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By Stephanie DeJoseph |

“Don’t call it camp,” Educational Theater Troupe director Christopher Bilella often states.

The Lynn Clark Summertime Players started with Joseph D’Antoni back in 1979 as an extension of the Bay Shore High School Drama Club. It was renamed in 1985 after the tragic passing of one of the high schools’ beloved thespians, Lynn Clark.

Each year, Mr.B (as he is called by his students) reminds the students who Lynn was and why they should all strive to emulate her.

She was a very kind, gifted drama club member, he’ll say.

She dedicated her life to the theater and was a wonderful person on and off stage.

So this, their 37th year teaching students grades 5 through recent high school graduates, they are getting ready to put on a production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” this month. The book is by Bob Marlin & Don McKellar, with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.

A hundred-plus students are tapping, singing, and working hard to put on a full-blown, Broadway-style musical in five short weeks. When I stopped by rehearsal recently, there were various faces beaming up as if each one of them was the next star of tomorrow, as if they were the only person on stage holding — and holding — and holding a pose. Finally they were allowed to put their arms down after a correction was made to one of the actors.

“Its hard work, it truly is,” stated one panting student coming out of rehearsal.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” was made famous by Sutton Foster as the lead in the 5 Tony Award-winning musical, including Best Original Score and Best Book. It takes place in the apartment of a musical theater enthusiast only known as the “Man in the Chair.”

He takes us on a journey while putting on his favorite cast album. (Yes, album; people still have record players, he jokes.) Before our eyes the story comes to life with a parody of a fictitious 1920’s musical. The characters are played by various grade students and ensemble is all inclusive, with all the students joining together for the large cast numbers.

If the spotlight isn’t your thing, this theater troupe also allows students to hone their building skills by creating the entire set under the direction of Julie Berke. Christina Mendolia serves double duty as vocal director and music director. Paula Millan and Dot Werner make sure all the children are looking their best with hair, makeup and costumes.

And Choreographer Brian Viccaro makes sure all those dancing feet are on the same beat.

Each year the troupe employs past thespian graduates of Bay Shore High School that have been through the program to help the younger students as assistant directors.

The night of the show is always filled with jitters and excitement as friends and family fill the 950-seat auditorium.

You do not need to know anyone in the show to truly enjoy this wonderful Broadway in Bay Shore Production. Many times I have overheard people leaving the theater saying “I can’t believe I only paid $15 to see that!”

Tickets are now on sale for July 29 at 7 p.m. and July 30 at 7 p.m. by leaving a message at 631-968-1179. 

Tickets are $12 before July 29 and $15 after, or at the door.

Stephanie DeJoseph is President of the Theater Sponsors of Bay Shore Schools.

The leads of this year's Lynn Clark Summertime Players production. (Stephanie DeJoseph)

The leads of this year’s Lynn Clark Summertime Players production. (Stephanie DeJoseph)