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Astoria PAC’s new musical tackles issues of class and family

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One of the pleasures of the spring season in Queens is another musical from the Astoria Performing Arts Center. With production values worthy of Broadway and performers of professional caliber, APAC continues to lead the pack. And at a bargain ticket of only $18, how can you resist it?

The show this time is “Blood Brothers,” by Willy Russell (“Educating Rita” and “Shirley Valentine”) about fraternal twins separated at birth, who lead dramatically have and have-not lives, become reunited, and fall in love with the same girl. Now you know that’s got to be trouble.

Just last year “Blood Brothers” ended a 24-year run on London’s West End, a stunning production of more than 10,000 performances. On Broadway in the mid-90s, it lasted for two years, and may be remembered for the appearances of Petula Clark and the half-brothers David and Shaun Cassidy. APAC’s Artistic Director Tom Wojtunik points out that the show has not had a major New York production since then.

“After revisiting the cast recording and rereading the script,” he says, “I was struck by how timely it feels – as a country we are talking about class differences more than ever.”

APAC has been around for 12 years, and since 2005 has been led by Executive Director Taryn Sacramone, another out-of-towner who fell in love with New York City, Astoria in particular. In its short lifetime, APAC has received 21 New York Innovative Theatre Award nominations, winning four times, and has been very visible in its community, with programs for Queens youth and senior citizens. Its office is located at Kaufman Astoria Studios.

“Blood Brothers” opens on May 2 and continues through May 18. Performances (Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.) are at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, at 30-44 Crescent St., Astoria, and tickets are available at www.apacny.org, or by calling 888-596-1027. Director Wojtunik promises some exciting staging for the show.

“The score is incredibly catchy,” he says, “the story is very high stakes, and as the mother at the center of it all is Broadway veteran Colleen Hawks (‘Shrek the Musical’ and ‘The Boy from Oz’).”

Some other shows coming up deserve your attention. “Some Girls,” another battle of the sexes play by Neil LaBute, a Variations Theatre Group production at The Chain Theatre in Long Island City, performs May 3-18. On the other side of Queens, April 26-May 5, is Beari Productions concert version of “Camelot” at All Saints Church in Bayside, and at the Free Synagogue of Flushing, May 4-12, will be an original multi-media musical called “Let’s Hear it for Queens.” And for you Sherlock Holmes fans, check out Douglaston Community Theatre’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” May 3-18 at the Zion Episcopal Church in Douglaston.

You may have noticed that all but one of these productions are guests at houses of worship. Thank God for that, but once again I remind you that Queens is in urgent need of some real theater space. With all the activity on stages all over the borough, it’s certainly about time.

Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu.

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