Insert Comma logo
Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
Gaslight’s ‘Fortune’ is smooth sailing

1868 melodrama about love (and insurance scams) revived

By Leigh E. Rich

The Gaslight Theatre has been a Tucson favorite for melodramatic family entertainment since brothers Tony and Tom Terry set up shop in Trail Dust Town in 1977. Two decades and three moves later, the Gaslight now resides in the (renovated) Jerry Lewis Theatre at the corner of Broadway Boulevard and Kolb Road. However, it is only the location, not the talent and dedication to tomfoolery, that has changed.

Known for its unique and saccharine twist to familiar stories (the next production is a take on the Dynamic Duo in “Forever Gnatman”), the Gaslight’s current showstopper is an adaptation of a traditional melodrama. “Fortune Rides the Waves,” first performed in 1868 at the Holborn Theatre in London, tells the tale of English shipping merchant Arthur Wardlaw and his sinister son, Albert.

Set in London in 1879, Arthur devises a Victorian insurance scam which entails sinking one of his father’s ships—after, of course, swapping its cargo of gold with boxes of copper. In cahoots with Arthur is first mate Joe Wylie, a man of little means, who is waiting for his boat to come in so as to woo his sweetheart Nancy. As Wylie laments to Arthur in his lower-class Cockney accent, “You know how it is, guv’na, with women—it’s always money.”

True to the medium of melodrama (a romantic stage play with intermittent songs and orchestral accompaniment), “Fortune” overflows with amplified conflicts and stereotypical characters. The virtuous stand out from the injurious. Arthur even versifies his maxim, “I embezzle and I swindle and I keep two sets of books,” while his betrothed, the lovely and meritorious Helen, knows “there’s not a worry in the world.”

And, at the Gaslight Theatre, there never is. While “Fortune Rides the Waves” isn’t as waterproof as some of its previous concoctions, the Gaslight crew consistently creates artistic productions which are smooth sailing for all. Scene designs by Tom Benson, a member of the Gaslight team since its inception, invariably delight as do the actors’ post-show olios and Lisa Otey’s musical accompaniments.

With bottomless baskets of Gaslight popcorn and Little Anthony’s Diner next door, bring a friend and your appetite to watch the heroes make the most of misfortune—“God brings men into deep waters not to drown them but to cleanse them”—and the villains get their just desserts.

Rich, L. E. (1996, April 19). Gaslight’s ‘Fortune’ is smooth sailing. Arizona Daily Wildcat.

Comments are closed.