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Vista theater revue packs house and fills coffers

VISTA — Patrons of Vista’s theaters were treated to a star-studded trip down memory lane as local luminaries performed numbers from three decades of Moonlight musical shows at the Avo theater June 6.
Dubbed Moonlight Memories, the event raised funds for lighting and sound for the newly renovated Moonlight Amphitheater.
From the first notes of “Oliver” to the rousing finale of “Les Miserables,” actors young and old set the stage afire in two sold-out performances.
It was an opportunity to showcase Moonlight’s current crop of performers like the youngsters of the Encore Youth Theater and adult Moonlight stars like Richard and Sarah Bermudez and Kimberly Kim.
Joining them were several performers returning to their old stomping grounds to reprise prior roles. Kim Neblett crooned “If Ever I would Leave You” from “Camelot” as if no time had passed since his 1982 performance of the piece.
John Nettles’ gymnastic and juggling skills were as keen as the first time he performed “Out There” from “Barnum” 12 years ago. They, like many others, had gone on from Moonlight to even bigger venues.
“There’s a lot of people that have started at the Moonlight as kids (and) have gone on and have been on Broadway or have been on national tours,” Moonlight Stage Productions managing director Danie Kays said.
President of the Encore Youth Theatre Terry Blessing, who originally conceived the event, said getting these stars to come back to their roots was no trouble at all. “We just got the biggest turnout of people saying, ‘Moonlight’s done so much for us, we’ll do anything,’” he said.
That sentiment brought 150 volunteers together to pull off the event. Everything from the lighting and the sound to the moving of the piano was provided free of charge.
“What an amazing thing,” event co-organizer Therese Holladay said. “We did this with no money, no budget.”
The event raised an estimated $50,000, bringing the total raised by the Moonlight Cultural Foundation’s capital campaign begun one year ago to $480,000.
Half of the night’s revenue came from ticket sales and donations. An additional $25,000 matching grant was contributed by Datron World Communications.
This still leaves Moonlight almost $200,000 shy of its $675,000 target. Diana Slaughter Aaron, executive director of
the Moonlight Cultural Foundation, conceded she had thought it would be a hard target to hit in a down economy, but said she was pleased by the campaign’s progress so far. Perhaps that success is not so surprising since the community won’t have much of a theater without proper lights and sound equipment.
“Without lights, you’re not going to see any actors on stage,” performer Ralph Johnson jokingly explained during the show. “Without sound, you’re not going to hear anything. That sort of defeats the purpose of what we’re trying to do.”
“No donation is too small,” Aaron said. “Every dollar, every donation does make a difference.”
Regardless of whether the campaign reaches its goal, the new Moonlight Amphitheater will be unveiled to the public July 4 and will kick off its summer season with “42nd Street” on July 15.
More information regarding donations to the Moonlight Cultural Foundation Capital Campaign can be found at or by calling (760) 630-7650.