Live musical theater plans to open in August

Venture to mirror many Gaslight-type features
2013-06-27T00:00:00Z 2014-09-05T15:12:21Z Live musical theater plans to open in AugustPhil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Oro Valley's current professional live theater options are nonexistent, but that will change in a matter of weeks when the curtain rises on a musical theater in Oro Valley.

Nancy LaViola, the 57-year-old owner and producer, envisions The Great American Playhouse as a fun, breezy place for friends and families to hang out and catch an interactive show.

"There needs to be more arts on the northwest side of town," LaViola said. "It's booming. It's growing. I've seen it grow. It needs a coalition."

The shows, which will start in August, will be comedic musical melodrama parodies of classic movies, TV shows and plays. Audience members are encouraged to sing along, cheer the heroes and boo the villains. Cast members interact with audience members during the show, and may sometimes even coax them onstage.

Each show is preceded by a variety show called "The Olio."

Using $1 million in loans, cash from investors and her own funds, LaViola has transformed a 9,000-square-foot facility at 13005 N. Oracle Road, which used to be an Ike's Farmers Market, into the dinner theater establishment of her dreams.

"I think you have to be confident," LaViola said, adding that a health scare suffered by her younger sister helped place things in perspective. "I don't want to sit behind a desk the rest of my life, so I'm taking a chance. If it doesn't work out, at least I'm taking a chance."

Sean MacArthur, artistic director, said the playhouse will reach out to young actors.

"I'm very much attached to the community, particularly in mentoring a lot of the young talent of onstage, backstage, and on the technical side as well."

MacArthur has worked in repertory theaters in San Francisco, Boston and New York, and appeared in Broadway and touring productions, including "Schoolhouse Rock Live" on Broadway in 1996.

MacArthur, 42, met LaViola when they worked together at Tucson's Gaslight Theatre, known for its comedic spoofs.

Shows will last two hours, with two acts and an intermission. Free popcorn will be provided, and the kitchen will serve sandwiches, desserts, beer and wine.

LaViola performed at the Gaslight Theatre, on East Broadway, for 24 years, stopping in 2010. She's aiming for the fun, freewheeling style of Gaslight.

"It will be musical melodrama theater," she said. "I really like to make sure the entertainment is kid-friendly for all our shows. It will be, but certainly we're putting our own twists and turns in."

LaViola said MacArthur's influence will be critical to the theater's success.

"Sean is very, very knowledgeable," LaViola said. "We are kind of a good combination. I'm a singer and dancer … I see things from the acting standpoint. As for writing, directing and staging, he is really knowledgeable in that sense."

MacArthur said the key to establishing the theater will be focusing on the audience.

"I think it's really being mindful of your audience and being mindful of the community," he said about what he believes is the secret to success. "I think one thing I really have to do is kind of focus on the nuts and bolts. The price point and what you're offering. When you go and buy a television, you see if it's worth the price that's being asked for it. Is this worth what I am getting - the bang for my buck? That's the way we will approach what we're creating up there."

Coming soon

The Great American Playhouse will open in August at 13005 N. Oracle Road, off East Rancho Vistoso Boulevard in Oro Valley. General admission for show is $17.95, with discounts available for seniors and active military members. Admission for children age 12 and younger is $7.95. Admission includes free popcorn.

The tentative schedule includes shows at 7 p.m. Thursdays, 6:30 p.m. Fridays, 6 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays and 12:30 and 3 p.m. Sundays. The first show, "Pistol Pete, The World's Greatest Cowboy!" will feature a nine-member professional cast and go into previews Aug. 22 and 23 before the premiere Aug. 24. The show will play through Nov. 16. Tickets are now on sale.

• Online: greatamericanplayhouse.com

• Phone: 512-5145

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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