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The Play’s The Thing: Flushing theater group turns 35 with ‘Curtains’ production

In downtown Flushing, one of the most diverse ethnic neighborhoods in the country, stands the Free Synagogue of Flushing, an architectural resource recently nominated to both the state and National Register of Historic Places.

Located at the corner of Kissena Boulevard and Sanford Avenue, the neoclassical building goes back to 1927 — the liberal Reform center was founded 10 years earlier. Atop the entrance are words from Isaiah: “For mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”

Now celebrating its 35th anniversary at the Free Synagogue is the FSF Community Theatre Group, opening Saturday night with its latest musical, “Curtains,” the comedy-mystery by John Kander and Fred Ebb, fresh from its Broadway run.

With such huge hits as “Cabaret” and “Chicago” and our city’s anthem, “New York, New York,” the Kander and Ebb team came up with another one-word “c” title with “Curtains,” which earned eight Tony Award nominations and brought home a winner with David Hyde Pierce’s Best Performance.

Founded by the synagogue’s sisterhood, the theater group’s first show was “Guys and Dolls” in fall 1973, followed by one musical a year until the 1990s, when it added a second show for most seasons. Once in a while the FSFCT produces a play, but musicals remain the main attraction, with such classics as “South Pacific,” “The Sound of Music,” “The King and I” and “Kiss Me, Kate.”

Maryellen Pierce, a teacher and director at The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates, is the group’s artistic director and has directed most of the shows for the last 23 years. Her favorites include the more challenging ones, such as “Follies,” “Cabaret,” “Victor/Victoria” and the upcoming “Curtains,” which plays for the next three weekends. Music direction, as usual, is by Paul L. Johnson.

“Our goal,” Maryellen said, “is to provide creative outlets for all generations and quality entertainment at reasonable prices.”

With young talent the lifeblood of theater, FSFCT is now in its fourth year of offering musical theater workshops on Tuesdays and Thursdays in January and February to beginner and intermediate students ages 10-19. In addition to training in all aspects of theater, students get the opportunity to appear in the group’s spring show, which in recent years have been “Peter Pan” and “Cinderella,” with “The Wizard of Oz” coming up next May.

The FSFCT is run by a board of directors with “Cookie” Knisbaum as president. It looks forward to many more years of presenting audience-friendly shows while expanding its programs. For information and tickets, call 917-969-2589 or 516-521-5500 or e-mail fsfctgprez@aol.com.

Congratulations to Beari Productions for its recent production of “Poe-Pourri,” an adaptation by Alan David Perkins of some short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, along with a couple of his poems. At their home-away-from-home at Trinity Church in Middle Village, Rene and Debbie Bendana continue to strive for something different.

And for you classical theater buffs, Nan Asher’s Queens Shakespeare’s version of “Much Ado About Nothing,” set in the scandalous world of reality television, opened this week. Check it out for the next two weekends at the Bowne Street Church in our wonderfully diverse downtown Flushing.

Contact Ron Hellman at rbh24@columbia.edu.

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