23ABC Community Connection


Stars Theatre resumes in-person performances after 16 months

Posted at 11:25 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-17 02:25:58-04

Nineteen-year-old, Mary O’Reilly has been performing with the Stars Theatre since she was five.

“My first show was the Wizard of Oz, and I was a munchkin,” O’Reilly said.

But then, the pandemic hit, and the stage lights dimmed for 16 months. O’Reilly said she missed having Stars as an outlet for the thing she loves most.

“It was miserable. It’s my favorite thing to do in the whole world,” O’Reilly said. “I go to school at NYU, and for singing, so I had to leave school and come back to Bakersfield. I’ve been here for a year and a half, and it’s been really kind of sad having to do all my singing online, but I’m excited to be back. It’s crazy!”

Like O'Reilly said, the Stars Theatre and restaurant stage is echoing with music once more. Friday night, dinner and theatre guests experienced a long-awaited opening night of Rodgers and Hammerstein's “A Grand Night for Singing.”

“We had to rely on our patrons to get us through this, and luckily everything has worked out for us. We’ve been very lucky and blessed to still be here,” Director of Theatre Operations at Stars Theatre, Alex Neal said.

It took some creativity to keep things going until they reopened again, according to Neal.

“We had to try our hand at different skills. We had virtual performances for a while, I think four virtual productions, of varying degrees, trying our hand at different ways of video producing,” Neal said. “We also for a short time did takeout dinners.”

Neal mentioned that Stars had to apply for local and federal grants including PPP loans and furloughed almost all employees for a time.

“We tried to keep on as many people as possible, for as long as we could and tried different ways to keep them employed.” Neal said. “We did have to furlough a lot of our employees, but we’re happy to say we offered everyone their positions back.”

So, this return for staff, patrons and performers alike means a lot.

“I just hope they can get as excited and joyful as we are,” O’Reilly said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

If you miss Friday's show, you’ll have the chance to catch it again Saturday, or the next three weekends, Friday through Sunday. Also opening at their Rosedale location, Stars Playhouse is “A Servant of Two Masters." Ticket information can be found here.