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Moonlight Stage Productions announces four-show summer season

Vista's Moonlight Amphitheatre will host a four-show 2021 summer season beginning June 16.
(Courtesy of Chasing the Drone Life)

Season will begin June 16, one day after the governor’s target date for return to “business as normal” economy

One day after California’s economy reopens to “business as usual” on June 15, Vista’s Moonlight Stage Productions will launch a four-show summer season of musicals at its outdoor Moonlight Amphitheatre.

The season, announced to subscribers today, will include four musicals with three-weekend runs. But they’re not the postponed shows that the company had originally planned to present this summer if conditions allowed.

Those musicals — originally planned for 2020 — have all moved to summer 2022. A new slate of musicals will be presented instead that Moonlight producing artistic director Steven Glaudini said are a better fit for these uncertain times. Some of the previously announced shows require large casts of up to 40 actors, which is too expensive to produce for a reduced-capacity audience.

“We weren’t sure where we’d be in terms of capacity, so we decided to move our big shows back because it wouldn’t be fiscally responsible to produce them,” Glaudini said. “Instead, we decided to find a diverse season that celebrates hope and joy. It will be a love letter to what we’ve all missed by not having theater for almost a year-and-a-half. We’re celebrating both the artists and the audience.”

The new four-show 2021 season includes “Once on This Island,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “A Chorus Line” and “On Your Feet! The Musical — The story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan.” The season runs June 16 through Oct. 2. There will also be a Moonlight Youth Theatre production of “The Wizard of Oz” Oct. 21-30.

The original five-show 2020 season, now moved back to 2022, includes “An American in Paris,” “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” “Ragtime,” “Kinky Boots” and “Something Rotten!”

Moonlight Stage Productions leaders Colleen Kollar Smith and Steven Glaudini
Moonlight Stage Productions managing director Colleen Kollar Smith and producing artistic director Steven Glaudini at the outdoor Vista amphitheater.
(Courtesy photo)

Glaudini and Moonlight managing director Colleen Kollar Smith said that changing COVID restrictions over the past six months made it difficult to plan a summer season. They had developed four different versions of a potential 2021 lineup so they’d be ready to go if tiered restrictions eased. After California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month his goal of eliminating the tiers in mid-June, Vista City Manager Patrick Johnson gave Glaudini and Kollar Smith the green light to come up with a reduced four-show season.

“It was bizarre to come up with four shows in two days and hope we got the contracts, but the licensing organizations have been so cooperative and everyone is supportive of the pioneering way we’re doing things,” Glaudini said.

Besides seeking out shows that had upbeat themes and slightly smaller cast demands, Kollar Smith said it was a priority for Moonlight to respond to the recent national call for more diversity in theater. More than 50 percent of the creative teams this season are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), as well as half of the artists onstage.

Many hurdles still remain before opening night. Theaters nationwide are still negotiating with Actors’ Equity on safety protocols for performers, and California theaters are working to find an affordable solution for the state’s AB 5 law, which would require theaters to hire all temporary actors as full-time employees with benefits.

Kollar Smith said the amphitheater has newly remodeled COVID-safe bathrooms and it aims to have a fully vaccinated company of artists this summer, allowing for religious and medical exemptions. Auditions for the first show are now under way via Zoom and rehearsals for “Once on This Island” will begin sometime in mid- to late May.

Glaudini said it will be a tight turnaround to get the first show up on the boards by mid-June, but he’s optimistic, and he knows the community of Vista is ready and waiting. Everywhere he goes in the city, Glaudini said, people ask him about reopening Moonlight, which is marking its 40th year in Vista’s Brengle Terrace Park this summer.

“We feel really excited to have this green light and it feels great to have life back in the amphitheater,” he said. “It really fills my heart and soul because we all need it and we’ve all missed it. It will fill a void that not only our subscribers but this whole community have had in their lives.”

Tickets for Moonlight’s 2021 summer season will go on sale at noon May 15. Subscriptions range from $113-$179. Single tickets are $17 to $59. Call (760) 724-2110 or visit moonlightstage.com. Here’s a season preview:

“Once on This Island”

This 1990 musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty is making its Moonlight premiere. It’s a calypso-flavored retelling of the “Little Mermaid” fairy tale. Ti Moune is a peasant girl who calls on the island gods to help her capture the heart of the man she loves. The musical will be directed by Disneyland show director Paul David Bryant, who last directed at Moonlight in 2003 (“Sweet Charity”). Lyndon Pugeda is conductor and music director. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays, June 16-July 3.

“Beauty and the Beast”

It’s been 16 years since Moonlight staged an adult-cast production of this 1993 Disney musical by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Linda Woolverton. The large-scale show will feature a brand new set and costumes. It will be directed by Jamie Torcellini with choreography by Bill Burns, who was the dance captain for the original Broadway productions. Elan McMahan will be music director and conductor. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays, July 21-Aug. 7.

“A Chorus Line”

This landmark 1975 musical is about a group of dancers desperately hoping to land a slot during auditions for a Broadway show. It will return to Moonlight Amphitheatre with the Broadway set that includes a wall of mirrors. The show was conceived by Michael Bennett with book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban. The production will be directed by Kay Cole, who was the original Maggie in the Broadway production, and choreographed by Hector Guerrero, who will re-create the show’s original choreography. Music director and conductor is Randi Ellen Rudolph. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays, Aug. 18-Sept. 4.

“On Your Feet! The Musical — The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan”

Moonlight presents the San Diego regional premiere of this 2015 musical about the Cuban-American married musical duo who trace their humble beginnings to the bus crash that nearly killed Gloria Estefan at the height of her fame. It will feature the Broadway national tour sets and costumes. The show’s score includes the songs “Conga,” “On Your Feet,” “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “1-2-3" and “Live for Loving You.” It will be directed by James Vásquez, choreography by Carlos Mendoza and music direction and conducting by Lyndon Pugeda. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sundays, Sept. 15-Oct. 2.


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