Starlight is a beloved destination for national tours of Broadway shows and contemporary musicians. Two generous, forward-thinking donors are largely to thank for Starlight’s ability to host the highest-quality productions while maintaining the magic of the outdoor theatre experience.
For the better part of 50 years since opening in 1951, Starlight self-produced the majority of its shows, which were performed at the mercy of Mother Nature on the exposed, open-air stage. Following a number of venue enhancements in the 1990s, however, it became apparent that the stage itself needed some improvements in order to attract national touring productions.
Enter Jerome “Jerry” Cohen, who served as one of the founding members of the nonprofit Starlight Theatre Association in 1951, and his wife, Jeanette. In 1997, their gift of more than $1 million gave Starlight the backing it needed to advance the efforts that would make the dream of a new stage a reality; in total, 38 donors contributed $10 million towards the project. As the century turned and the new millennium dawned, Starlight revealed a big present for audience members and performers – the grand new Jeannette and Jerome Cohen Community Stage!
Standing 10 stories tall and encompassing 12,000 square feet, the new stage was climate-controlled, fully enclosed, and had the bells and whistles needed to attract megahit Broadway touring productions. During the stage’s first season in 2000, nearly 230,000 guests flocked to Starlight to enjoy the national tours of Miss Saigon, Fosse, and others.
The Jeannette and Jerome Cohen Stage raised the bar for Starlight and spurred a decade of facility growth and enhancement that patrons continue to enjoy today. It is an accomplishment worth celebrating, and a generous gift we continue to be grateful for 20 years later.