a year, we realized now was the time to make much-needed improvements and progression.
These changes include the show featuring four opening actresses instead of the usual three, and it also includes a swapped gender character; Dark Visor (played by Stricker) is a female for the first time.
Gaslight’s shows are generally uplifting with their mix of live music and humor, but it’s even truer, with the audience screaming and singing, clearly excited to be back on stage.
“We were really scared to put these shows up for sale and nothing would happen. But it was exactly the opposite, ”Stricker said. “People are dying to come back. All of our social media posts have comment after comments from people saying they can’t wait, and that’s exactly what people need after such a long year: laugh.
Shows sell out quickly, so much so that the Gaslight even added another show per week starting in July to keep up with demand.
After Space Wars ends in late August, the Gaslight will move on to its Frankenstein Halloween Show, which runs through November. Frankenstein will feature the return of a “Gaslight favorite” who currently lives in New York City, David Fanning, who will make the entire series unlined, so every Tucson fan will have the opportunity to see him. And after Frankenstein, the Gaslight Theater will move on to its Christmas show, “Elf’d”.
For now, all of their shows are indoors. However, the Gaslight Theater and Musical Hall still have the infrastructure and stages for their outdoor performances, which they could use for future musical events.
Both sites are currently operating at 60% of their capacity. Staff will be masked and strongly recommend that guests be masked when not eating, but masks are not required. They don’t know when they will return to 100% of their capacity.
“We’re just going back and making sure everyone is comfortable. We are allowed to do 100% capacity, nothing is legally holding us back, we just want our customers and staff to feel safe, ”Stricker said.
The Oro Valley Gaslight Music Hall returned to fully indoor performances the week of June 1. Unlike the Gaslight Theater, the Music Hall offers more one-off shows ranging from acts of homage to local bands.
Upcoming shows include country group Backroads covering the music of several big names across the country on Friday, June 25; El Mariachi Tapatio de Tucson celebrating Mexican history with a patriotic bloom of traditional songs on Sunday, June 27; a tribute to America with Armen Dirtadian and The Manhattan Dolls on Sunday July 4; and a rock and roll dance party on Friday July 16.
“Kudos to our owner Tony Terry, who opened this theater over 40 years ago. He’s the one who got us through the pandemic on his own, ”Stricker said. “For a for-profit theater like ours, we had almost no financial support until the end. And we almost didn’t make it, if I’m being honest. Many thanks to Tony, and we are very happy to be back.
Gaslight Theater and Gaslight Music Hall
The Gaslight Theater is located at 7010 E. Broadway Blvd. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit thegaslighttheater.com.
The Gaslight Music Hall is located at 13005 N. Oracle Road # 165, for more information and to purchase tickets, visit gaslightmusichall.com.