What a winter! What in store for the spring?

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The frigid temperatures and snow-filled days seemed to spur on Queens community theaters to put their very best feet forward, resulting in one of the finest seasons I can recall. Indeed, Douglaston Community Theater took a chance on the weather and inaugurated their first winter season — or at least it was the first that I know of — resulting in their wonderful “Death Takes a Holiday,” a production Queens community theatre goers are not likely to soon forget.

Others held to their established traditions of winter productions with mostly excellent shows such as Beari Productions’ emotion-filled “Steel Magnolias,” Parkside Players’ deliciously quirky “Crimes of the Heart,” Theatre Time’s sturdy “Dial M for Murder,” Outrageous Fortune Company’s powerful “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” Town Hall’s happy-go-lucky “Broadway Blockbusters II,” (Brooklyn) Heights Players’ “Come Blow Your Horn” and “I Remember Mama,” Marathon Little Theatre Group’s “Anything Goes” and Astoria Performing Art Center’s terrific “I Hate Hamlet.”

In fact, this past weekend Astoria Performing Art Center has just mounted the first production to bring in the spring, “Nunsense,” the raucous musical about a group of Catholic nuns, the Little Sisters of Hoboken. Apparently, irreverence toward members of religious orders, if done in good taste, is quite acceptable — which actually sums up this delightful production.

It seems the Little Sisters need funds to bury four of their order who have died after eating a deadly batch of vichyssoise. To do so, they stage a talent show — bringing out the talents and aspirations which have heretofore been hidden under their chaste habits. If you want a razzle-dazzle good time, you can’t miss as you hear these “sisters” reach for stardom — certainly not with the likes of Alisa Schiff, Lydia Gladstone, Gina Holland, Julia Snider and Genevieve Baer.

Singling out any one “sister” over the others would be almost impossible — their idiosyncrasies, neuroses, all-around energy and stage presence were common threads to the success of this production. However, I must put in my personal plug for Sister Mary Amnesia’s big number. Additional kudos to director Brian Swasey for infecting this talented bunch of ladies with a zesty pinch of Broadway fever, to music director Matt Castle for his overall brio, and, of course, to the diligence of the group’s executive producer, Susan Scanell.

For a breath of “divine” innocence and a “genuflecting” good time, you can still catch any of the three remaining performances this coming weekend, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. The Astoria Performing Arts Center is located at 31-30 33rd Street, right in Astoria’s café and restaurant mecca. Call 278-5925 for reservations.

A special effect of “Nunsense” is that it is performed just by a group of five singing actresses, who do their own solos and group numbers, and act as chorus for each other as each soloist steps forward to take her turn in the spotlight. Quite the opposite is true of the Marathon Little Theatre Group’s “Anything Goes,” a more traditional big, chorus-filled musical.

I had previewed this production two weeks back, thanks to assistance from my best friend, Bette, and her husband, who saw it on the opening weekend. I must say that my preview summed up the pleasures of this production quite accurately, thanks to Bette. Cathy Chimenti sparkled as the wise-cracking, world-weary Reno Sweeney. Her gift for song and humor had ample opportunity for display — particularly in the big “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” number. Amanda Salerno and Terrence McDonnell were quite in tune as the ingénue Hope and the “hope”ful Billy, with a memorable and sweet “It’s Delightful.” Howard Liesersohn provided sturdy support as Evelyn.

But chorus-filled shows can be tricky. Inspiring so many people — from a large supporting cast to a chorus brimming with actors of all ages and talents — to feel the thrill of the production and shine without an ounce of self-consciousness is no mean trick. I would suggest that director Larry Bloom, whose overall efforts are to be congratulated for mounting such a piece, to get over to Flushing to watch the Free Synagogue of Flushing do their next musical. Somehow, that group manages to make a chorus sing, dance, and act like aces. They stand apart and above — with occasional exceptions from groups like St. Mary’s Drama Guild (whose “Cinderella,” “My Fair Lady,” and “The Sound of Music” over the past few years were all rather special) and Parkside Players (whose “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “The Little Shop of Horrors” several years ago were quite well-done).

With that in mind, I am happy to report that the coming spring community theatre season is packed with treats to make a theatre lover rush to make reservations. With musicals still in the air, Gingerbread Players at St. Luke’s Church in Forest Hills Gardens is offering “Godspell” opening this Saturday at 8 p.m. This is indeed a special musical, following in comic, but reverent style, the gospel of St. Matthew, focusing on Christ’s journey to Jerusalem and death. With gorgeous songs such as “Day by Day” and “All Good Gifts,” you cannot miss. With Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., you can also take a walk through the famed Forest Hills Gardens, just in its early spring bloom. You certainly will want to call 718-268-6021 for information and reservations.

Later in the spring, Parkside Players of Forest Hills is offering “Something’s Afoot,” a mystery-musical-comedy, running May 17-31. Always expect a professionally prepared production and great intermission goodies from this Queens local theatre cornerstone located at Grade Lutheran Church, 103-15 Union Turnpike, Forest Hills. Call 718-497-4922 for information.

The Free Synagogue of Flushing Theatre Group is offering a “Tribute” to its 30 years of annual musicals. Though a revue rather than a book musical, I am sure this feisty, pull-it-together group will do wonders. With such great shows as “42nd Street,” “Fiorello” and “Mame” to its credit over just the past few years, this group is the one to beat for musical productions, and a “Tribute” may indeed be more of a feast. Show dates are May 24 and 25 and June 1. Free Synagogue of Flushing is located at 41-60 Kissena Blvd. in Flushing. Call 516-354-3017, although wait until late April or early May to call.

For its June production, Beari Productions of Middle Village is offering the next installment of their ongoing musical revue series called “Magical Musical Moments.” I have seen only the most recent of this series, subtitled “Jukebox Saturday Night” two years back and was enchanted. Their forthcoming episode, as noted in the program of their winter production, is promised to be “The Best of Magical Musical Moments.” I can hardly wait! Beari Productions is located at Trinity Lutheran Church, corner of Penelope Avenue and Dry Harbor Road, Middle Village. Call 718-736-1216, although you may wait until mid-May to call for reservations.

For its May production, Ronald Hellman’s Outrageous Fortune Company is offering the Tony Award-winning “Side Man’’ by Warren Leight. As always, Hellman is committed to presenting only the most stage-worthy of recent plays, hot from Broadway or Off-Broadway, and “Side Man” is certainly adult fare that falls into that category. Show dates are May 9-18. The Outrageous Fortune Company is located at the Studio Theatre at Queens Theatre in the Park, Flushing Meadows. Call 718-760-0064. Again, you may wish to wait until a few weeks prior to the May 9 opening to call.

The mighty twosome of Douglaston, namely Theatre a la Carte and Douglaston Community Theatre, have not yet formally posted their spring offerings on the internet — — my main source of information, nor have they notified the TimesLedger as yet. After their recent superior offerings of “Rebecca” (at TALC) and “Death Takes a Holiday” (at DCT), I am sure these two groups are whipping up worthy successors to keep their houses sold out. A visit to either — indeed both — of these theaters with historic Douglaston in spring bloom surrounding them is quite a treat! As soon as I know about their plans, I’ll shout the word.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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