(July 2014) Ms. Karen & I had wanted to attend a performance at the Gaslight Theatre for years. Two challenges prevented us going any sooner. First, our day starts at 4am. A 7pm performance is just a little late for us. Second, we live in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains. As “Western Tucsonans” we take the chance of getting a nosebleed if we accidentally wander east of Campbell.
However, when we discovered that the Gaslight offers a Sunday 3pm matinee, we decided to risk the nosebleed. We set out from home early so we could dine before the show at Little Anthony’s Diner, the restaurant attached to the theatre.
Little Anthony’s Diner
Walking into the Diner, we were immediately reminded of Ruby’s Diner at Newport Beach, CA where we lived for many years. Little Anthony’s is a true 1950’s diner, unless you consider that not even the parents of the sprightly young waitresses in their short red pinstripe outfits were born until long after the ‘50’s had become ancient history. Read More
Little Anthony’s Diner is the place we elders should bring our grandchildren and great-grandchildren so they can experience the world we knew at the Dawn of the Age of Rock ‘n Roll. Just the music from the jukebox was pure nostalgia.
Having been seated, Tara introduced herself and said she would be our server. And a good one she was too. In part because I was still working on our List of the 10 Best Pizza Places In Tucson, and in part because Tara mentioned that Little Anthony’s pizza was named Best Pizza by the Arizona Daily Star, I ordered my typical small pizza; half pepperoni, half sausage & black olive. Ms, Karen ordered a Caesar Salad.
Was the Star right? Is this the best pizza Tucson has to offer? No. My pizza was OK. Ms. Karen declared her Caesar OK as well. I suspect that when we return, and we will, we will do better if we order burgers, fries, and a shake or ice cream Sundae. We noticed that many of the other diners had ordered off the burger and milkshake side of the menu and all seemed to have the happy expression of sublime satisfaction.
Afterward, we didn’t have to go far to pick up our tickets at “Will Call”. The ticket window is just down the hallway that connects Little Anthony’s Diner with the Gaslight Theatre.
Theater seating is up to 4 chairs at small individual tables. A container of popcorn and a menu was already on our table when we were seated. Theater-goers can order off the menu, which is basically an abbreviated version of Little Anthony’s menu. All around us, people were ordering burgers, fries, hot fudge Sundaes, and pizza. Service was remarkably efficient.
Ms. Karen and I ordered a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio from Northern California, the driest white wine they offered. Not bad. It served its purpose, which was to lubricate Ms. Karen’s funny bone.
We were here to see the Gaslight Theatre’s summer production, Ghostblasters, an over-the-top spoof of the 1984 blockbuster, Ghostbusters, staring Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray.
Peter Van Slyke wrote the script and directed; Katherine Byrnes was in charge of choreography; and Tom Benson created the stage design.
All roles are double-cast, but in the performance we attended Mike Yarema was Zach and Jake Chapman was Wally, the quirky scientists, professional ectoplasm destroyers, and ultimate heroes. Their quest is to save Metropolitan City from an infestation of mildly-threatening apparitions, such as Slobber and a maniacal, power-hungry Mayor Witherspoon supported by her fawning assistant who becomes the raving BeagleGoose (yes, they even get in a song & dance from that great 1988 movie, Beatlejuice, starring Michael Keaton. (Remember Day-Oh?). Eventually, the two “scientists” are joined by fearless secretary Susie (Tarreyn Van Slyke), who does as much to conquer the ghosts and the audience as anyone on stage.
In short, Ghostblasters is a hoot! A lighthearted fun afternoon or evening of comedic melodrama suitable for the whole family, Ghostblasters was made especially enjoyable by extraordinarily talented, high-energy performers who can really sing & dance. All seemed to be having as much fun on stage as their appreciative audience.
We were totally impressed with the precision and professionalism of cast & crew. This production is very fast-paced, so everything … acting, dancing, music, scenery, etc. … had to be synchronized down to the split second.
Yet, there was sufficient elasticity for the cast to occasionally drop out of the routine for the briefest of moments and improvise. Such moments I distinctly recall. In the first row was a woman who had to be in her 80’s, and probably a widow, celebrating a birthday with several lady friends.
On more than one occasion, a male cast member would sing or otherwise interact with her directly. She beamed and giggled like the 8-year-old girl she once was. It was the cast's finest moments.
For the Gaslight’s after-the-show Olio, a Regis Philbin-like character (Joe Cooper) hosted a zany round of “You’ve Got Talent”.
Rather than the 4 self-important judges on the TV version of America’s Got Talent, the Gaslight audience gets to cheer or boo to decide the winner. When the audience overwhelmingly boo’s an act, the host hits a buzzer to light up a huge red X. Three X’s and the act is booted off stage.
Various cast members dressed in outrageous costumes performed lively past hits such as “Do The Conga”. Of course, most of these uproarious acts got boo’ed off the stage before they could finish their song & dance. And everyone in the audience seemed to enjoy being theater critics for a day.
The accompanying band consisted of a boogie woogie piano player, a bass guitarist, and a drummer. They were superb! As to the sets and special effects, I’ll just say that the folks in charge of stagecraft at the Gaslight do a lot with very little.
The man behind the Gaslight Theatre and Little Anthony’s Diner is its president, Tony Terry. He and his troupes have been entertaining Tucsonans for 36 years. Ms. Karen & I met Tony backstage after the show. Tony, who attended UofA, is a little fellow with a big heart, an overactive imagination, and a passion to entertain. We truly enjoyed the time he spent with us talking about the history of his theatre company and how much goes into producing the shows.
I asked Tony if all the shows were sold out like the one we had just attended. “Pretty much,” he replied.
I proffered that perchance his ticket prices were too low and he should raise them. “No,” he said emphatically. “Ours is a family business and I want people to be able to afford to bring their whole family.” Family over profit! What a concept.
In fact, Gaslight ticket prices are amazingly affordable for a middle class family. And that’s how Tony intends to keep it.
In addition to the Diner and Theatre, the Gaslight has its own printing press on which it prints the Gaslight Gazette and a costume shop where you can rent theater-quality costumes for just about any occasion. On occasion, the Diner hosts a classic car show. And on some Monday nights there are concerts.
The Gaslight also offers a 3-week summer “Broadway Camp” to train and mentor about 35 aspiring high school age actors, singers, and dancers. Here they learn directing, choreography, set and costume design, and stage management skills as well as develop their own special talents. At the end of the camp, the troupe puts on a full musical.
Ghostblaster performances continue at various times Tuesdays through Sundays until Aug. 31. Click HERE to see the current season shows.
Tickets are $18.50 general admission; $16.50 students, seniors and military; $8.50 children 12 and under. Reservations recommended. For tickets and information, or visit
7010 E. Broadway, Tucson
For more interesting information about Nightlife and Performing Arts in and Around Tucson see our Performing Arts page.