Generally, when you try to combine science fiction, a Western, a spy thriller and a holiday classic, you get a complete mess. But in the hands of the Gaslight Theatre, you get their recently unveiled 2019 Season. Next year’s show calendar contains some long-awaited returns, as well as some shows brand new to the theatre.
Gaslight’s first show of 2019 is “The Belle of Tombstone,” running from Jan. 10 to March 31.
“Our first show of the year is always a Western,” said Gaslight cast member Heather Stricker-DeBenedetti.
The “Belle of Tombstone” is based on real-life events which took place in and around the Old Pueblo itself, with plenty of melodramatic flourishes and fun added in.
“A lot of people might say ‘Oh, I‘ve already seen a Western,’ but they’ve never seen one like this,” said Mike Yarema who currently plays the lead role in Gaslight’s production of “Gnatman.” “There’s a strong female lead and it’s localized right here in Arizona.”
The second Gaslight show of 2019 is “Back to the Past,” running from April 4 to June 2.
“We generally do anything fanciful for our second shows,” Stricker-DeBenedetti said. “They’re always fun, modern shows.”
“Back to the Past” is a time-travel show that jumps from the ’80s to the ’50s, with plenty of music from each decade. The show even includes a DeLorean that “flies.”
“Gaslight has a campy way of doing tech in our shows that still manages to be kind of cool,” Yarema said.
The 2019 summer show, generally a slot reserved for superhero shows, is filled by “Space Trek,” running from June 6 to August 25. This is a special show, one of the most audience-requested shows every year. The Gaslight Theatre has not performed “Space Trek” since 2000, before the recently trilogy of JJ Abrams Star Trek films, so they’ll have plenty of new material to reference.
“This is a unique show because not one person doing the show has done it before,” Stricker-DeBenedetti said. “‘Space Trek’ always has the most requests and hype. People just seem to remember it. It’s definitely one of the funniest shows we do.”
The fall show is “009: License to Thrill,” running from Aug. 29 to Nov. 10. Staff at the Gaslight Theatre pay close attention to pop culture to have their shows coincide with movie releases. So this spy thriller comes out right around the time a new James Bond movie is slated to release.
“‘License to Thrill’ almost has as much hype as ‘Space Trek,’” Stricker-DeBenedetti said.
Finally, for their holiday show, Gaslight is performing “The Secret Santa,” from Nov. 14 to Jan. 5. This is a recurring Christmas show, and a crowd favorite.
“It’s perfect for the big family gatherings we get that time of the year,” Stricker-DeBenedetti said. “It’s fun but also heart-warming, and makes a special atmosphere for family, especially for that time of the year.”
Tickets for the shows generally go on sale six months before opening night, and the holiday show is by far the most demanded. Gaslight estimates the Christmas season shows are 75 percent sold out by the end of the first week of sales.
These five productions are decided in an annual, multi-hour discussion aptly described as the “Big Yearly Production Meeting.”
“Everybody shows up and knows it’s going to take a couple hours,” Stricker-DeBenedetti said. “People bring books full of notes and lists of shows they want. And then everyone just starts discussing it.”
This year’s production meeting was so busy and fruitful that, for the first time, staff at the Gaslight Theatre even began to plan for the following year as well.
“It’s very cool,” Yarema said. “It’s probably the closest thing we have to a writer’s room.”
There are only four days between each Gaslight Theatre production, in a hectic time known as “Tech Week” that involves little to no sleep for the actors and producers. Costumes and backdrops are worked on up to a month before opening night, but it all comes together in those four days.
“As soon as the final show’s curtain is down, we’re working on the next show,” Stricker-DeBenedetti said. “And we’ll make changes up until the last second before opening night. It’s a bit of pressure working at this theatre, but after it’s worked out, our job is to play with our friends on stage, so I’d say it’s worth it.”
While the year is full of big-hitters and exciting new shows, Stricker-DeBenedetti says she’s looking most forward to Space Trek in 2019.
“It was the first show I saw after I got the offer to work here,” Stricker-DeBenedetti said. “I just remember that when I left the theatre, my sides hurt. I’ve been desperately wanting to perform it since I started.”
Head online to tucsonlocalmedia.com to read our review of ‘Gnatman.’