For Jodi Warren, who grew up vacationing on Long Beach Island, the Show Place Ice Cream Parlour remains a staple.
“We normally schlep off the sand early, get everybody showered, and get in line,” Warren says of her extended family’s annual excursion to the Show Place, a Beach Haven institution where audiences enjoy a mini-Broadway show at every visit, courtesy of singing and dancing waitstaff.
Amid the pandemic last summer, however, Warren decided to place an order not for a sundae at the shop, but for a singing telegram at her Holgate home.
The Show Place’s Sing-a-Gram service, now in its second season, sends staffers to serenade often unsuspecting recipients. Purchasers can select tunes from the existing repertoire—choreography included—or request custom songs for an additional cost.
Two pinstripe-clad performers arrived at Warren’s bayside property just before sunset. They sang tunes from Hello, Dolly! and Frozen, as well as a birthday song for Warren’s niece. Neighbors took in the show, too.
“This was a really nice way to preserve our tradition, but also to support a business that’s really had to hustle [during the pandemic],” says Warren, a small-business owner who rents out two LBI properties.
Although she admits nothing can quite replicate the physical experience inside the Show Place, Warren observes that the singing telegrams are a logistical godsend.
“We’ve got a lot of age groups—somebody’s always crying no matter what—so it was actually sort of nice to have them come to us,” she says, adding that the service is convenient for mobility-impaired patrons or families with napping babies.
“It was just a nice little Jersey Shore moment,” she says. “I think my neighborhood’s like, ‘Can you do that again? That was really fun.’”
Stacey Pipala of West Orange, whose family also grew up frequenting the Show Place, surprised her sister Lisa for her birthday last summer in the Peahala Park home they own together.
“All the sudden, the Show Place was in our living room,” Pipala recalls. “You see those striped vests and everyone’s like, ‘What is happening?!’”
Among the family members were four dogs—all anxious to participate in renditions of “Hello, Dolly!” from the eponymous musical (with lyrics revised to “Hello, Lisa!”) and “We Go Together” from “Grease.” “[The performers] were dancing along with the dogs,” she says. “It was hysterically funny.”
One of those performers was Kirsten Kaiser, 22, who studied musical theater at Wagner College in Staten Island. A week after graduating last year, she moved into an apartment above the Show Place to join the singing staff for the summer.
Her birthday telegrams ranged from a one-year-old to an 80-year-old (“We sang outside her house on the street, and everyone looked down from their porch balconies.”) For a wedding anniversary, Kaiser learned two songs that had played at the couple’s wedding 50 years earlier. “It was adorable,” she says of the surprise backyard occasion, recalling tears.
Because the telegrams are often arranged as surprises, performers are accustomed to secrecy—crouching in their car or “parking a few blocks away and sneaking around” until go-time, Kaiser explains. Those unmistakable uniforms and bright red lipstick, of course, don’t make it easy. “People definitely know we’re coming,” she says.
At one backyard event last year, they accidentally walked into the wrong backyard. Luckily, Kaiser laughs, “We don’t look like we pose any danger.”
Sing-a-Grams, available from June 18–September 5, typically cost $50–$250. Ice cream is not available for home delivery. Call 609-213-6463 or email [email protected] for more information. And for NJM‘s roundup of iconic ice cream institutions at the Shore, click here.Click here to leave a comment