Mamma Mia, Surflight Announces 2019 Season

File photo by Ryan Morrill.

Surflight Theatre has announced its 2019 season, and mamma mia, it’s a tasty blend of the old, the new, and in between.

The season will open with “a new Irving Berlin musical,” the actual title of which will be announced in January. It will run June 6-23.

Now, the biggest hit of Surflight’s 2018 season was “Saturday Night Fever,” which filled nearly 9,600 seats, the largest sales for a show in Artistic Director Steve Steiner’s long association with the Beach Haven landmark. So it isn’t surprising Surflight will try to recreate that magic with another dance-filled musical based on a hit movie, “Flashdance,” which will run from June 25 through July 14, a time when LBI will be crawling with tourists.

Interestingly, “Flashdance” never ran on Broadway despite earning good reviews in both London and across America in a U.S. national tour. But Surflight’s next 2019 offering, “Mamma Mia!,” was a Broadway hit, with its 5,773 performances making it the ninth longest-running-show on Broadway. And no, the musical wasn’t based on the movie – the show came first. Indeed, “Mamma Mia!,” which revolves around the songs of ABBA, was the longest-running book musical ever on the Great White Way. “Mamma Mia!” will run from July 16 through Aug. 4.

“Matilda” will play Aug. 6-25. Based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl, “Matilda the Musical” was a Royal Shakespeare Company production that took London by storm. It wasn’t taken to heart by Americans quite as much, but “Matilda” still had a respectable run of 1,555 performances on Broadway.

If “Matilda” has a British feel, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which will run from Aug. 27 through Sept. 8, has decided American roots, it being a tribute to the musical Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. The title, for example, comes from Fats Waller’s most famous song. It won the 1978 Best Musical Tony Award.

Surflight is stepping out on a limb with its next show that will run Sept. 11-22, “Welcome to the Club.” Cy Colman, who wrote the show’s music and most of its lyrics, was a hit-maker, with his “City of Angels” and “Will Rogers Follies” both taking home Best Musical Tony honors and several of his other shows earning Best Musical nominations. But “Welcome to the Club” was a decided flop, closing nine days after its opening. It will be interesting what Steiner and Co. saw in the show.

Surflight’s fall season will end with two straight shows, the comedies “Savannah Sipping Society” and “Baskerville,” a comedic take on Holmes by Ken Ludwig, the greatest American stage comedy writer since Neil Simon. The former will run from Sept. 25 to 29 while the latter will grace Surflight’s stage from Oct. 2 to 6.

“’Tis the Season” will be Surflight’s holiday offering, set to run from Dec. 5 to 15.

Concerts and events planned for Surflight include “The Rave-Ons: The Night the Music Lived” on Feb. 16 and 17, Tea With the Easter Bunny on April 20, a Mother’s Day High Tea on May 11, “Songs in the Attic: The Music of Billy Joel” on May 25, “Tapestry, the Carole King Songbook” on July 8, “Aztec Two-Step: The Simon and Garfunkel Songbook” on July 29, “An Evening With Cher, Elton, Bette and Barbara” on Aug. 12, four “Comedy Tonight” shows on June 17, July 22, Aug. 19 and Oct. 12 and Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve shows to be announced.

Surflight had a solid 2018 summer and fall that included 26 sellouts, over 27,000 in mainstage attendance and over 8,000 for concerts and comedy performances, along with a 10-percent increase in children’s theater attendance over the year before. And don’t forget, the theater’s holiday show, “Elf, The Musical,” is still on tap.

Efforts were made to spruce up the theater which had been damaged by Superstorm Sandy and by being closed for a couple of years due to bankruptcy. $56,000 was allocated to installing a new exterior coating on the upper portion of the theater building and two exterior and interior stage doors were installed for $12,000. A new $7,000 commercial dishwashing system was installed in Show Place Ice Cream Parlour as well as a new $5,000 floor. The costume shop, too, got a new floor, another $5,000 investment.

About $275,000 has been spent on repairs and improvements at the Surflight complex in the past two years.

— Rick Mellerup

Reposted from The Sandpaper