The First Coast is beginning to be a popular location for dinner theaters, as the latest of which opened in April with the Spotlight Center located in Fleming Island.
“We’re still pretty brand new,” said Curtis Reed, creative director with the theater.
Even though it is still early in the process, Reed is excited about the potential that exists for the dinner theater in the area of northeast Florida.
“We used to own one of the most successful dinner theaters in Nashville, called Chaffin’s Barn, but the pandemic hit and forced us to close it,” Reed said.
However, have now moved their attention to replicating that past success with the Spotlight Center, which was an idea that had been formulating since the end of 2021.
“This area is really starting to grow, especially with the new bridge going up along (State Road) 16,” Reed said. “That area and Middleburg is really seeing an expansion, and we’re looking a full dinner theater is what people are looking for.”
The center uses a 50-50 approach when selecting a show’s cast, which means that half of the performers are from the local area, while the other half are from outside the area, usually elsewhere in Florida or up into Georgia.
According to Reed, one of the aspects that make dinner theaters so unique, and fun is that it allows for a certain level of convenience because a person or group’s night out is all under one roof and there is no running around to other locations for dinner and then the play.
“It’s a one-stop shop for celebrating and making a night out of it,” Reed said. “And boy do we know how to celebrate.”
One of the unique ways in which they share in celebrations with their guests is by singing a song for anyone in attendance celebrating a special occasion, no matter what it is.
“We try to really create that family atmosphere, and one of our goals is that we want to make the experience so memorable that when people are walking out at the end of the night they are already planning their next outing at the center,” Reed said. “It’s a special place for us, and we want that to be the case for them as well.”
Reed credited not just the system of success in place but also excellent people on the staff that help create those memorable experiences.
Despite being a new theater, Spotlight wasted little time forming a lineup of shows they believe their guests will appreciate and be proud of.
According to Reed, the theater plans to have 15 to 16 shows each year, including hitting that mark by the end of their first year in business.
Some of the shows the Spotlight Center has shown since it opened its doors in April include "James and the Giant Peach," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "Addams Family."
Future shows on the calendar a Tribute to Carol Burnett, "The 39 Steps," "Willy Wonka," which will be their children’s production, and "Holiday Inn," one of their Christmas features.
“We try to have a variety of shows that we offer, so that there’s something for the whole family to enjoy when they stop by,” Reed said. “One of the things that we’ve discovered is that love of theater has no age limit.”
The Spotlight Center is located at 1809 East West Parkway in Fleming Island. It opens its doors for its nightly shows at 5:30 p.m. with dinner being served from then to 6:45 p.m. and the shows starting at 7 p.m.
Tables seat parties of four to six, which means parties less than four may be sharing a table. Tickets can be purchased by calling 904-375-9547 or going to spotlighteventscenter.com.
The Center also offers matinee options with doors opening at 11 a.m. and the show starting at noon. Boxed lunches will be served for the matinees instead of the dinner menu.