Show Place Is Back! So Are the Smiles

Ice Cream and Singing and Dancing Wait Staff Can’t Fail to Please
By RICK MELLERUP | Jul 26, 2017
Courtesy of: Studio63 Photography

The return of Beach Haven’s Surflight Theatre from its bankruptcy-induced grave has been widely reported in The SandPaper for months. But the return of the adjacent Show Place Ice Cream Parlour has been sort of an afterthought, a sentence or two toward the end of just about every Surflight story.

The lines haven’t been as long this summer as they used to be back in the Show Place’s heyday, when they’d wrap around the corner of Centre Street and far down Beach Avenue as people – young, old and in between – would wait to load up on ice cream treats served by a singing and dancing wait staff. Perhaps the word hasn’t gotten out.

Let’s make it clear – the Show Place is back! And it’s the Show Place patrons always loved.

Last Sunday evening the current batch of Show Place servers/singers/dancers put on shows that could have come right out of the 1990s – this writer served as president of the Alliance for a Living Ocean back then and the group’s office was located right across the hall from Show Place, meaning he heard scores of shows, and the shtick has hardly changed.

Somebody would order an Oliver Twist sundae. A cowbell would ring and the crowd would be instructed to rise to their feet and dance the twist. The cowbell rang again. Somebody had ordered a Wizard of Oz confection so had to sing “Ice cream under the rainbow.”

“I have a Sweet Charity (sundae) order,” announced a waitress, who then led the audience in a rousing takeoff of the eighth-inning “Sweet Caroline” tradition at Boston’s Fenway Park – “Sweet Charity, OH, OH, OH, Show Place ice cream tastes so good, SO GOOD, SO GOOD, SO GOOD!”

As cleanup time came, a waitress noticed empty sundae glasses on a table. The bell rang and everybody at that table had to sing, to the tune of Jimmy Cliff’s “I Can See Clearly Now.”  “I can see clearly now, the ice cream’s gone.”

Oh yeah, if you visit Show Place, expect to become part of the show. You may not have to sing for your supper, but at Show Place you may very well have to sing for your dessert.

Also expect to see and hear some talented performers. Toward the end of each approximately 45-minute-to-an-hour seating (the length depends on how many people are served) the waiters and waitresses turn into musical theater performers.

At the end of one of Sunday’s shows, Trey Plutnicki sang “It’s Almost Like Being in Love” from “Brigadoon.” Ryan Maroney then joined him for a duet, “Together (Wherever We Go)” from “Gypsy.” After an audience sing-along of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” the show ended with a grand finale, “42nd Street,” sung by the entire wait staff cast of six as they danced through the aisles.

It was time to clear the place because people were waiting patiently outside for the next seating. “Now,” the order came in a playful manner, “Get up, pay up, and get out!”

Kanyi Creppy sang the first solo at the end of the next seating/show, treating the audience members to an Irving Berlin song. He then joined with Maroney to sing “Friendship” from “Anything Goes.” The grand finale, sung and danced by the entire troupe for the evening, was the title song of “Anything Goes.” Before the finale, though, was a moment that Wyatt Mohr will never forget.

Well, in truth, Wyatt almost surely won’t remember it, because he’s only 1 year old. Indeed, he had just turned one that day. But his family videotaped it, so he’ll be able to relive the moment when the cast sang a “really special birthday song” to him to the tune of “Swanee” – “How I love you, how I love you.” One of Show Place’s specialties, by the way, is birthday parties.

“We’re open every night of the week starting at 6,” said Show Place manager Christa Steiner, whose father Steve is the producing artistic director at Surflight. “We’re open until 11. If you are in line before 11 you’re guaranteed to see a show. We do about six shows a night, and every show is different. It has different solos, different grand finales.”

That’s to keep things fresh not only for returning patrons but for the staff, which includes not only the above mentioned performers but Melanie DeRosa, Matt Healey, Sydney Rose Hover, Megan Lako, Vincent Giacalone and Eve Brescia.

Brescia, a Barnegat High School grad who is now studying acting at Montclair State University, was working the Show Place door on Sunday, taking a “break” after being a Saturday night soloist. Her job for the evening was to inform potential patrons that they must wait for the next seating/show. She said working at Show Place was about as nice of a summer job a young performer could get.

“You’re learning how to be a waitress (God only knows how many actresses do that between professional gigs), but that’s combined with learning to perform.”

Now, in truth, many of the Show Place performers probably wish, deep down, that they instead had a job in the theater next door. But they’ll also tell you, as Brescia did, that many of the Surflight cast members admit they wish they had a job at Show Place because the singing and dancing wait staff make more money, thanks to tips. So the Show Place performers keep their spirits up, and are sure, in turn, to raise the spirits of patrons.

John Martin knew he would see an upbeat show as he waited in line for the next seating on Sunday. He now lives in Deluth, Minn. But he grew up, at least during the summers, on LBI. Martin was born in 1975 and almost immediately started visiting Show Place and Surflight. “I’ve been coming here since I was 7 or 8, maybe 5,” he said.

“We went to Surflight when Joe Hayes was running the old theater,” said his father, David, of Surflight’s founder and the former garage that once served as the performance space, with no air conditioning or even bathrooms (patrons in need had to run down the street to borough hall).

But the Martins brought along a newcomer, Emily Edison, also of Minnesota. She’d never been in the Show Place. How would she like the show?

“It was awesome!” she said as she left the building. “I smiled the whole time!”


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