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As Good as Broadway

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by Marcia Manna, Digital Content Writer

THE SPECTACULAR SETTING

The open-air Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista’s Brengle Terrace Park presents award-winning, contemporary and traditional musicals in one of California’s most verdant, natural settings.

Before show time, you can glimpse the blue Pacific beyond the park’s gently sloping hills or watch the setting sun shoot beams of gilded light through a lush grove of stately pines and fragrant eucalyptus trees. 

A state-of-the-art stage, which underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in 2008/09, is situated at the west end of a bowl-like depression in the earth, where the breezes are muted and the acoustics enhanced. Our summer musicals are often presented with the original Broadway sets and costumes and with the revamped lighting, every detail pops.

The half circle of stadium seats facing the stage are divided by a passerelle or a catwalk notable for show highlights that include Gypsy Rose Lee’s burlesque routine, the 42nd Street tap dancers and the prowling Jellicle Cats.

The orchestra pit holds more than two dozen musicians and when the moon rises above the trees and the music swells, the audience shares the sense that something magical is about to happen.

Beyond the permanent reserved seating lies elevated tiers of manicured grass, perfect for picnicking. Folding chairs are included in the price of a lawn seating ticket and often young couples and families claim a spot where there is ample room to stretch out on a blanket, share food from home and stargaze through the towering tree branches.

DELIGHTFUL DINING

If dining out is more your style, on-site options range from premium snacks to a three-course, gourmet meal. The snack bar offers nachos, popcorn and candy, but you also can order a hot dog on a pretzel bun or the barbecue pulled pork sandwich. A variety of California wines are sold by the glass or bottle along with craft beers from local breweries.

At the Moonlight’s Artisan Café, patrons can make pre-show reservations and sit at a shaded table with cloth napkins, china and silverware.

ChefDK Catering, run by chef Dave Krohn, offers three-course dinners for $30 per person. Beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian options are enhanced by farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients from local sources. 

An appetizer of California prawns with avocado, for instance, could be followed by an entree of braised short ribs, served with a stout and mushroom reduction and a side of pommes frittes. Pan-seared sole stuffed with crab and dressed with a Béarnaise sauce is another popular choice.

But you must save room for dessert. Options include orange crème brulee, a decadent dark chocolate opera tart or the delightful Milk and Cookies, an Amaretto milkshake paired with mousse-filled almond tuille cookies.

THE STAGE

Our regional theater started as a grassroots effort in 1981, when Moonlight Stage Productions, a group of professionals, drama teachers and volunteers, formed to create a unique theater experience. They didn’t just want to put on a show. They determined to produce entertainment productions of the highest quality while providing educational and cultural opportunities for the benefit and enrichment of our community.  

They formed an extended family anchored by a love of the arts. Those long-lasting relationships within Moonlight Stage Productions provide the supportive environment that inspires our equity and non-equity actors to deliver their best performance. It explains why the artists on our stage have a chemistry that transmits to the audience…and why our shows garner so many awards.

The Moonlight Amphitheatre is the first stage where many notable actors, design specialists and lighting technicians got their start.

Actors such as Eric Kunze, Jennifer Rias, Deven May, Misty Cotton and Gina Feliccia have all started with Moonlight and went on to garner numerous Broadway and national tour credits. To our delight, some often return to star in our productions when their busy schedules permits.

Years of independent reviews online trumpet the Moonlight Amphitheatre memorable performances.
 
Back in 2010, there is the comment by Janet T., who writes:
 
“We went in 2009 to see “Cats” and “42nd Street. “What a beautiful setting and amphitheatre. This is a must see for anyone who enjoys plays. The actors and actresses are over the top.”
 
Last year, Shelly W. told Yelpers she has been attending Moonlight shows on and off for 20 years.
 
“These productions are always outstanding,” she says. “I would put most shows in the ‘as good as Broadway’ category.”