The members of Congregation Tifereth Israel (CTI) Synagogue’s new theater company have been hard at work these past few months in preparation for their first theatrical performance. Attendees will have the opportunity to see multiple performances of They’re Playing Our Song on Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 27 at 2 p.m.
Phil Essex, a resident of Sea Cliff, is the executive producer for the show. Essex is a theater veteran, having performed in more than 130 theater productions throughout his lifetime. Essex recently appeared in the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center’s recent production of Mamma Mia, as well as productions of Company, Jesus Christ Superstar, Fiddler on the Roof and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
“Theater has always been a passion for me and I’m always so grateful that my family has supported me throughout the years,” Essex said. To prepare for the show, the theater company has been rehearsing for the performances every Monday through Thursday from 7 to 10 p.m.
“Every show I do, I always thank my wife for putting up with all the missed dinners,” Essex said.
They’re Playing Our Song is “a funny, romantic show about an established composer and his relationship with a zany aspiring young female lyricist. At work and at play this is a winning couple whose professional and personal successes and difficulties lead to one hilarious scene after another,” the guide to musical theater’s website states. The musical first opened at the Imperial Theatre on Feb. 2, 1979 and ran for almost 1,100 performances. In the show, Essex plays the role of Vernon Gersch, which is inspired by composer Marvin Hamlisch. He partners with Michelle Herson as Sonia Walsk, the role inspired by lyricist Carol Bayer Sager. Together, the two will be joined by a company of six other performers. To develop a more personal relationship with his character, Essex also worked closely with his director and co-star to bounce different ideas off of them. Essex stressed the idea of how a smaller show gives the audience a more intimate feel for the choreography and music.
“I don’t think people realize how much talent there is on Long Island,” Essex said. “People just have to realize, they don’t have to go all the way into the city to have a good time out.”
The ballroom at CTI will be set up as a theater in the round and the audience will be no further than four rows from the stage. Essex hopes the intimate setting will give the audience a chance to really “get a feel for the dance and the music and will be tapping their toes to the lush melodies and beautiful ballads, which take place throughout the musical.”
“We just want people to come and have fun,” Essex said. “It’s about a PG of a show as it can get; it’s a love story with a happy ending.”
Performances will be held at Congregation Tifereth Israel, located in Glen Cove at 40 Hill St., at the intersection with Landing Road. CTI is Long Island’s oldest continuously operating Jewish congregation, having provided Jewish programming and education to the Long Island community since 1897.
To purchase tickets online, visit www.tututix.com/ctitheatre. Tickets are $20 for adults and $16 for seniors and children. All proceeds from the ticket costs will benefit the Congregation Tifereth Israel Synagogue. All are welcome to attend.