A Queens community theater company is giving disadvantaged children the chance to enjoy their own night on the town — just like the lead character from its current production, “Annie.” Inspired by the spunky orphan in Depression-era New York City who is welcomed into the home of a billionaire during the Christmas holidays, Bayside’s Theater By The Bay is giving free tickets to underprivileged kids throughout the boroughs.
“We wanted to reach out to the community, and we’re doing that in several ways,” says Lawrence F. Bloom, who is producing and directing the play this month at the Bayside Terrace Jewish Center.
First, the company visited St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Kids in Bayside, which helps special needs kids and their families, and put on a free concert that showcased several songs and dances from “Annie.”
“I’ve organized these types of events before. The performers are just as excited — if not more excited — than the audience to whom we present this,” says Bloom. “It’s just a nice gift back.”
The troupe has also given free tickets to kids in the Manhattan-based organization Kids with a Promise, which was established by the Bowery Mission and provides at-risk youth with counseling and educational opportunities for a chance at more promising futures.
“These young people, who are disadvantaged in a sense and don’t have a chance to see live theater, will be able to come as our guests and be entertained and participate in the arts,” explains Bloom.
Cast member Roseann Kytka, who is the director of childhood education at the Ascension Church in Forest Hills, has been able to distribute free tickets to needy kids through her network of churches and organizations in Queens. And the company also reached out to New Hope Community Church in Staten Island with free tickets for underprivileged kids in that area.
Theater By The Bay has even more special offers for children who come to see the show. There will be free snacks for kids under 12 who dress up as either Annie or Daddy Warbucks for the March 6 matinee performance. That same day, actors Isabel Robin and John Canning, who play the roles of Annie and Daddy Warbucks, will sign autographs and pose for photos with audience members.
Following the matinee performances on March 13 and 20, the 50 cast members will be available to answer questions from the audience. After the discussion, there will be an opportunity to meet with all of the performers for autographs and photos.
Bloom is a man who truly cares about his community — and his diverse cast.
“It’s wonderful working with a cast that’s multi-generational,” he says. “We have people who are seniors. We have people who are middle-aged and, of course, we have the young people.”
And Theater By The Bay believes in encouraging and nurturing those young cast members.
“‘Annie’ is special because there are a lot of kids in the cast, but even in past productions, there were always a few kids in there,” says Stacey Zable, publicity director for the company. “It’s a very nice, loving environment. Larry is great with the kids. And the experience gives them exposure to the great musicals.”
“Annie” is the 14th production for Theater By The Bay, which was founded in 2004. In the fall of 2011, the company will stage the musical “Annie Get Your Gun.” Anyone can audition for the shows, which the company advertises on websites and in newspapers in Queens and Long Island. Bloom says cast members past and present have come from all five boroughs and New Jersey.
As many of the younger cast members have gone on to attend the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Zable adds, “It’s a nice step to — who knows? — maybe Broadway.”
For audition information, visit www.debsliweb.homestead and www.spotlightonstage.com. Theater By The Bay’s production of “Annie” at Bay Terrace Jewish Center [1300 209th St. in Bayside, (718) 428-6363], Saturdays March 5, 12 and 26 at 8:30 pm, and Sundays March 6, 13, 20 and 27 at 3 pm. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 seniors and children under 12.
Allison Plitt is a staff writer for Family Publications New York and a mother living in Queens with a preschool age daughter. If you have any ideas you’d like to share with her about resources for families in Queens, please feel free to contact her at email@example.com.