On the Rise

Appears in the May 2023 issue.

By Mike Thomas

The just-opened Moonlight Theatre brings more live entertainment to downtown St. Charles

Inside Moonlight Theatre
Moonlight Theatre, 7 S. Second Ave., St. Charles

As a destination for human amusement, the old Idle Hour Theatre is idle no more. Nearly a century after it stopped operating as a live performance venue, in 1926, and decades after languishing as office space, the two-story brick building at 7 South Second Avenue in downtown St. Charles recently reopened as a multiuse entertainment facility christened the Moonlight Theatre.

Extensively renovated to accommodate a variety of acts and audiences up to 200, the Moonlight made its debut in late February with a sold-out evening of standup comedy. The coming weeks and months are chock-a-block with more laughs, live music, theatrical productions, and even the occasional magic show. Clear away the tables and chairs, and you’ve got a large dance floor where folks can cut a rug.

“It was quite a journey,” says St. Charles resident Joseph Mennella. A local actor, writer, and producer, he serves as the Moonlight’s chairman and artistic director while his mother and business partner, Batavia resident Nancy Fioramonti-Mennella, fills the director of entertainment role. “When we [first] saw the venue, we had a vision of it being exactly what we were looking for: a cabaret-style theater that can host comedy, theatrical, and music.” The Moonlight also is available for corporate events and other private gatherings. In fact, Mennella says, they already have a wedding booked. In the not-too-distant future, theater classes for kids and adults will be added to the mix. Movie nights are in the offing too.

Since it’s so early in the process, Mennella says, they haven’t encountered any real challenges yet. “Everything’s been working pretty smoothly. We have a great team in place.” He says there’s been no trouble booking acts, either. The ever-growing roster has so far included yuks galore, big-band swing, and an all-female Beatles tribute, to name just a handful.

Outside Moonlight Theatre

Both Mennella and Fioramonti-Mennella, a veteran special-events coordinator, were already plugged into the local show biz scene before launching the Moonlight. From talent and production to bartending and serving, they’re hooked up in all the right places. “People that want to work with the team reached out when we started this venture,” Mennella says. “I brought a lot of people on for the production side, and Nancy has brought a lot of people on for the front-of-house and other things. We’ve got a lot of people that believe in the vision and want to grow with us.”

The community, too, has been supportive. “The Chamber of Commerce, the Business Alliance, and other business owners have wished us a lot of luck,” Mennella says. “People are coming to check out the venue. And people want comedy back in St. Charles, especially with Zanies closing in Pheasant Run and that being torn down.”

Mennella says he’ll even hop onstage now and then to perform, but it’s nothing he wants to crow about. His focus is on the venue itself and on creating a local mecca for eclectic entertainment. “The ultimate vision is just to keep the high-quality productions coming in, be the best we can be artistically, and make people happy.”


Photos courtesy of Moonlight Theatre