Kevin Johnson founded Arizona Onstage Productions in 2003. Arizona Onstage is Tucson's only professional theatre company devoted to musical theatre.
We present music theatre that is different and challenging. We work with artistic and performing staff of The University of Arizona and other organizations. Our education outreach involves students and professionals from the Tucson community.
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2003's production of Falsettoland was well received by audiences and critics alike:
"...full of powerful performances, witty lyrics, and most of all, enormous heart." — Arizona Daily Star
Our 2004 sold-out run of the Stephen Sondheim musical ASSASSINS was also greeted with unanimous acclaim:
"The power of this production, the quality of acting and singing, the thoughtful direction, push the audience to its feet. This is one of those times that a standing ovation is definitely called for." — Arizona Daily Star
"Arizona Onstage Productions shines." — Tucson Weekly
Two exciting musical productions wowed audiences during the 2005 theatre season:
RUTHLESS! THE MUSICAL, Outer Critic's Circle Award winner for best Off-Broadway musical, made its Tucson premiere in January, 2005. This hilarious musical spoofed movie and Broadway shows while telling the story of a little girl who would do anything to get the lead her new third-grade show.
". . . 'Ruthless' outrageously funny. . . just about every character outdid the most dramatic drama queens in this production, directed with a flamboyant sensibility by Kevin Johnson." — Arizona Daily Star
A NEW BRAIN, a musical by William Finn (Falsettoland), had its Tucson premiere in June, 2005. Touching and very funny, it told the story of a man going through major life changes including singing frogs, a MRI machine that turns into a sailboat. Newsweek calls A New Brain "funny, sharp, and totally original." A New Brain was originally presented in New York City at Lincoln Center
ELEGIES, a musical by William Finn (Falsettoland, A New Brain, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), had its Tucson premiere in mid-November, 2006, and received rave reviews and enthusiastic audience response. It also won the 2006 MAC Award for Best Musical.
"Arizona Onstage Productions' staging of Wiliam Finn's musical was a sometimes somber, often joyous tearfest brought on by singers who felt as deeply as they sang well." — Arizona Daily Star
TALK OF THE TOWN, a one-man tour de force written by Paul Bonin-Rodriguez and performed by Brandon Kosters, charmed and moved its audiences and served to open dialogues between family members and friends as it told the story of Johnny, a 15-year-old boy living in a small Texas town, working at the Dairy Queen and discovering things about himself and his "inclinations."
THE FULL MONTY, a high-energy, hit Broadway show, played to rowdy audiences at the Temple of Music and Art the middle two weekends of February, 2007. With a cast of 23 singers and actors and 5 musicians playing 17 instruments, this hilarious musical was highly praised by the critics.
BARK! The Musical played for 13 sold-out shows at Beowulf Alley from July 12th to the 29th, including a legendary "BARK Unplugged" performance that exhibited that old "the show must go on" spirit, as the actors and musicians took to the stage with only fluorescent work lights and no amplification, after the "great flood of 2007," which brought down some of the lobby ceiling at the theater, and necessitated an hour's delay in showtime. The audience of those intrepid souls who stuck around while the building was inspected for safety were treated to an experience they'll never forget, with the actors and musicians giving an outstanding performance in spite of the enormous challenge of losing their tech support.
THE BIBLE BELT . . . and other Accessories played for seven critically acclaimed and well received performances at Zuzi's Theatre in January 2008.
In June and July of 2008, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE attracted audiences to nine performances at Pima West's Black Box Theater.
SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD played late August and early September at the Proscenium Theater at Pima West for seven shows, with enthusiastic crowds and solid reviews.
LOST - A POP OPERA had its western premiere after a hiatus of five years in late October, early November at Zuzi's Theater. With a cast of 21 singers and puppeteers, this masterpiece written by the late Jessica Grace Wing, a Tucson native received a warm response from audiences, with sold out performances.
TELL ME ON A SUNDAY, a small chamber work by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, featured Kriste Belt in the one-woman tour de force of a young English hat designer making her way in NYC, her loves and losses, triumphs and tragedies. It played in January, 2009 to sold-out houses.
JEWTOPIA thoroughly entertained audiences who came to laugh as the dynamic cast of seven told the story of a "gentile who wants to marry a Jewish girl so he'll never have to make another decision." In the capable hands of director Annette Hillman, a lot of fun was had in the hot summer (plus a two performance remount in November).
THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL played in January 2010 (and again for two performances at the Berger Center in May), and turned the Cabaret Space into a Florida run-down atmosphere that introduced audiences to a collection of singing, dancing characters ranging from an agoraphobic, a hysterical pregnant teen, a run-away stripper and much more.
The summer musical for 2010 was the Tony Award winning musical comedy THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE. It played to enthusiastic and happy crowds, who vied for an opportunity to join the cast of nine singers as volunteer spellers.
Terrence McNally's MASTER CLASS, featuring Betty Craig as Diva Maria Callas, filled the Cabaret Space at the Temple of Music and Art with emotion and bravado, plus the glorious sounds of student singers Katie Mendelson, Erich Covey and Kriste' Belt, as they struggled to maintain their equilibrium against the fierce and uncompromising standards of Madam Callas. An entirely new audience turned out for this masterpiece during January 2011.
THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING, by Carson McCullers, introduced Tucson theater audiences to a poignant coming-of-age story in the best Southern Gothic tradition, and showcased the amazing acting talents of two young actors, Daria Berg as Frankie and James Cockrell as John Henry, coddled and instructed by Carley Preston as their caretaker Berenice. It proved a huge hit with rapt audiences for seven performances.
Since its founding in 2003, Arizona Onstage Productions has won eleven Arizona Daily Star MAC awards given yearly for excellence in theater. Most recently, in 2010, THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL won for Best Musical and Best Director (shared by Debbie Runge and Kevin Johnson), with Best Actor and Best Actress awards going to to Nicholas Gallardo and Jennifer Hijazi for THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE. Additionally, the company has received numerous nominations in various categories.
Nominated for Tucson Pima Arts Awards (Lumie), given for outstanding contributions to the arts, 2007 and 2008.
The Tucson Weekly "Best of . . . 2007 " edition named Elegies Best Musical.