VISTA — Alright theatre fans, let’s try this one more time.
That’s the feeling swirling around the Moonlight Amphitheatre as Vista’s iconic open-air performing arts destination gears up for its 40th anniversary — again. Technically, last year was the theatre’s 40th birthday, but the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out any hopes for fans and members to enjoy the shows.
This year, the theatre kicks off its ruby celebration with four productions, the first of which, “Once on This Island,” running from June 16 to July 3, according to Jeff Pashby, president of the board of directors for the nonprofit Moonlight Cultural Foundation.
“We were always in good shape,” said Pashby. “We have a loyal patron and donor base that helped to navigate the waters. At the end of the day, the city owns the amphitheater and part of the budget for putting on the production at Moonlight.”
The rest of the lineup includes “Beauty and the Beast” from July 21 to Aug. 7; “A Chorus Line” from Aug. 18 to Sept. 4, and “On Your Feet” from Sept. 15 to Oct. 2.
Also in July, the theatre will show the smash movie “Mamma Mia!,” host a Fourth of July celebration, feature performances by “The Piano Men” on July 6 and “Yachtley Crew” (a Mötley Crue tribute band) on July 9 and a student production of “The Wizard of Oz” from Oct. 22-30.
Pashby said the board and city were diligent with the amphitheater’s financing and also took out a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and received other grants to help carry them through the pandemic.
The theatre was also able to undergo some upgrades during the downtime and brought in a new food vendor, Bread and Cheese Eatery, while planning to include a possible fifth show for next year, Pashby said.
Additionally, the theatre’s annual gala was held two weeks ago with about 300 people — a record — to help raise funds, Pashby said. Now, fans are itching to get back to the theatre and enjoy a summer slate, according to Pashby.
However, Steven Glaudini, Moonlight’s producing artistic director, said the entertainment industry was crushed by the pandemic — namely actors, musicians and stage personnel were hit hard financially. So, to be able to come back is a major positive, but to ensure safety all the performers will undergo weekly COVID-19 even if they’re vaccinated.
“We’re also outdoors, so I think that helped,” Pashby said. “It makes social distancing a little easier.”
Glaudini said they decided on four shows to highlight positivity and hopefulness after 15 months of darkness related to the pandemic.
The first show is “Once on This Island,” a Caribbean retelling of “The Little Mermaid” and Tony-award-winning production, Glaudini said, followed by the classic “Beauty and the Beast.” The closing show, “On Your Feet,” is the story of the life and music Gloria and Emilio Estefan.
“It’s a very joyous and celebratory season,” Glaudini said. “For a lot of people, it’s not summer without Moonlight.”