Broadway at the beach comes back to Long Beach Island after a two year dark period. Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven will reopen at the start of the peak summer season with a full line-up of performances for the whole family.
Surflights History as a Theater in Long Beach Island
The Surflight Theatre was founded by theatre enthusiast Joseph P. Hayes in 1950 with the profits he made from a small investment in Broadway’s original run of Kiss Me Kate in 1948. Surflight started out holding performances under a large tent in Beach Haven Crest. For a decade or so, theater in Long Beach Island didn’t have a homebase, as Surflight operated in various locations.
In the late 1960s, a permanent home was built for Surflight Theatre on Engleside Avenue in Beach Haven. This landmark facility is home to the nationally recognized Showplace Ice Cream Parlour that opened in 1975 selling theatrically themed ice cream flavors served by a singing waitstaff. However, it wasn’t until 1987 that the current 450-seat-theater in Long Beach Island was constructed.
Professional actors, talented young directors, set and costume designers, choreographers, musicians, interns, apprentices and executive managers ran Surflight Theatre for 65 full seasons. Throughout this time, the theatre gave a start to many artists including David Hartman, Richard Kind, Ed Dixon, James Brennan, Charlotte D’Amboise, and Seth Rudetsky.
Thanks to the theater’s close proximity to New York City (about 2 hours), broadway actors, directors, and producers found it convenient to do theater in Long Beach Island at the Surflight. Scott Schwartz, who directed Broadway’s Jane Eyre in 2000, directed Surflights production of Titanic in the same year. Broadway actor from the late 80s and 90s Steve Steiner came on board as Surflights artistic director from 1997 to 2010. Tony Award Winning Broadway Producer Roy Miller took over the productions for the 2011 season.
In the early 2000s, Surflight transitioned to a not-for-profit corporation under the name The Joseph P. Hayes Theatre, Inc. Later, a comedy club, concert series, and touring educational program were added to the eclectic theater in Long Beach Island.
Throughout the new millennium, Surflight continued to grow and become members of local and international affiliations including the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, the South Jersey Cultural Alliance, and the Actors Equity Association.
From summer to winter, Surflight put on vacation-friendly Broadway classics like The Wizard of Oz, Grease, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, Les Miserables, and Fiddler on the Roof until their official closing in 2015.
Hurricane Sandy Affects Theater in Long Beach Island
Like much of the Jersey Shore, Surflight Theatre got wrecked by the winds and flooding from Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Because of the damages from the storm, including over 1,000 ruined costumes, the theater’s 2012 winter productions had to be canceled. The total worth of losses was at least $700,000.
Because theater in Long Beach Island is so cherished by the community, Surflight Theatre was able to reopen in April 2013. Executive director at the time, Ken Myers, also coming from a career on Broadway, decided to open with the uplifting production of Thank You for the Music- A Modern Tribute to ABBA.
The setback from Hurricane Sandy was not the first time Surflight Theatre faced financial difficulties. Their debt had been accumulating for years before Sandy and incoming donations were decreasing. Despite the enthusiasm and support from the community, Surflight Theatre filed for bankruptcy and closed in February 2015.
Beloved Theater in Long Beach Island Reopens
The good news broke out weeks ago that LBI’s treasured Surflight Theatre will reopen this summer, just in time for beach goers of all ages to enjoy.
New Jersey native and former South Jersey radio station owner, WJSE-FM, Al Parinello purchased the bankrupt theatre from TD Bank in February. Besides being a real estate man, Parinello also comes from Broadway. He is known in New York City area for his role as lead producer for the wildly successful musical The Fantasticks, which is still playing on Broadway today.
Opening night is set for June 23, 2017 with the presentation of Footloose, which will run until July 9th. Mainstage productions are planned through September 7th and then a special holiday show will run throughout December.
Surflight’s award-winning Children’s Theatre will kick off their season with Cinderella on June 28th. Plans for Comedy Nights are also in the works starting July 3rd and a Concert Series beginning on July 17th with the Coasters, Drifters, and Platters. The Education Division will also come back into play presenting Rock of Ages (High School Version) with local students in late October. Good news continues as next door’s Showplace Ice Cream Parlour will also reopen complete with a crowd-pleasing singing staff.
Tickets for the 2017 season are on sale online now or at the box office starting April 14th. Prices are $29 for kids and $39 for adults. Subscription and group pricing are available, too.
The Show Must Go On with Theater in Long Beach Island
The locals are thrilled to see Surflight Theatre is coming back on the scene! Hopes are high that the performing arts will thrive for years to come, along with the vibrant art scene on LBI. Surflight will reopen under the original mission: to serve as a training ground for young artists in a supportive summer stock environment and to provide quality entertainment to the residents and vacationers of Long Beach Island. Suffice it to say, this theater in Long Beach Island has had it’s share of hardships, but the show must go on!