Kevin Johnson is pink with excitement these days.
Johnson, the founder of Arizona Onstage Productions, is about to realize a longtime dream: He's opening a children's theater.
"I love children's theater," Johnson says. "I always have."
Arizona Onstage opens "Pinkalicious - The Musical" Friday, a musical based on the popular children's books by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann.
Johnson's model for this new arm of his theater company (it doesn't have a name yet, but he's considering "First Stages") is Tempe-based Childsplay.
"It's considered one of the top five children's theaters in the nation," Johnson says.
"They used to bring their shows to Tucson, and when I saw them, I saw this professional company with adult actors and well-written materials that relate to younger audiences." Children's theater is essential, he adds.
"I hope to open their eyes so that they enjoy going to theater and that it becomes part of their growth as a person."
"Pinkalicious" was not a spur-of-the-moment choice. Johnson did his homework.
"I did a lot of research and spoke to a lot of kids ages 4 to 13," says Johnson.
"Sometimes I would go to the library and sit in on storytelling and see what books kids would react to."
He also spoke to a friend who owns a children's store, and she told him about how popular the "Pinkalicious" series is.
"I got the book and it is anything but cutesy," Johnson says.
"There's an intelligence there that I loved. It's not a perfect family model (in the story), but by the end of the show everyone has changed priorities. Even though there's a moral to the play, it isn't real preachy, except when it talks about broccoli."
Pinkalicious is a little girl who just loves the color pink. And that includes pink cupcakes. When she eats too many, she turns pink. When she eats more instead of her green vegetables as the doctor instructed, she becomes an even deeper pink.
The musical clips along at a fast pace, which is key to children's theater.
Johnson says each show will begin with one of the actors talking to the audience about what to expect and how to behave.
"Pinkalicious," like most children's plays, is fashioned to engage young audiences and even have them participate.
And at the end, there will be a party for the kids - they'll meet the actors, have pink lemonade, and another treat, says Johnson.
"We'll send them home with some fresh vegetables."
If you go
• What: Arizona Onstage Productions' "Pinkalicious - The Musical."
• By: Elizabeth and Victoria Kann and John Gregor.
• Director: Kevin Johnson.
• When: 5 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m. Saturday, 12:30 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. next Thursday. Continues through Aug. 18.
• Where: Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.
• Tickets: $15 for 17 and under; $20 for adults. Discount tickets available.
• Reservations, information: arizonaonstage.org
• Cast: Samantha Cormier, Brian Levario, Autumn Ruhe, Maria Gallardo and Shira Maas.
• Running time: About 55 minutes; the reception after the show is about 15 minutes.