Archives for Arizona Onstage Productions

Mamma Mia!
"This play can be grand fun, and certainly the packed audience at the opening was having it." - Arizona Daily Star

The Producers
"This is a massive undertaking — 27 cast members, more than 500 costume pieces, 150 or so props. AOP is a small company, but founder Kevin Johnson loves to think big. A show that made such a delicious mockery of Hitler and which kept the audience laughing and engrossed." - Arizona Daily Star

Les Miserables
"Electrifying and packed with gifted, courageous performers who transported us to another time and place, made us feel deep sorrow and great joy, and sent us out of the theater richer for having seen Arizona Onstage’s 'Les Miserables.'" - Arizona Daily Star

Forever Plaid
At the same time Knuffle Bunny was playing, we presented the smash hit Forever Plaid, which sold out all its performances in January!

Closer Than Ever

Tucson Weekly's headline read "Brilliance, Guaranteed." Kind of says it all.

All in the Timing

The Tucson Weekly called it "A fast-paced comedy" and The Arizona Daily Star said "The timing is perfect in "All in the Timing," which Arizona Onstage Productions opened Friday. So is the acting. And the directing ain't bad, either."

5 Women Wearing the Same Dress

Praised by local reviewers as "chock-full of good acting, fun, froth" (Kathy Allen in the Arizona Daily Star and "briskly entertaining comedy" (Laura Owen, , 5 Women was a joy both to see and to produce.

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill

The Tucson Weekly raved "Musically and atmospherically, the evening is stunning, with beautiful renditions of Holiday songs to live music. Actor/singer Anna Anderson successfully captures some of Lady Day's verve and vulnerability. While she does not look or sound exactly like the icon, the dark charisma of her portrayal captures a little of Holiday's essence." And sold-out house after sold-out house obviously agreed!

Marvelous Wonderettes

Proving that "rock 'n roll will never die", according to Kathy Allen of the Arizona Daily Star in her review of the bouncy musical that featured four singers at their 1958 prom and all the attendant teenage drama, humor and lots of familiar songs and colorful goings-on, including letting the audience in on the fun of picking the prom queen.

Steel Magnolias

The 25th Anniversary of the beloved classic "Steel Magnolias" gave audiences the chance to see that the play is still as fresh, witty, poignant and heartwarming in 2012 as it was in 1987 and delighted the young people who had never seen it before as well as older folks revisiting it. Well reviewed and attended, "Steel Magnolias" allowed director Fred Rodriguez to demonstrate his sensitivity and understanding of the material.

See Rock City

This new musical, winner of several prestigious awards in New York, showcased eight singers, a 4-piece band and songs of travel, discovery, uncertainty and optimism.

Devil Boys from Beyond

AOP's first foray into the world of late-night theater included men in high heels, lusty old ladies, hunky aliens, hard-boiled reporters and a whole lot of hilarity. Audiences stayed up late and loved it.

Sweeney Todd

On the Main Stage of the historic Temple of Music and Art for five performances in August, the Stephen Sondheim favorite was brought to thrilling life in all its lush, horrific glory, to quote reviewer Kathy Allen of The Arizona Daily Star, with a cast of 45 and a 10-piece orchestra. Theatergoers cheered and gasped, giggled and wept as the combination of magnificent singers, superb musicians, effective set, what Ms. Allen called "startlingly beautiful" lighting and crisp sound inhabited the stage with one of the most ambitious and grandiose productions seen in Tucson outside of Broadway tours.

Member of the Wedding

Carson McCullers' masterful novelette became a perfect stage play with an excellent cast, including Carley Preston as Berenice, the motherly Southern caregiver to 12-year-old Frankie, played by Daria Berg, and her younger cousin, John Henry, given impish and touching life by James Cockrell. A supporting cast expertly fleshed out this poignant and humorous coming-of-age story set in the south of the 1950s, and audiences responded with tears and laughter.

Master Class

Terrence McNally's award winning play spotlights Maria Callas, (portrayed by Betty Craig), a glamorous, commanding, larger-than-life, caustic, and surprisingly drop-dead funny pedagogue of a voice instructor. Alternately dismayed and impressed by the students who parade before her (Kriste' Belt, Erich P. Covey, Katherine Mendelson), she retreats into recollections about the glories of her own life and career. Included in her musings are her younger years as an ugly duckling, her fierce hatred of her rivals, the unforgiving press that savaged her early performances, her triumphs at La Scala and her affair with Aristotle Onassis. It all culminates into a tour de force about sacrifices made in the name of art. This play was critically acclaimed and well attended by respectful and attentive audiences.

25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Our summer musical proved a solid hit with sold out shows and happy audiences, some of whom got to participate (four each show). They were good sports, even when the pronouncer Steve McKee was forced to work hard to eliminate those who showed themselves to be great spellers. Sherilyn Forrester, writing in The Tucson Weekly, opined that "It's not likely that you'll find a more effective and totally pleasant way to maintain your good nature as the summer drags on than by signing up for this Spelling Bee. Arizona Onstage's productions is fresh, fun and totally well-done. Can you spell H-I-T?" And Kathy Allen echoed these sentiments in The Arizona Daily Star - "Spelling Bee" is a complete hoot. You love these characters . . .."

Great American Trailer Park Musical

The January run of Trailer Park provided a dozen sold out shows at the Cabaret Space at the Temple of Music and Art. Nathan Christensen in The Tucson Weekly said, "The outrageous plot takes as many hairpin turns as a funhouse ride . . ." And Kathy Allen's headline in The Arizona Daily Star read "'Great American Trailer Park Musical' will have you squealing with laughter," and she went on to say, ". . . there sat a sold-out crowd that could not stop squealing. We don't mean like pigs, We mean squealing with laughter at this musical . . ."


The June and July run of JEWTOPIA provided 13 sold out shows at the Cabaret Space at the Temple of Music and Art. The return of JEWTOPIA in November for two performances proved another hit. James Reel, writing in The Tucson Weekly (June 25-July 1) said, "Jewtopia is a play for Jews who enjoy laughing at Jewish stereotypes, and for their knowing Gentile friends." And Kathy Allen's headline in The Arizona Daily Star read "'Jewtopia' outrageous, offensive and hilarious" and she went on to say, "The packed audience on opening night laughed -- make that roared -- at jokes about how a real Jew goes to a restaurant and alters, "beyond all recognition,' any item on the menu. Or how marriage to a Jewish woman means never having to make a decision. Oh, those outrageous statements go on. And on."

Tell Me on a Sunday

Here is what James Reel, in his column for The Tucson Weekly, said: "This may not be deep material, but even a shallow puddle, from the right angle, can provide an opportunity for reflection, and Arizona Onstage presents the most probing production possible. This has something to do with the direct, no-nonsense direction of Kevin Johnson, but the show owes most of its success to the heartfelt work of Kristé Belt. Her Emma begins with an appealing, bright-eyed naiveté, yet she never seems like an idiot. She has poor taste in men, but she's not a glutton for punishment and can resolve to abandon a relationship when she sees it's doing her no good. "A New York girl wouldn't stand for this," she declares, and this is the story of how America hardens Emma, not entirely to her benefit."

LOST - a Pop Opera

James Reel, writing in The Tucson Weekly referred to his 2006 article about LOST when he reviewed LOST. He compared the dvd version to the live show and stated that " . . . Arizona Onstage makes a strong case for the work . . ." and " . . . the large cast was very effective." He singled out Juan Aguirre, Jacinda Swinehart, Kriste' Belt, Jody Mullen, Corina Riggs and Jamie Pruden, plus the set and the orchestra for special praise. "Perhaps LOST will eventually take its rightful place . . ." and ended up " . . . It's a memorable work about characters who are lost, and then found by the wrong people; the individuals are both saved and enslaved. Chuck Graham of The Tucson Citizen said, "For most of us, trying to picture the future is like looking through swirls and shadows as the soundtrack swells with ominous chords and everything keeps changing. So is watching "Lost." He continued thus: "Now we can see that LOST has the depth and, most important, the artistic resonance to please audiences around the world."

Songs for a New World

Kathy Allen of The Arizona Daily Star said " . . . this is the thing about [Kevin] Johnson: He is uncanny when it comes to casting. He finds performers with as much talent as heart, and it brings his productions alive. Performers like Jacinda Rose Swineheart, who has a grabs-you voice and a great comedic sense. The rest of the cast members distinguished themselves, too. Liz Cracchiolo, a regular on the AOP stage, brought poignancy to the funny/sad 'Stars and the Moon.' Charity LaPonsie was especially effective with her solo 'I'm Not Afraid' and Jody Mullen's tender 'She Cries' was delivered with deeply rooted feeling. "James Reel in The Tucson Weekly was equally positive with such thoughts as " . . . Brown writes some very good songs, and they are graced here by some great performances. The cast features three UA theater grads: Marcus Terrell Smith, Jody Mullen and Liz Cracchiolo, plus Charity LaPonsie and Jacinda Rose Swinehart. Together, they earn special kudos for their complex, five-part harmonies in the ensemble numbers. Swinehart turns in consistently outstanding solo performances, belting it out . . .. The charismatic Smith also excels in his solos." Chuck Graham, writing for The Tucson Citizen was impressed that ". . . Kevin Johnson has put together a balanced cast of solid singers to make a convincing case . . . Charity LaPonsie floats out delicate ballads of heart-breaking intensity; Liz Cracchiolo answers with unlimited energy; Jacinda Rose Swinehart specializes in character songs with edgy humor; Marcus Terrell Smith keeps a firm hold on his soulful roots; Jody Mullen portrays the modern man as being both sensitive and battered.


Kathy Allen of The Arizona Daily Star said " . . . A weakness for great music, great theater and great courage is all that's needed to fall in love with Arizona Onstage Productions' staging of 'Sunday in the Park with George.'"

And James Reel in The Tucson Weekly said " . . . as usual, producer-director Kevin Johnson has critic- proofed his production in a more important way than putting butts into all the seats before reviews appear. He's crafted something of sufficiently high quality that it stands on its own merits and generates a buzz even without help (or hindrance) from critics. And " . . . it's rich artistically, another success for one of Tucson's most ambitious little theater companies."

Chuck Graham, in The Tucson Citizen wrote that " . . . All of which makes for a deceptively artistic experience that can be enjoyed on several levels. For pure drama, the songs of confrontation between Georges and Dot are some of the finest you will ever experience in Tucson."

* THE BIBLE BELT . . . and other accessories

—Kathy Allen of The Arizona Daily Star said " . . . Ryan DeLuca portrays Johnny with energy, innocence and a big, big heart. And oh, how we love this character."

And Gene Armstrong, writing for The Tucson Weekly said " . . . DeLuca is sweet, charming and completely believeable as Johnny . . . " And "It's damn hard to own a stage for some 80 minutes solo and without a break, but DeLuca pulls it off admirably."

Chuck Graham, in The Tucson Citizen wrote that " . . .There is a sweetness and innocence in Ryan DeLuca's performance that give the poignant parts a tug of courageous heartbreak. He just seems so defiantly optimistic."

* BARK! The Musical—James Reel of The Tucson Weekly said ". . . rare is the Arizona Onstage production that doesn't have at least a couple of moments that leave a quivering little cavity where your heart's supposed to be, and even Bark! can choke us up at least three times."

And from The Arizona Daily Star, Levi Long said "Arizona Onstage's producer-director Kevin Johnson keeps this production moving and lets the cast members work their magic. Without elaborate sets, fancy costumes and make-up effects, it's left up to the cast members to deliver their entertaining roles as dogs, and they do this with ease and aplomb."

* Full Monty—Kathleen Allen of The Arizona Daily Star said "We get a musical with some lovely tunes, some rockin'ones . . .we get plenty of laughs, and lots of good feelings. Tons of heart, and even a few tears. . . There were moments in this play that were luminous . . . it's impossible to walk out of this production without a smile stretched across your face."

* Talk of the Town—James Reel of The Tucson Weekly said, "Brandon Kosters gets the part of a gay teen just right in Talk of the Town," and . . . it's an attractive production of a charming and funny play about growing up gay."

* Elegies--Looking Up—This show was, quoting Kathy Allen of The Arizona Daily Star, " . . . a sometimes somber, often joyous tearfest brought on by singers who felt as deeply as they sang well." She went on to sum up the production this way; "Director [Kevin] Johnson has fashioned a simple production . . . less fussy than a full-scale show. He wisely let the music and the singers say it all. And they did that with deep feelings and soaring voices. It was enough to make you cry."

* A New Brain — A New Brain presented a witty and delightfully tuneful look at the life of an artist. It is a musical journey through the mind of Gordon Michael Schwinn -- a man who is about to have dangerous brain surgery.

* Assassins —As the text accompanying the MAC award (given annually by The Arizona Daily Star for best theater in Tucson) said, "Arizona Onstage Productions Assassins didn't have the big bucks for an all-out production, and worked with a mostly student cast. Still, the Carol Calkins (won Best Director) directed show was riveting, heartfelt and powerful."

* Ruthless - The Musical —An uproariously funny parody of musical theater. Think The Bad Seed crossed with Gypsy and All About Eve, with a bit of Valley of the Dolls thrown in. Ruthless runs dangerously close to camp, but with a superb cast, the audiences giggled and laughed loudly, applauding enthusiastically throughout.