.Cabrillo Stage Returns with Outdoor Performance Series

Cabrillo Stage’s Summer Musical Festival is back.

The theater company is returning 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 at Cabrillo College’s outdoor amphitheater.

In late 2020, Cabrillo Stage’s artistic director Jon Nordgren was faced with the possibility that the company would be going dark for the second year in a row.

“We hated to make a decision so quickly,” Nordgren said. “We were really afraid that we’d lose the audience we’d been building up for so long.”

Established in 1981 by Lile O. Cruse, Cabrillo Stage produces live musical theater events every year. For the past few years, they’ve put on two large productions in the summer, drawing in performers and crowds from throughout the state. 

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Knowing they would most likely not be able to hold their normal 2021 season, Nordgren and his team began looking at other possibilities. During the pandemic, they had been putting out a series of virtual performances dubbed “Stars of Cabrillo Stage,” featuring guests from past Cabrillo Stage seasons.

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

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

But along came the vaccine—and things began changing rapidly. Covid requirements were being updated weekly. Suddenly, Cabrillo Stage had a chance to do something more.

“At least in our part of the world, things moved 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 sailing away.”

Now, five in-person, outdoor shows are scheduled, including music concerts and theater productions. Things kick off July 2-4 with the Cabrillo Stage Big Band and Stars of Cabrillo Stage. Joe Ortiz’s new musical, “Circus: Knives, Blood & Water,” directed by Greg Fritsch, will run July 9-11. Next up is the Cabrillo Stage Pit Orchestra with Stars of Cabrillo Stage—a show Nordgren said he is 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’re proud of that.”

July 23-25 is Tom Lehrer’s “Tomfoolery,” directed by Andrew Ceglio and Michael McGushin. Things cap off July 30-Aug. 1 with the classic “Pirates of Penzance,” directed by Joseph Ribeiro and Cheryl Anderson.

All performances will also be live-streamed virtually for a discounted price.

Nordgren said that the series is the result of months of brainstorming, adapting and dedicated voluntarism. More than 150 volunteers have been working for them, figuring out the seating map (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 like they’re going to the county fair, seeing the flags waving 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 stadium seating or in pods on the lawn. Lawn seating allows blankets or chairs under two feet in height.

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

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



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