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THE BUZZ: Rhapsody Players and Ridge Chorale say ‘thanks’ to fans

Two Ridge-based performance groups are starting summer on a sweet note with a weekend of free performances in an effort to give back to their faithful fans and their hometown.

The Rhapsody Players – a group of local performing artists rooted in musical theater and tunes of music’s past – will present Summer in the City, a free show on Saturday, June 21 at the Saint John’s Episcopal Church auditorium.

On Sunday, June 22, the Jeff Samaha Theater Productions/Ridge Chorale – a Bay Ridge staple and cultural institution since 1968 — will kick off the summer season with a free presentation of the Broadway show “Smokey Joe’s Café” at Owl’s Head Park.

“We’ve been around for 45 years and much of it has been supported by the community in the way of paying for tickets,” said producer and Ridgeite Jeff Samaha adding that, while tickets have always been sold at a fair price, every once in a while local groups like his like to offer up something that’s totally free.

“We wanted to say ‘Thank you’ to the community,” he continued. “It’s a great day for weather and a nice family get-together to attend.”

The nine-person performance of “Smokey Joe’s Café” – a musical revue they’ve been putting on for years – will feature over 30 pop standards and an almost entirely new cast.

“It’s very rare that you can catch a Broadway show at a local park,” said Samaha, also excited to welcome the event’s latest partnership with local vendors Lock Yard, Kettle Black, Pig Guy NYC and Robicelli’s Bakery – all of which will be on deck to serve up some little tastes of summer.

Shows like this, said Samaha, are a big deal for performance groups of all kinds.

“By supporting this production, residents are indirectly supporting all of the arts in Bay Ridge,” he said. “All of the groups that are operating in Bay Ridge every now and then will offer a free show to thank the community.”

John Heffernan of the Rhapsody Players agreed.

“We raise a lot of money for a lot of causes but we have such a loyal following,” he said. “These people come back time and time again to see us. They follow us to different parishes and they’re always at Saint John’s.”

Heffernan will join six other Rhapsody Players – Eileen Monohan, Colleen Martin-O’Donnell, Anthony Marino, Bernard Smith, Donna Heffernan and Kiernan Hamilton – on stage on the Saint John’s stage (99th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway) at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Seating is limited with wine and beer also being sold. For reservations to the free Rhapsody Players performance, e-mail broadwayjack@earthlink.net.

Samaha and the Ridge Chorale will take center-stage at the Owl’s Head Park overlook on Sunday at 4 p.m. For more information on Jeff Samaha Theater Productions/Ridge Chorale, visit www.JeffSamaha.com.

“We’d like to invite the entire community to come out,” said Samaha adding that – competition aside – local theater companies and performance groups work hard to help each other, and in cases like these, the community.

“These shows are for them, the audience,” said Heffernan. “It’s our way of just saying thank you and being grateful for them and for all that they do for us.”

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