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The Play’s The Thing: Theatre by the Bay brings back the irresistible ‘Mame’

I’m over at the Bay Terrace Jewish Center in Bayside, not far from the entrance to Fort Totten and near the end (or is it the beginning?) of Bell Boulevard, where a group of about 40 or so are rehearsing “Mame,” the popular Jerry Herman musical. They’re members of Theatre by the Bay, varying in age, shape and size, and they’re all having a great time. And it’s not just the Oreo cookies.

Founded in 2004 by Lawrence F. Bloom (call him Larry), along with co-producers Martha Stein and Barbara Koenig, Theatre by the Bay typifies the image and goal of community theater: Get a lot of eager and talented people together, dedicate hours and effort, generate team spirit, have a lot of fun and put on a show that most everybody can enjoy.

“Mame” is the company’s 13th production, following such standards as “Gypsy,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Carousel” and “The Music Man.” It stars the vivacious and veteran performer Jean Ann Kump, a Middle Village resident, as the non-conformist Auntie Mame. Her young nephew is played by an 11-year-old Bayside girl, Isabel Robin, a Middle School 294 (Bell Academy) student. Don’t worry about the gender switch—she’s got the goods.

The rest of the cast consists of a cross-section of the community -- doctors, lawyers and teachers among them. Many of them keep coming back since as Larry Bloom points out, “it’s a great way to relieve the stress of their daytime occupations.” Larry has directed all the shows so far, at least two a year, and goes out of his way to create a friendly atmosphere while bringing out the best in his actors. He should know what he’s doing – he’s been in educational and community theater for about 50 years.

Recently retired as a financial services executive (Bank of New York Mellon), Larry, who lives in Kew Gardens Hills, wrote his own children’s musical, “Flip Flop,” published by Drama Source. It has already been performed by groups in New York and Ohio and perhaps it will be some day at a theater near you.

Theatre By The Bay rehearses a show for about three months, twice a week for the most part, and presents it for three weekends, Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. So “Mame” is getting close to its opening performance on Nov 6. and runs to Nov. 21. Larry says the group is “better than ever” and he’s “proud of the high level of talent that we continue to draw.

Musical direction is under the always-in-demand Alan Kingsley, and the dance numbers are guided by Danielle Cretaro-Kenouryiakis (say that one very carefully). And note to other local groups that are always trying hard to draw an audience: Theatre By The Bay has its own publicist, Stacey Zable, to spread the word.

“Family friendly” is a good motto for this company. With that in mind, the sun will come out tomorrow, or in March anyway, with its next production of “Annie.” Get more information about both shows and your tickets at 718-428-6363.

Contact Ron Hellman at rbh24@columbia.edu.

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