Playhouse

Beatles tribute band Paperback Writer debuts in Banning on Aug. 1.

This is the last August over the next several years where Banning can take advantage of five Thursdays to host the 67th Annual Evenings in the Park Summer Concert Series, a city signature event presented by the Playhouse Bowl Association.

The next time there will be five Thursdays during August is 2023.

All of the performances start at 7:30 p.m. at the Laura May Stewart Playhouse Bowl in Repplier Park in Banning.

All of the shows are free and open to the public.

Each of the five weeks will host a tribute band spanning a range of genres.

Three of the cover bands have played the Bowl before.

“If the bands are available, they are always willing to return,” says Lynette Espinoza, director of the playhouse. “The agents are happy to work with us.”

The three returning alum are Queen Nation, a Queen tribute; Kenny Cetera’s Chicago Experience, a Chicago tribute; and Neon Circus, a Brooks and Dunn tribute.

Newcomers to the playhouse stage are Paperback Writer, a tribute of The Beatles and December ’63, a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute.

Before the live performances, there will be vendors, a car show and a mini-market night.

The car show and market night begin at 4 p.m. each Thursday.

The Playhouse Bowl Association, a nonprofit organization, has been producing this series since 1952 when Harry S. Truman was president.

Espinosa has been at the helm of the organization for the last 20 of those years and has helped it to grow considerably since then.

Playhouse

The iconic Freddy Mercury and Queen will be reincarnated as Queen Nation on Aug. 22.

Last year over the five concerts in the park, there were well over 10,000 concertgoers to fill the bowl, according to Espinosa.

That averages out to more than 2,000 people a week coming out enjoy an evening in the park.

“The turnout has been outstanding. Locals look forward to it every year,” says Mayor Art Welch, an avid supporter of the concert series.

The Beatles Experience takes it’s audience on a trip through the musical years of the world’s most popular rock group of all time! Witness the…

The music of FRANKIE VALLI AND THE FOUR SEASONS comes to life in this one-of-a-kind concert experience. DECEMBER ’63 showcases all your favori…

Kenny Cetera's Chicago Experience features the music of the legendary band Chicago. Band members are: Kenny Cetera - vocals, percussion; Mark …

Queen Nation, a tribute to Queen, was formed in 2004. Queen Nation consists of: Gregory Finsley on vocals & keyboards as Freddie Mercury, …

Carrying on in true Brooks & Dunn style comes Neon Circus: a tribute to country music's legendary duo. RK Ford (Ronnie Dunn) and Tim Johns…

“My wife and I haven’t missed a season in years,” he adds. “We always make plans to go.”

Many of the guests to the free shows begin arriving early to get their seats and take in the ambience along with the other early birds.

Some of them bring food in picnic-basket fashion, while others purchase food from the vendors, which will be on site throughout the evening.

The evening starts about 7:15 p.m., with a flag salute, and a local vocal talent sings the national anthem.

The bands hit the stage and pay their homage with two 45-minute sets, separated by a 15-minute intermission, during which donation baskets are passed around during the break as a fundraising effort to help offset the cost of the weekly concerts.

The budget for this year’s concert series was set at $31,500.

This year, $19,000 went to pay for the talent alone.

“We strive to get the best bands for our budget,” Espinosa said, adding that the association got a “great deal on the bands this year.”

The city of Banning dedicated $12,500 toward the budget for this year’s run of concerts as part of its commitment to cultural programs, a commitment afforded to the concert series since it is one of two official “signature events” the city budgets for (the other is Banning Stagecoach Days).

“It is a very welcomed program, and outstanding series,” the Mayor said.

The Evenings in the Park concert series will kick off on Aug. 1 with a rendition by Paperback Writer, a tribute to the UK’s all-time favorite rock band The Beatles.

On Aug. 8, December ’63 will honor the falsetto singer Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

The brass horns of Chicago will be heard on Aug. 15 when the Kenny Cetera’s Chicago Experience comes to town.

The iconic Freddy Mercury and Queen will be reincarnated as Queen Nation pays tribute to the legendary anthem rockers on Aug. 22; and Neon Circus will close out the series on Aug. 29, as they belt out melodies from Brooks and Dunn like “Neon Moon” and “Boot Scootin’ Boggie.”

The Playhouse Bowl Association is always looking to expand its volunteer and contributor base. To learn more on how to volunteer or donate, call (951) 922-3242 or visit www.playhousebowl.com .

Staff Writer Marc Hagett may be reached at mhargett@recordgazette.net .

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