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Two new troupes are revitalizing LI's theater scene this fall

A startup theater group at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Glen Cove will be performing Neil Simon's "They're Playing Our Song," starting on Oct, 24. (Credit: Johnny Milano)

The Long Island regional theater scene is in growth mode this fall with the birth of a new theatrical troupe in Glen Cove and the rebirth of a venerable company of players in New Hyde Park.

Making its debut Thursday is CTI Theatre of Glen Cove with a revival of the '70s Broadway musical “They’re Playing Our Song” at Congregation Tifereth Israel Synagogue.

And next month, the Herricks Community Players – renamed the Herricks Players -- return with a lavish production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice biblical blockbuster “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

“It’s the first time we’ve done ‘Joseph,’ the first time we’ve done a musical with contemporary music, and it’s our first operetta with all music and no spoken words,” said producer Lisa Simon-Weitz.

The founding of CITI fulfills executive producer Phil Essex’s longtime quest to find a venue for a pet theatrical project.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for the small-cast musicals, which don’t often get done in regional theater,” said the veteran regional actor, 63, of Sea Cliff. “They’re Playing Our Song,” staged in the half-round at the center of the synagogue ballroom, with seating four rows deep, “is a great way for people to have an intimate [theatrical] experience,” he said.

AN 'ENDORPHIN RUSH'

Michelle Herson, 39, of Roslyn Heights said winning a lead in CTI’s first show was an “endorphin rush” after the “theater withdrawal” she felt since her last show back in February, “Mamma Mia!” at Sid Jacobson JCC in Roslyn.

“This character is very quirky, and it definitely fits my personality,” said Herson, a working mother and trained opera singer, about her role which is based on lyricist Carole Bayer Sager. Essex, also a “Mamma Mia!” alumnus, plays the Marvin Hamlisch-inspired male lead in Neil Simon’s book about two mismatched hit songwriters falling in love.

Michael Martin Harrington, 27, of Locust Valley, a local fitness instructor playing a member of the show’s Greek chorus, has high hopes for the new theatrical enterprise. “I think we’re going to bring people together and motivate more people to do community theater,” he said.

A Really Big Show

At the opposite end of the spectrum, “Joseph” is the kind of mega-musical audiences had come to expect from the nonprofit theater group based at the Herricks Community Center in New Hyde Park. The huge cast of 55, including 21 kids, is working with a nearly $30,000 budget, said producer Lisa Simon-Weitz.

The show, based on the famous Book of Genesis story about a coat of many colors story, is Herricks’ first full-scale production since 2015’s “Young Frankenstein.” After the retirement two years ago of resident director John Hayes, who had helmed more than 80 shows over 42 years, the last show of any kind was a “Herricks to Broadway” revue last fall, said Simon-Weitz, a nurse practitioner who has been a member of the players for a decade.

A TROUPE REGROUPED

Reorganized as The Herricks Players, the company began rehearsals in June with a cast and crew including a choreographer, who works as a Bloomingdales executive by day, and a high school guidance counselor turned stage manager.

“We all have real jobs. It’s our love of theater that has kept us there rehearsing four or five nights a week,” Simon-Weitz.  

“I was worried about being able to revitalize such a long-standing and popular group,” said Simon-Weitz, co-producing with Hayes’ wife, Carol, who stayed on to help the transition. “But now the energy is really starting to spark through everybody.”

'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Nov. 8-9 and 15-16 and 3 p.m. Nov. 10 and 17, 3 p.m., Herricks Players, 999 Herricks Rd., New Hyde Park

INFO $25, $22 seniors and ages younger than 12; 516-742-1926, herricksplayers.com

'They’re Playing Our Song'

WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24, 8 p.m. Oct. 26 and 2 p.m. Oct. 27, Congregation Tifereth Israel, 40 Hill St., Glen Cove

INFO $20, $16 seniors and students; tututix.com/ctitheatre

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