Much has happened in Starlight’s history since it opened in Kansas City in 1950 and became a nonprofit organization in 1951.

Black and white photo of audience at Starlight from 1950

By the mid-1940s, discussions of an “outdoor stage” for Kansas City had been under way for two decades. While an outdoor theatre was low on the city’s list of priorities, plans for a ceremony to celebrate Kansas City’s 100th anniversary added urgency.

City officials selected Swope Park as the site for the performance and, with bond money held up in litigation, the city’s Centennial Association contributed $135,000 to begin construction in December 1949.

On June 4, 1950, in a facility not yet fully complete, the historical revue, Thrills of a Century, opened at Starlight Theatre in celebration of Kansas City’s 100th birthday. The show played nightly through July 10. Hundreds of local citizens participated in the pageant, and thousands turned out each night. Show highlights included the staging of the Battle of Westport, a Gay ‘90s revue, and the original locomotive that crossed the Hannibal Bridge 81 years before chugging across the stage on specially built rails.

The pageant’s success prompted the Park Board to move ahead with plans to complete Starlight. In 1951, a not-for-profit organization was created to activate and run the theatre going forward.

Keep Reading

Decade by Decade

Read more about each decade in Starlight’s almost 75 years in our special ongoing blog series.

Walk of Stars

In 2001, Starlight proudly introduced its Walk of Stars to recognize the greats who have appeared on our stage.

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