Lynbrook NY's Fantasy Playhouse Keeps 34th Year in the Family

News   Lynbrook NY's Fantasy Playhouse Keeps 34th Year in the Family
 
Keeping Long Island's family-oriented Fantasy Playhouse in ship-shape means keeping it in Schaap-shape -- as well as keeping it in the family. After 37 years ago, founders Phil and Barbara Schaap retired to Florida last week, leaving the theatre in the hands of their son and his wife.

Keeping Long Island's family-oriented Fantasy Playhouse in ship-shape means keeping it in Schaap-shape -- as well as keeping it in the family. After 37 years ago, founders Phil and Barbara Schaap retired to Florida last week, leaving the theatre in the hands of their son and his wife.

Adam Schaap now runs the Lynbrook-based community venue, with wife Courtney serving as business manager. Their company, Theatre Workshop Productions, Inc., runs the Fantasy Theatre, situated in a building mostly taken up with a United Artists multiplex. In the midst of coordinating the set design for a weekend show and preparing lunches for a school matinee, Adam Schaap spoke by phone with Playbill On-Line about the transition of the Fantasy from Schaaps to Schaaps. "We have a 150-seat theatre, a raked house with actual theatre seats, a real proscenium stage, curtains and scenery, plus digital light and sound boards. The rest of the building is the six movie theatres, a luncheonette and a grill. The movie theatre would love to have the space to add more theatres, and the building -- it's gotta be 85-100 years old -- is crumbling around us, but it's a landmark, and it's home."

Asked about his industrious parents, Schaap said the Fantasy Playhouse was started in their living room, back when his mother was working at Brandeis and B'nai Brith. "Now we're doing over 500 performances per year in the space, 360 of them by the Fantasy Players, the others done as part of the camp we run."

Adds Schaap, "We bring an `independent production' we co-produce -- in other words, giving them a hand to use this as a stepping stone, so young artists get some experience. Plus our teaching curriculum is approved by the Board of Ed, which allowed us to get non-profit status."

  Over 37 years, Phil and Barbara, and for the past 17 years, Barbara and son Adam, have penned more than 50 titles for the theatre. These shows are not likely to give Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera a run for the money -- though they might spring from the same source material. "Mother's best known shows included an operetta Beauty And The Beast and a hip-hop version of The Magic Pumpkin that sells out on Halloween," says Schaap. The appropriating of popular material has, not surprisingly, led to trouble now and then. For example, the senior Schaaps had to fight in court to do their own version of "Peter Pan," proving the material was public domain. Another trouble spot: "We were doing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Schaap recalls, "and Disney closed it on us. At the time, mom honestly didn't realize it was illegal. But she didn't want to disappoint families expecting the show, so she quickly did a rewrite and staged The Flying Car."

More recently, Adam and Barbara have penned the rock and roll musical, Hunchback -- The First Special Ed Superhero, which Adam says is "done very much in the fashion of Les Miz." He adds, "Now we're working on Lunch With a Leprechaun and Plymouth Rock and Roll."

Schaap points most proudly to his mother's songs, especially since they represent such a positive outlook on life. "She's really done some amazing stuff. One show, The Princess and the Swineherd, was about crossing the class barrier. And her Heidi has three fabulous songs: `You Can Do It If You Try,' `Being on Top of the Mountain' and `What It's Like to Have a Friend.' What I got from my parents is in those kinds of songs. Stuff like a winner never quits and a quitter never wins. And at the end of the day you have to be at peace with yourself."

-- By David Lefkowitz

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