If you take in a performance of a main stage show at Surflight Theatre, such as the current production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” or the upcoming “The Wedding Singer,” you’re sure to see more than one young talented performer who became enthralled with theater and decided to make it a career after seeing a children’s theater show when they were mere toddlers. Once you’re stung by the live theater bug, you’re likely to be hooked for life, either as a performer or at least as a connoisseur. It’s a good bet that a couple of kids who see a Surflight children’s production this summer will end up back at the Beach Haven theater as an actor some 18 or so years in the future, while many will help fill the theater’s seats, along with their own children, decades from now.
Surflight actors are busy enough, performing every evening and either rehearsing for the next main stage show or appearing in a matinee every afternoon save Monday, the traditional actor’s day off. But they also somehow find time to prepare and perform children’s theater shows.
Andrew Foote is a longtime Surflight favorite – check out his performance as Judas in “JCS.” He’s been busy so far this summer because before playing Judas, he was the male lead in the Gershwin musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” On top of all that, he’s Surflight’s director of children’s theater. Foote is assisted by a couple of other busy people – Paula Sloan, who is not only Surflight’s education director, but also director/choreographer of “The Wedding Singer,” and Christa Steiner, manager of the Surflight complex’s Show Place Ice Cream Parlour.
With just a few precious days of rehearsals, resident Surflight actors along with very talented full-time high school apprentices perform original stage musicals for youngsters. The shows are based on traditional fairytales and classic works of children’s literature and can take a young child’s mind off phones, TV and the internet – an almost impossible task in this “connected” era – for 45 minutes. An added bonus is the opportunity for kids to meet their favorite characters on the Surflight patio after the show. You should see the smiles that meet-and-greet produces! You’re likely to hear more than one 5- or 6-year-old walking away telling their parents, “I want to be Snow White” or “I want to be Capt. Hook” Oh yes, the bug has stung!
Children’s Theatre shows at Surflight begin at 6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday through Sept. 2. Tickets are just $12 for everybody – kids or adults. They may be purchased in advance online at surflight.org, by calling 609-492-9477 or at the box office, located at 201 Engleside Ave. in Beach Haven.
The remainder of Surflight’s 2018 Children’s Theatre schedule includes “Cinderella” from July 11 through 15, “Peter Pan” from July 18 through 22, “The Little Mermaid” from July 25 through 29, “Snow White” from Aug. 1 through 5, “The Wizard of Oz” from Aug. 8 through 12, “Peter Pan” from Aug. 15 through 19, “Cinderella” from Aug. 22 through 26 and “Sleeping Beauty” from Aug. 29 through Sept. 2.
The perfect way to end your evening out with your children would be to meet the children’s theater actors and then stroll over to the adjacent Show Place Ice Cream Parlour.
What kid doesn’t love ice cream? But the Show Place isn’t a typical ice cream shop. It features a singing and dancing wait staff, whose lively shows are likely to put a smile on anybody’s face, child or adult. And these kids are a talented and athletic bunch, as much so as the Surflight actors.
Justin Gaskill, from Somers Point, has sung at Carnegie Hall twice. Dance Capt. Ryan Maroney, from Danville, will be heading off to Disney World College this fall to become a character performer. Lebanon Township’s Jess Hanne is the voice of the title character in the Cape Swoosh Productions radio adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels; Kim Cole, from Lake View, N.Y., is a Zumba instructor. Haley Abbott traveled all the way from Florida to sing and dance at Show Place and is a barre instructor. Gloucester County’s Madeline Kendall is a dancer and contortionist. If being a contortionist is a unique skill, consider Saratoga, N.Y.’s Katelyn Crall, who can quote 90 percent of the “Lord of the Rings” movies! Finally, manager Steiner has not only, like Gaskill, sung twice at Carnegie Hall, but also was a finalist in this year’s Miss New Jersey Pageant.
Show Place, founded in the 1970s, is the original singing ice cream parlor in the Garden State. With its singing and dancing it isn’t your grandfather’s ice cream parlor, but your grandfather might remember the days when ice cream parlors were decked out like Show Place, with red and white striped wallpaper and servers in red and white stripes.
Expect to hear some Broadway classics as well as song-and-dance “announcements,” plugging the glories of ice cream sundaes such as the Fiddler on the Roof, the Hello Dolly and the Phantom of the Opera.
One last note about the Show Place, which is open nightly from 6 to 11 p.m. through Labor Day and features five to six shows each evening. It is a favorite birthday party venue for kids of all ages, from 2 to 92. Let’s face it, a group of regular people singing “Happy Birthday to You” can make one cringe. When the Show Place “waitri” sing the familiar song, it makes one smile.
— Rick Mellerup