VISTA — A weekend dinner theater featuring live performances by musicians, comedians and thespians will kick off on March 4 at Wildwood Crossing restaurant in downtown Vista.
The featured performances are the result of a partnership between Wildwood Crossing and Vista’s Broadway Theater, providing a variety of live entertainment on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, according to John Bagley, a managing partner at Wildwood.
For a $50 ticket, guests will have access to a full-course meal plus a one-hour performance (after guests are finished eating), which will consist of both musical and comedic acts.
The musical acts will include song reviews, jukebox musicals, and tributes to musical eras gone, according to Randall Hickman, who co-owns the Broadway Theatre along with partner Douglas David.
While Wildwood already focuses heavily on supporting the arts, featuring paintings from local artists on its walls and hosting live music at the venue on selected weeknights, Bagley said the live dinner theater is a major step forward for both businesses.
“This venture follows our tradition here at Wildwood of supporting the arts…what we want to do is to make Wildwood an event destination as much as a restaurant…we want to have the kind of stuff you don’t get anywhere else in North County,” Bagley told The Coast News.
The concept for having a live dinner theater at Wildwood originally came from a conversation between Clay McCarthy, one of the restaurant’s managing partners, and Hickman. The two local entities had plans to jumpstart the entertainment in early 2020, but had to temporarily suspend the project due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Hickman.
Now, Hickman said the partners are excited to finally have the chance to unveil the new entertainment program which he thinks Vista residents will be eager to take advantage of.
“Getting restaurant and theater loving patrons back in the doors after almost two years is very important to John and I,” Hickman said. “By combining his [John’s] amazing restaurant with our 25 years of theater experience is hopefully going to bring fresh, new meaning to, ‘a night out.’ Dinner and a show! We would be the only game in town. A tried and true idea re-imagined right here in Vista.”
“We’re really excited about this…the restaurant business has been tough with COVID and Omicron has not been helping matters, we’re struggling like every other restaurant,” said Bagley. “This is how we separate ourselves…we make Wildwood an entertainment destination in this community.”
Live dinner theaters generally appeal to a slightly older clientele, and Vista’s steady demographic of retired affluent residents makes the city a perfect fit for something like this to be successfully introduced, Bagley added.
“In Vista there’s definitely a lot of upper-middle class retired people with disposable income and we’re trying to tap into that…we’re definitely slanted towards an older clientele…we want those people to come in and have a good date night, a good meal, and just to really appreciate the experience,” Bagley said.
“I’m very confident that this older group of customers can really bring the business in…[Broadway Theater] is convinced that there’s a lot of demand in their current clientele. The dinner theater used to be more of a thing way back in the day, now people stay at home and watch Netflix but we’re really trying to bring that dinner and a show kind of date back so we’ll see what happens.”
In addition to appealing to Vista’s retired demographic, the new entertainment program expects to attract new customers into Wildwood who enjoy the Broadway Theater, and vice versa, giving Wildwood regulars an opportunity to see what’s going on in the theater world, Bagley added.
“We’ve been here three years now and we’re hoping that this will introduce a lot of new people to Wildwood, and likewise we’re hoping to introduce some of our clientele to the Broadway theater, creating that symbiotic beneficial relationship,” Bagley said.
Hickman agreed, calling the dinner theater concept something that will bring new business to both entities while creating an enjoyable downtown atmosphere for visiting patrons.
“We have a loyal following at our theater, and John has a loyal following at the restaurant. By combining the two we will hopefully be serving up great food, great entertainment, and hopefully, we will garner new patrons for both our venues.”