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Moonlight Amphitheatre unveiled its indoor venue, Club M, in January. The indoor space will accommodate three cabaret shows in 2016. Photo by Bill Wechter
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Club M finally comes to life at Vista’s Moonlight Amphitheatre

VISTA — A dream that was imagined in 2009 is finally being brought to life at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista.

The city of Vista recently unveiled Club M, a program of three cabaret shows where the audience sits on the stage as the artists perform.

The indoor space is made possible by the city closing the large door on the popular amphitheatre known for its summer productions.

“The whole space is on stage,” Daniel Kays, managing director for Moonlight Amphitheatre, said. “It’s under the stage lights and that’s what makes it so magical and unique. It’s very intimate and cozy.”

Kays said the city had hoped to present indoor productions at Moonlight Amphitheatre when the space was being redesigned about eight years ago.

“One of the thoughts was this outdoor amphitheatre needs to be used year-round,” Kays said. “We wanted to have shows that we could do during the winter months. We also looked at it as a rentable space.”

But with the economic downturn, officials were forced to hold off on their plans of an indoor production.

“We decided early on to use it as a cabaret space, but the economy wasn’t at a point where we, as the city, could add another program to our budget,” Kays said. “We had to put Club M on hold,”

The vision for Club M was revisited when memberships to AVO Playhouse, a 1948 movie house the city owns in downtown Vista, declined.

“We left AVO and took that budget to present this program we wanted to do in 2009,” Kays said. “We decided to put all of our programming in this beautiful space and show how it can be used year-round.”

Now, Club M is just one of three programs held at the Moonlight Amphitheatre.

The other programs hosted by the city include Moonlight Live and Moonlight Variety.

Kays, as the program manager for Club M, planned three productions in the new indoor space. The second production, “That’s Life: A Toast to Sinatra,” takes place Feb. 11 and Feb. 12 and features Lee Lessack, Scott Coulter and John Boswell as they sing the classic tunes of the beloved Frank Sinatra.

Because the space for the audience and performers is limited to the stage, only 132 tickets can be sold for each Club M production.

But that is what makes the experience all the more memorable, Kays said.

“It’s a much more intimate experience between you and the performer,” Kays said. “You can get to know the person when they are telling their stories and singing their songs. It feels like they are only singing to you.”

Each production is also paired with a dinner. For the February show, Chef DK of the city of Vista’s Artisan Café will prepare an Italian meal. In the March production of “Laura Ellis: In a Jazz Mood,” the audience will experience a New Orleanian meal.

Kays is hopeful Club M will expand in the next few years to have more than three productions. He said they can also expand outside of cabaret shows.

“We’re looking to have Club M every year,” Kays said. “We started with three cabarets this year to just get started but we could do more. This venue we’re creating is going to be for everybody and will just grow. In five years, I see it being utilized a lot — not only by us, but outside people as well. There’s nothing like this in North County.”

Tickets for Club M productions are $80 each.

For more information about Club M, go to