Broadway at the beach: 9 big shows coming to NJ’s Surflight Theatre in 2023
Located in Beach Haven, N.J. on Long Beach Island, the iconic Surflight Theatre has been offering "Broadway at the Beach" shows almost continuously since 1950.
The last decade has been Surflight's most challenging. After sustaining heavy damage and flooding from Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Surflight declared bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2015. Under new ownership, It reopened in 2017. As the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered theaters across the world, Surflight returned to its roots. Both the 2020 and 2021 seasons were presented in a large tent in nearby Veterans Memorial Park, following all CDC and NJ Department of Health guidance.
As of 2022, productions returned indoors. According to a letter sent to patrons by Producing Artistic Director Steve Steiner, Surflight is "hopeful to match our 2019 attendance in 2023."
Surflight's formula for success is straightforward. They audition and hire top talent, from New York and beyond. Much of the cast live the summer in theater-owned housing in Beach Haven, performing multiple roles in multiple shows. The sets and orchestrations are simple. The singing, dancing, and acting talents are top-notch. And tickets are affordable, with great views from every seat in the house.
In 2022, Surflight featured stagings of The Addams Family, Legally Blonde, Escape to Margaritavilla, Chess, The Fields of Ambrosia, Murder on the Orient Express, and White Christmas.
On Tuesday via Facebook, Surflight announced the nine shows that will be part of their 2023 mainstage season.
There are no Tony Award winning musicals here. (Plenty of nominations though.) No blockbuster, headliner, grandiose, epic stage musicals. Even a few shows you've probably never heard of.
On top of their mainstage shows, Surflight Theatre also offers summer musicals specifically for children and families. The 2023 calendar includes Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Peter Pan, the perennial favorite Wizard of Oz, and one more show TBA.
They will also host one-off performances, including comedy shows and tribute concerts. And don't forget the Showplace Ice Cream Parlor is right next door, offering delicious desserts delivered by singing "waitri".
Steel Pier... June 1-17, 2023... Even though this Kander and Ebb musical only lasted on Broadway for three months in 1997, Steel Pier was nominated for 11 Tony Awards. It is set in Depression-era Atlantic City, N.J. - just 17 miles downbeach of Surflight, by the way. Although the show was not a smash hit, with songs that are not incredibly memorable or long-lasting, it is a charming love story with some grand dance numbers. (Surflight's choreography and dancing skill always impresses.)
State Fair... June 21-July 8, 2023... A 1945 movie-turned-musical that transports the audience to 1940s Iowa, as an eclectic cast of characters prepares for the State Fair. Antics ensue. It's a catchy "classic" Broadway musical - not a surprise, since music and lyrics were penned by Rodgers and Hammerstein (respectively). It hit Broadway in 1996, and was nominated for 2 Tony Awards. As long as the casting is right, this will be a fun one. Perfect for the 4th of July timing too. The opening number "Our State Fair" will be stuck in your head for days.
Head Over Heels... July 11-30, 2023... A recent (2015) "jukebox musical" featuring music by the Go-Go's. Yes, "We Got the Beat" and "Our Lips are Sealed" and "Vacation" are all part of the show, woven into a romantic, comedic, fantasy set in the far-away and long-ago-but-modern kingdom of Arcadia. Yeah, this is a weird one. But definitely an entertaining and lively romp, starring that great 70s and 80s soundtrack.
Annie Warbucks... August 1-20, 2023... The sequel to the classic, award-winning 1977 "Annie". In fact, this one begins right where the original left off. Hijinks, singing and dancing, adorable orphans, you get the drill. It never made it to Broadway, but had a highly successful off-Broadway run in 1993-1994. We can only hope that Surflight Theatre Producing Artistic Director Steve Steiner reprises his role as the one and only (and very bald) Daddy Warbucks, which he played to thunderous applause in "Annie" in 2021.
Disaster!... August 22-September 3, 2023... Back to the 70s, with another jukebox musical comedy. Co-written by walking Broadway encyclopedia, expert musical director and pianist, Sirius-XM On Broadway host, and Surflight alumnus Seth Rudetsky. The story is a parody of 1970s disaster films, as the Barracuda, New York's first floating casino and discothèque in New York, suffers disaster after disaster. The cast is small, which should play perfectly to Surflight's stage. The 70s music is the real star here - just about every song is a classic hit.
Grumpy Old Men... September 6-24, 2023... A 2018 state musical based on the 1993 film. Crotchety neighbors face off in hilarious antics, punctuated by music and laughs. Surflight loves to experiment with lesser-known shows after the busy summer season wraps up. And this one has the name recognition to be a September sleeper hit.
Popcorn Falls... September 27-October 1, 2023... Never heard of it? Neither had I. The story goes like this. A small town is known only for its namesake waterfall. Which has dried up. So to save the town from financial ruin, the residents have to put on a play. Can Surflight prove that art can indeed save the world?
Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors... October 6-15, 2023... This seems like a great fit for Surflight's October schedule. It's Bram Stoker meets hilarity. Think "Young Frankenstein," but wilder and funnier. Five actors play a cast of dozens. I have to admit, this might be worth a special autumnal drive down to LBI to check out.
A Christmas Story: The Musical... December 2-17, 2023... You'll shoot your eye out! The cherished Jean Shepherd film of 1983 opened as a Passek and Paul musical on Broadway in 2012. You may have caught the "A Christmas Story Live!" special that aired on FOX television in December 2017. It's the same story you know and love, with high-energy and incredibly catchy songs added throughout. For decades, Surflight has done a phenomenal job with their Christmas show, and I'm sure this will be no different. Once again, I hope they get the right cast - especially for the Narrator, Young Ralphie, and the Old Man - and it will really sparkle.
Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow Dan on Facebook or Twitter for your latest weather forecast updates.