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Musicals under the Moon at Moonlight Amphitheatre

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Moonlight Stage Productions, in the city of Vista in San Diego’s North County, is currently in the middle of their 31st Summer Season of presenting musicals under the moon and stars. Their venue is the very unique Moonlight Amphitheatre in Brengle Terrace Park--a few rows of theatre seats, followed by a grassy era where the audience can picnic and then watch the show from their lawn chairs, followed by a few more rows of conventional seating and another grassy space and so on up to the light/sound booth. There is more lawn seating on the hillside above the booth.

This writer first experienced the charms of Moonlight in September ,1990 with a truly magical production of INTO THE WOODS. When the Baker and his Wife buried the cow, they were digging in a real hillside to the right of the stage. When the Baker and Jack waited in a tree to slay the Giant, they were actually sitting in a live tree to the left of the stage. The venue has changed in the past two decades, most significantly in 2008 when a new stage, with ample wing and fly space, was constructed. The theatre, which had won Robby Awards for Best Musical in 1998 for DROOD and in 2003 for CHILDREN OF EDEN, was now able to produce shows with more complicated sets and tech, such as MISS SAIGON and CATS.

The 2011 season began in June with FOREVER PLAID, directed by one of the revue’s original cast members, David Engel. He cast four newcomers to the roles of Frankie, Jinx, Smudge and Sparky--Joshua David Cavanaugh, Nick Lorenzini, Joey Debenedetto and Jeffrey Scott Parsons. They did him proud, meshing their voices in the heavenly harmonies of such golden oldies as “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” “Magic Moments,” “Shangri-La,” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.” They also excelled in their solos and in the endearing comic sequences like THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW delivered in just over three minutes of blazing hilarity. Dr. Terry O’Donnell on piano and Grant Clarkson on bass provided the pitch perfect accompaniment.

The little red-haired orphan ANNIE returned to Moonlight in July for the first time in 24 years, with Robby winners Randall Dodge as Daddy Warbucks and Debbie Prutsman as the little-girl-hating Miss Hannigan. August will see Randall S. Hickman don a plus size housedress as Edna Turnblad in HAIRSPRAY with Kim Zolozabal as her dance-crazed daughter Tracy. David Engel will take the stage as TV DJ Corny Collins while Tracy Lore will play the villainous former Miss Baltimore Crabs. September will bring the San Diego premiere of THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES, directed by the creator Roger Bean, and featuring two local actresses and Moonlight favorites, Bets Malone and Misty Cotton, as half of the distaff singing group.

Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Dr. in Vista. (760)724-2110 or



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.