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Queens Chronicle

Community theater sings into springtime

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Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:30 am

An interesting combination of the tried-and-true and some daringly innovative offerings marks the Queens community theater spring season, which is kicking into high gear. Nearly a dozen productions are scheduled to vie for audiences between now and the end of May, with the number of planned musical productions, for the first time within memory, far exceeding that of straight plays.

Last Saturday night saw the opening of two musical classics, both of which will run for two more weekends.

Theatre By The Bay presents the perennial favorite, “The Wizard of Oz (MUNY Version),” a version made for the St. Louis Opera House that incorporates a rocket ship, featuring “Over the Rainbow” and the other wonderful Harold Arlen-E.Y. Harburg songs from the motion picture. In addition, according to director Lawrence Bloom, the show adds one song that was cut from the final screen version and “a lovely song called ‘Evening Star’ that gives Dorothy another song to sing.”

Devotees of the film will be surprised to find no flying monkeys. Gone, too, as fans have come to know her, is Glinda, the Good Witch. But the basic story, adapted by Frank Gabrielson from the book by L. Frank Baum, remains, likely as ever to delight audiences of all ages.

The multi-generational cast is headed by young Isabel Robin as Dorothy, along with Jennifer Sanchez as the Scarecrow, Jay Gurka as the Tin Man, Joseph Rand as the Cowardly Lion, and Jean Ann Kump as the Wicked Witch of the West.

Musical direction is by Richard Louis-Pierre. Jessica McCuiston provides the choreography.

Remaining performances at Bay Terrace Jewish Center, 13-00 209th St. in Bayside, are on March 9 and 16 at 8:30 p.m. and March 10 and 17 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20, or $18 for seniors and children 12 and under. For more information, visit theatrebythebayny.com or call (718) 428-6363.

Up and running also is Marathon Little Theatre Group’s rendering of “The Pajama Game,” a lighthearted look at romance set against the backdrop of a pajama factory that features “Hey There” and “Hernando’s Hideaway.”

Gary Ducoing and Heather Bilczic star as, respectively, Sid, the factory’s new superintendent, and Babe, a member of the union’s grievance committee. Frank Auriemma lends support as Hines, a time-study expert. Tanya Fiebert plays his longtime love interest, Gladys.

Direction is by Barbara Auriemma; musical direction by Rhea Arkin; choreography by Lindsay Levy.

Remaining performances at Marathon Jewish Community Center, 245-37 60 Ave. in Douglaston, are on March 9 and 16 at 8:30 p.m. and March 10 and 17 at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $18, or $16 for seniors and children under 13. For more information, call (718) 428-1580.

Opening this Saturday for a five-performance run is another musical classic, “Godspell,” courtesy of Maggie’s Little Theater.

An early work by Stephen Schwartz, composer-lyricist of “Wicked” and “Pippin,” the show, being given what has been described as “a modern interpretation,” is based upon the Gospel According to St. Matthew, and includes the hit tune “Day by Day” and the delightful counterpoint “All for the Best,” among many rhythmic songs.

The cast of 10, under the direction of Joe Anese, includes Kevin McAuley as Jesus and Caleb Gaillard as John the Baptist. Musical direction is by Frank Auriemma, with choreography by Hilary Goldman.

Performances at St. Margaret’s Parish Hall, 66-05 79 Place, Middle Village, are on March 9, 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and March 10 and 17 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15; $13 for seniors and $10 for children 11 and under. For more information, visit maggieslittletheater.org or call (917) 579-5389.

With the opening of The Gingerbread Players’ production of “Bye Bye Birdie” on April 13, more memorable tunes, including “Put On a Happy Face,” “Kids” and “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” will be pouring forth.

A loving take-off on the rock ’n’ roll craze of a bygone era, the show stars David Duryea as music publisher and prospective English teacher Albert and Lori Feren as his faithful secretary Rose. Also featured prominently are Suzanne Schick as Albert’s domineering mother, Mae; Devin Smith as singing idol Conrad Birdie; and Becki Santana and Shannon O’Rourke, who alternate as small-town girl Kim MacAfee. Velma Adams is musical director; Nim Paquin and Terri Matassov choreograph.

Performances at St. Luke’s Church, 85 Greenway South in Forest Hills, are on April 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 2:30 p.m. and April 13 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $12 and $10 for groups of six or more. For more information, visit gingerbreadplayers.org or call (718) 268-7772.

The rest of the season’s shows will be listed in part two of this article in the March 14 edition of the Queens Chronicle.

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