009 Licence to Thrill

Fans of James Bond will relish a parody of the world’s most famous secret agent currently playing at the Gaslight Theatre in Tucson. Your face muscles will ache by the end of this musical as it will be locked into an uncontrollable smile for such a long time.

Starring in the role of not 007 but 009 is David Fanning, who in real life enjoys being at his horse farm in Millerton, New York. There are no horses in this play, but there is plenty of horse-play!

I took a visitor from Michigan with me to the Gaslight. She said it was “an enjoyable toe-tapping evening” that let her relive many of the 1960s dance moves of her youth. “It may not be Broadway but you get your money’s worth & a basket of popcorn to boot! No wonder the place was full.”

The cast was clearly enjoying itself as much as the audience was enjoying their performance, a synergy that made the wholly unbelievable plot such a delight. As usual with a Bond adventure the fate of the world is at stake, in this case by an organisation called CRIME whose leader (played by Jake Chapman) is dressed like Austin Powers. The money man behind the crime syndicate is delivered by David Orley like the character Ernst Blofield in the Bond film You Only Live Twice: he is forever stroking his fluffy white cat while explaining dastardly plots of world domination. A delightful pairing of Chapman and Orley, who expand the limits of parody to the utmost extent.

The 009 character, Jake Strong, is supported in his crime-fighting activities by Agent Singleton and Director Quill, while the chiefs of CRIME rely on a Russian general, two female accomplices and a strongman named Oddfellow. The cast of characters is played by different actors throughout the run of 009.

Helicopter scene with Oddfellow piloting and 009 hanging on!

The sets by Tom Benson are extraordinary, perfectly setting the scene with a 60s vibe that comes directly from Laugh-In. A skiing scene combined with a helicopter (just what you expect in a $50 million Bond film) is marvellously envisioned on stage, almost believable in a fantasy way. The limited space of the stage is used to maximum advantage. Kudos also to costume designer Renee Cloutier, whose inspiration mashes together James Bond and Austin Powers with panache. A special mention is due to Michael Mueller, as this is his 100th show at the Gaslight as electrical technician.

The cast pulls us into the total absurdity of it all, aided by great vocals on some iconic tunes (including Secret Agent Man and Nancy Sinatra’s Boots). A must-see in Tucson.

009: Licence to Thrill is playing at the Gaslight Theatre until Nov. 10

Visit the website for tickets: thegaslighttheatre.com/current-show/

Photos by C. Cunningham. Lead photo shows Jake Chapman (with arms outstretched) and David Orley (in white) against a psychedelic 60s set.

009 Licence to Thrill