Drop Everything: Gaslight’s ‘Ghostblasters’ brings parody to the stage

Jake Chapman, Erin McCrea and Mike Yarema (left to right) will star as the crime-fighting Ghostblaster trio in Gaslight Theatre’s production of “Ghostblasters.” (Brian Gawne/The Gaslight Theatre)

By Laura Latzko

The campy horror/comedy film “Ghostbusters” has become a cult classic, quoted by longtime fans with affection for the characters, special effects, humorous dialogue, iconic looks and memorable villains.

The Gaslight Theatre will pay tribute to the popular film with its parody version “Ghostblasters” from Thursday, June 9, through Sunday, August 28.

Throughout the year, the company produces westerns, sci-fi and fantasy productions and holiday-themed and Halloween shows with its core cast of actors.

It also puts on themed concerts centered around specific artists or genres of music at its Tucson location and Oro Valley Music Hall.

Musical melodramas such as “Ghostblasters” feature comedic and emotional moments and parody songs inspired by music from different time periods.

In “Ghostblasters,” a team of misfit scientists need to step in when a city is overrun by ghosts.

In the Gaslight production, longtime actors Erin McCrea, Mike Yarema and Jake Chapman will portray the crime-fighting trio Susie, Zach and Wally, respectively.

McCrea has been with the theater company for 10 years. She started as an understudy and worked her way up to opener by 2014.

This is the second time McCrea has appeared in “Ghostblasters” as the secretary-turned-Ghostblaster Susie.

Seven years ago, during the first production, she served as understudy for the role.

Her character is a bubbly New Yorker who wears clunky costume jewelry, dons bright red hair, chews gum and has an over-the-top accent. She transforms from a quirky secretary to a crime-fighting force.

“I was excited about that because I thought it was a good move to show a female superhero, in addition to the other Ghostblasters,” McCrea says.

“In the first act of the show, I’m very much just there to be their secretary, to make sure the boys are kept in line. And then by intermission, it’s discovered that they are going to need my help. I’m going to come in and wear a Ghostblasters outfit. I know how to use the gun, and I’m going to help to take down the bad guys.”

With Gaslight, McCrea has gotten to play a variety of roles, including heroes, ingenues, sidekicks and villains. She says because of her short stature, her villain characters are often memorable.

“It’s very funny when the bad guy is very short. There’s a lot to play with,” McCrea says.

“Who doesn’t want to make the audience boo at you? It’s great.”

With sidekick characters, there is more room for her to be silly.

During her time with Gaslight, she has evolved as a singer, especially in her ability to harmonize, and has further developed her improv and ad lib comedy skills.

Having a female Ghostblaster fits with the theater’s effort to feature actresses in roles traditionally played by men. Sometimes, characters are reworked with a feminine twist, as was the case with actress Heather Stricker portraying villain Dark Visor in “Space Wars.”

McCrea says “Ghostblasters” draws from the original 1984 film, the sequels and the 2016 remake. She’s inspired by the remake in her portrayal of her female Ghostblaster.

“I want to see if I can take any of the quirks that they have in their characters and lend it to my own. I do think that a lot of people were really into that movie, especially the comedic bits of it. I want to see if I can pull any of those as ad libs and use them this time,” McCrea says.

The show’s music was inspired by songs from the ’50s through ’70s, as well as more contemporary songs. They have been reworked to go with “Ghostblasters” theme.

“We’ve taken popular music and changed some of the words so that they fit the show, and people are still humming along,” McCrea says.

The show is filled with special effects, including lasers that project out into the theater.

McCrea says during the show’s first rendition, the company started using more modern sound and lighting effects.

“It was one of the first times they started using newer technology in the theater. Between the tech stuff, the costume design and the music choices, it’s such a fun show,” McCrea says.

“Because they knew we were doing ghost effects, I think the tech staff really went to town and had a great time with the lighting.”

“Ghostblasters” has hidden references throughout the show.

“People who know ‘Ghostbusters’ really well will totally understand a lot of the references,” she says. “For the younger crowd who have only seen the newer one, they can still follow along, too.”

Often with shows based on popular movies, fans arrive dressed as characters from the film. McCrea expects that there will be costumed audience members this time around.

“A lot of times what will happen is the house manager will see a group of kids dressed up like the characters, and they will put them on the list at intermission to be recognized, stand up and get ice cream…They try to include them and make them feel special,” McCrea says.

Throughout the run, the show changes. This is why many audience members will come multiple times — to see the evolution.

“The longer the show runs, the more you find little nuances and funny things you decide about the character and how they are going to respond to certain situations,” McCrea says.

Each production is followed by olios, short vaudeville-style song and dance numbers. After “Ghostblasters,” the audience can stay and watch numbers inspired by “Friends.”

Gaslight Theatre’s “Ghostblasters”

WHEN: Various times Thursday, June 9, to Sunday, August 28

WHERE: Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway

COST: $27 for adults, $15 for children 2 to 12, and $25 for seniors, military and students

INFO: 886-9428, thegaslighttheatre.com