The Cabrillo stage returns with a series of outdoor performances


The Cabrillo Stage summer music festival is back.

The theater company returns after a year of shutdowns due to Covid-19 with a series of live performances in July. Everything from a Big Band concert to a production of “Pirates of Penzance” will be held in the open-air amphitheater at Cabrillo College.

At the end of 2020, Cabrillo Stage’s artistic director, Jon Nordgren, was faced with the possibility of the company going dark for the second year in a row.

“We hated to make a decision so quickly,” said Nordgren. “We were really afraid of losing the audience that we had built up for so long. “

Created in 1981 by Lile O. Cruse, Cabrillo Stage produces live musical theater performances every year. In recent years, they’ve staged two big summer productions, drawing artists and crowds from all over the state.

Knowing that they would likely not be able to hold their 2021 season as normal, Nordgren and his team began to consider other possibilities. During the pandemic, they had presented a series of virtual performances dubbed “Stars of Cabrillo Stage,” featuring guests from previous seasons of Cabrillo Stage.

Nordgren’s initial idea was to continue this series in the summer.

“My proposal was simple: I wanted to do five virtual concerts in July,” Nordgren said. “We would have five acts, continuing ‘Stars’ and market them like crazy.”

But the vaccine arrived and things started to change quickly. Covid requirements were updated weekly. Suddenly Cabrillo Stage got the chance to do something more.

“At least in our part of the world, things have moved on so quickly,” Nordgren said. “It was crazy, I felt like a guy with one foot on the pier, the other on a boat, and the boat was pulling away.”

Now five in-person and outdoor shows are scheduled, including music concerts and theatrical productions. Things start July 2-4 with the Cabrillo Stage Big Band and the Stars of Cabrillo Stage. Joe Ortiz’s new musical, “Circus: Knives, Blood & Water,” directed by Greg Fritsch, runs July 9-11. Next up was the Cabrillo Stage Pit Orchestra with Stars of Cabrillo Stage, a show Nordgren said he was most excited for.

“It’s a dedication to our pit orchestra,” he explained. “And to Lile [Cruse]… He came from the pit, and was dedicated to the idea that we always have a full orchestra for our shows. And we still do. We are proud of it.

From July 23 to 25, Tom Lehrer’s “Tomfoolery”, directed by Andrew Ceglio and Michael McGushin. Things end from July 30 to August 30. 1 with the classic “Pirates of Penzance”, directed by Joseph Ribeiro and Cheryl Anderson.

All performances will also be streamed live virtually at a reduced price.

Nordgren said the series is the result of months of brainstorming, adaptation, and dedicated volunteerism. More than 150 volunteers worked for them, determining the seating plan (originally created to comply with Covid-19 requirements), creating sets, props, costumes and even the stage itself.

“Watching this come together is so powerful,” Nordgren said. “I can’t believe how many people are working to create this vision. Imagine our guests entering a grassy amphitheater, almost as if they were going to the county fair, seeing the flags fluttering in the wind, seeing the stage… They will have an experience they will never forget.

Guests can purchase tickets in groups of two or more; either in the stadium seats or in the pods on the lawn. Lawn seats allow for blankets or chairs less than two feet in height.

For more information and to order tickets, go here or call 479-6154.

“Expect a real celebration,” Nordgren said. “I think this is the start of a new renaissance for the theater.”


About Marco C. Nichols

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