A a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… we used to attend 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 get back inside, and this month they finally did.
The Gaslight Theater closed its indoor shows on March 16, 2020, originally planning to only close until April 16 – but we all know how that turned out. Instead of waiting to return to indoor shows, they busied themselves with a series of “best of” outdoor shows throughout the summer, which featured many of their classic musical numbers, as well as their iconic costumes and their wacky humour.
The Gaslight Theater finally kicked off its 2021/22 season on Thursday, June 10 with Space Wars, a musical parody of Star Wars. The comedy show mixes elements from new and old Star Wars films, featuring characters like Duke Starfighter, Princess Layla and Dark Visor.
“We chose Space Wars as our return because it’s one of our most amazing tech shows,” said Heather Stricker, General Manager of the Gaslight Theater and Gaslight Music Hall. “There’s so much to see: the costumes are amazing and the music is great. 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. It’s just one of those shows that no matter your background or age, there’s something for everyone.
The two-hour show features lasers, spaceships, outrageous costumes and many reworked popular songs with sci-fi lyrics. Gags include light effects that replicate the warp speed of a spaceship, robots moving around the stage, arms severed by a lightsaber and more. As with any Gaslight show, there are plenty of hilarious one-liners, but even funnier than the scripted jokes is seeing the cast 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 in 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’ve also made some changes going forward. We’re a very stereotypical theatre. We’ve been doing similar things for 43 years, so with our closure for over one year, we realized it was time for much needed improvement and progression.
These changes include the show featuring four opening actresses instead of the usual three, and it also includes a gender-swapped character; Dark Visor (played by Stricker) is female for the first time.
Gaslight shows are usually uplifting with their mix of live music and humor, but even more so, with the audience shouting and singing, clearly excited to be back in front of the stage.
“We were really scared to put these shows on sale and nothing would happen. But it’s the exact opposite,” Stricker said. “People are dying to come back. All of our social media posts have comment after comment from people saying they can’t wait, and that’s exactly what people need after such a long year: laughter.
Shows sell out quickly, so much so that the Gaslight has even added another show a week starting in July to keep up with demand.
After Space Wars wraps up in late August, the Gaslight will move on to its Frankenstein Halloween show, which will run until November. Frankenstein will feature the return of a “Gaslight favorite” currently living in New York, David Fanning, who will do the entire series without a stunt double, so all Tucson fans will get a chance 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 shows, which they could use for future musical events.
Both sites are currently operating at 60% capacity. Staff will be masked and customers are strongly recommended to be masked when not eating, but masks are not required. They don’t know when they will return to 100% capacity.
“We’re making great strides and making sure everyone feels comfortable. We are allowed to do 100% of our capacity, nothing holds us back legally, we just want our customers and staff to feel safe,” Stricker said.
The Gaslight Music Hall in Oro Valley returned to fully indoor performances the week of June 1. Unlike the Gaslight Theater, the Music Hall has more one-off shows ranging from tribute acts to local bands.
Upcoming shows include country band Backroads covering music from several country big names on Friday, June 25; Tucson’s El Mariachi Tapatio celebrating Mexican history with a patriotic fanfare 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.
“A real thank you to our owner Tony Terry, who opened this theater over 40 years ago. He was the one who single-handedly got us through the pandemic,” Stricker said. “For a for-profit theater like ours, we had almost no financial support until the end. And we almost didn’t succeed, if I’m honest. Many thanks to Tony, and we are delighted 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 thegaslighttheatre.com.
The Gaslight Music Hall is located at 13005 N. Oracle Road #165, for more information and to purchase tickets, visit gaslightmusichall.com.