Stewart Gregory and Jodi Darling in the Great American Playhouse's production of "Pistol Pete and the World's Greatest Cowboy!"

Rob Hines / Resort Video

Nick Seivert has a new play opening his weekend.

And he asks that you please boo. Please hiss. And please cheer.

Seivert is the writer/director of "Pistol Pete the World's Greatest Cowboy," the inaugural production of The Great American Playhouse.

"We like a very interactive audience," says Seivert.

If the concept sounds familiar, it's because it is: the new theater on the northwest side, in Oro Valley, has its roots in melodrama, a pretty old form of theater.

Here's a bit about the genre and this production.


Think over-the-top - melodramas exaggerate everything from the story to the characters in an effort to pull in the audience and elicit a reaction.

"We take the stock characters (of the melodrama) - heroes, villains, sidekicks - and put a modern spin on it, and make it a lot more fun," says Seivert.

The genre harkens back to the 18th century. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "Pygmalion," is thought to be the first melodrama. It hit the stage in 1770.

"Pistol Pete"

"I just took a tall tale of a cowboy superman, set it in Arizona, wrote dialogue, and then went out and found songs and jokes," says Seivert.

Expect a damsel in distress, a villain who warrants vigorous booing, a silly sidekick and a hero who deserves vigorous cheering.

Great American's beginnings

Seivert credits Nancy LaViola for getting the theatre off the ground.

"She had the original concept a few years ago," says Seivert.

"She said, 'I know this is kind of a crazy but ...' I said I think that's a terrific idea."

LaViola pulled in investors and a creative team that was as convinced of the theater's success as she and Seivert.

Seivert, in fact, was so convinced of the theater's success he sold his business, Twilight Productions, to devote himself to the Great American Playhouse.

A tip of the hat to The Gaslight Theatre

Gaslight Theatre on Tucson's far east side has been doing melodrama along the same vein for about 36 years. Seivert has worked there, as has LaViola, and a few of the cast members of "Pistol Pete."

Seivert is quick to point out that Great American is not affiliated with Gaslight. But Gaslight has been an influence on the founders of the new company.

"All of us working on this greatly admire what Gaslight does," he says.

"The product they put out is great. And I think what we're doing will be terrific. We've been trying to emulate some of the elements that they do so well."

Why the northwest side of town

Why not, says Seivert. "I think the retirement communities will be our audiences," he says.

And the theater is in the right place he adds.

"Seventy percent of new houses in the area are within a mile of the new theater."

If you go

• What: The Great American Playhouse's "Pistol Pete the World's Greatest Cowboy."

• Playwright/director: Nick Seivert.

• When: Opening weekend performances (limited seating for Sunday; other opening weekend performances sold out): 7 p.m. today through Saturday, and 12:30 and 3 p.m. Sunday. Regular performances will be 7 p.m. Thursdays; 6 p.m. Fridays; 6 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; 12:30 and 3 p.m. Sundays. Continues through Nov. 16.

• Where: 13005 N. Oracle Road, Suite 165, Oro Valley.

• Cost: $17.95 regular admission; $15.95 seniors, active military and students; $7.95 12 and under.

• Reservations/information:

• Cast: Includes Stewart Gregory, Jodi Darling, Sean MacArthur, Nick Seivert, Nancy LaViola, Jacinda Rose Swinehart, James Gooden

• Running time: 2 hours, including two intermissions.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.