Purchase of Surflight Theatre Due to Close April 27

Apr 19, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Surflight Theatre is truly coming back this summer, despite rumors to the contrary.

In early March, The SandPaper reported that Surflight, a decades-long Beach Haven landmark – as well as the extremely popular adjacent Show Place Ice Cream Parlour, beloved for its singing and dancing wait staff – would reopen in June after two years of bankruptcy-forced darkness. The theater complex, which consists not only of the theater proper and Show Place, but also housing for its actors and technicians as well as a set shop, costume shop and office space, had been purchased by New York producer and real estate investor Al Parinello, best known as the lead producer for the current Off-Broadway production of “The Fantasticks,” the longest-running musical in theatrical history.

But locals had noticed that nothing had been going on at Surflight since a March 6 press conference announcing its reopening. Yes, a banner announcing its 2017 summer season had been hung, but a real estate agent’s sign saying the complex was for sale remained.

Part of the problem was The SandPaper, in response to a question answered by Parinello at that press conference, had reported the deal had been closed. Parinello misspoke – an agreement to purchase the complex from TD Bank had indeed been signed, but the official closing had not yet taken place. That meant workmen couldn’t get inside the theater to do the cleanup and restoration work needed to reopen the building.

Steve Steiner, Surflight’s former producing artistic director, who will run the theater for Parinello, told The SandPaper on Tuesday that all was OK, that the official closing was set for April 27. When asked how quickly work inside the theater would begin, he chuckled when he said, “On the afternoon of April 27th.”

Steiner added that he and his cohorts hadn’t been sitting on their hands in the interim. They have revived the theater’s website at surflight.org and reclaimed Surflight’s old phone number, 609-492-9477. In March they attended “StrawHat Auditions” in New York City, an organization that holds auditions for mostly young non-Equity performers hoping to secure positions in the troupes of some 60 summer stock theaters throughout the country, but especially in the Northeast. Surflight also held its own NYC auditions.

“We saw about 450 performers at StrawHat,” said Steiner, “and about 150 at our own auditions.”

Local auditions, for both teens and adults, have been scheduled for Sunday, April 23, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Starlight Performing Arts Center, located at 712 East Bay Ave., Manahawkin – in the Manahawkin Plaza shopping center, next to Retro Fitness. Questions should be directed to info@surflight.org.

“We’ve already auditioned kids for the kids’ chorus in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ and for parts in other shows such as ‘Newsies,’” said Steiner.

Steiner and Co., especially group sales maestro Ruth Blankemeyer, have also been busy selling tickets for the 2017 summer season.

“We’ve sold $65,000 worth of tickets to date, in 225 separate orders,” he said, “and booked 45 groups,” which can enjoy lunch or dinner at Island restaurants such as Buckalew’s, Carmen’s, The Engleside Inn and the Surf City Hotel as well as taking in a Surflight show.

Numerous people have contacted this reporter since The SandPaper published a March 8 story concerning the return of Surflight, asking how they can volunteer to help Surflight’s comeback. Steiner said on Tuesday that they should email volunteer@surflight.org.

“We’re not only looking for people to do the traditional things like serving at Joe’s Place (the theater’s snack bar) and ushering,” said Steiner. “We’re also looking for people to chip in with the theater’s cleanup.”

Surflight’s 2017 main stage season includes “Footloose,” June 23 through July 9; the aforementioned “Joseph,” July 11-23; “Disney’s Newsies,” a Surflight premiere, July 25 to Aug. 13; “Hairspray,” Aug 15-27; “Million Dollar Quartet,” Aug. 29 to Sept. 10; and “Home for the Holidays: a Surflight Celebration,” Dec. 7-17.

A children’s theater season has also been announced, and a concert season is being developed – visit surflight.org for details.

— Rick Mellerup


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