Gnatman

Jake Chapman, left, and Michael Yarema in "Gnatman" at The Gaslight Theatre. 

Some things about The Gaslight Theatre never seem to change, and that’s a good thing. But something seems to be in the water backstage at Tucson’s goofy Broadway—because the shows just keep getting better.

At least, that’s what my 12-year-old brother told me after he and I recently ate our weight in complimentary popcorn during a recent performance of the theatre’s current show, “Gnatman.”

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe era, it only seems appropriate that The Gaslight would run one of its popular classics this summer (but I’ll leave that up to speculation). Either way, in short, “Gnatman” continues in the long tradition of reimagining popular stories and tropes with a uniquely goofy twist. 

This time around, think Adam West’s Batman with a mix of that Gaslight Charm. Without giving away anything, here’s a quick breakdown of “Gnatman:”

The sprawling metropolis of Mammoth City is experiencing a bit of good luck: The super-villain, Jester, was recently apprehended by the green tights-clad superhero, Gnatman. With the bad guy safely behind bars, the city’s well-to-do residents can go about their lives peacefully and without fear.

That would be a boring way to end things, wouldn’t it?

Luckily (for ticket-buyers), evil is up to no good, and Jester soon finds himself out of prison—free to torment the caped crusader and hatch a plan for world domination. Gnatman must work with his trusty sidekick, Atom, to save the day!

Can he do it? How will Gnatman stop the Legion of E.V.I.L. (Everything Vile in Life)? 

True to Gaslight tradition, each of the show’s various sets are hand-painted to perfection, a wide variety of props are used for both utility and comedy, actors will break the fourth wall repeatedly and everyone will share in the laughter—including those on stage.

The primary cast list for this adventure is full to the brim with the Gaslight’s regular squad, including longtime show-stealer, Joe Cooper.

Leading the show in the titular role of Kent Dale (Gnatman’s “real” name) is funnyman Mike Yarema, who wears his green tights with a sense of comedic dignity throughout the show. Backing up Gnatman is his trusty sidekick Jack Payson, known to the community as Atom, and played by dynamo Jake Chapman. The aforementioned Cooper makes an appearance as Gnatman’s butler, Manfred, whose crass humor and comedic timing are the show’s highlight. Filling out the team of good guys this time around are Erin Thompson as Lt. Typer, who surprises everyone by revealing herself to also be a masked superhero (though I won’t spoil that); David Orley as the city’s well-to-do mayor and Heather Stricker as Mrs. Bennington. 

No good cast of superheroes is complete without bad guys, and the Legion of E.V.I.L. squad is headed by Todd Thompson as the dastardly Jester—looking much like Jack Nicholson’s 1989 rendition of Joker in “Batman.” Every bad guy needs a team, and the evil goons include Janée Page looking her best Cheetara as Tiger Lady and Jacob Brown as Pelican (think Penguin and you’re getting there).

Each of the actors benefit from the Gaslight’s stellar costume shop, which once again delivers to the fullest. My personal favorite outfit was easily that of Gnatman. Complete with a bold “GM” on his chest, Yarema looked ridiculous—in the best way—as the antenna-wearing hero.

I will offer one criticism, however. As we’ve learned from "Incredibles," capes are a big no-no, and Gnatman and Atom are playing a dangerous game…

All jokes aside, “Gnatman” proves that The Gaslight Theatre can actually out-do itself. The song and dance is great, and the Gaslight Band kills it (no surprises, there).

In true Gaslight fashion, the show doesn’t end when the cast takes their final bow. There’s always an olio, and this time around, it’s “You’ve Got Talent.”

Complete with Yarema taking the stage as a poor-man’s Simon Cowell, complete with an atrocious (and hilarious) accent, “You’ve Got Talent” in not only entertaining, it’s also an interactive experience. 

The cast cycles on stage as a variety of contestants in the mock talent contest, and the audience decides through boos and applause who stays, and who goes home. The Backstreet Boys won during our showing, a close victory over “Shake it Off” by the Gaslight ladies dressed as retirees.

For more information, including ticket prices and showtimes, visit thegaslighttheatre.com.

The “You’ve Got Talent” olio isn’t the only talent contest going on under the Gaslight banner. Catch Logan this Sunday, June 24 at The Gaslight Music Hall in Oro Valley (13005 N. Oracle Road) from 2 to 6 p.m., where he is a judge for Oro Valley’s Got Talent. Visit gaslightmusichall.com or call 529-1000 for more information.

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