The ushers hustled everyone to their seats. They wore the Jones Beach State Park uniform. Blue and white. There were seahorse emblems on their hats and epaulets.
Limousines were parked in their special lot while VIP guests ate 5 star meals in the dining room. Soon they would be whisked to their special box seats right up front with each box manned by an attendant to bring food and drink at their whim.
Guy Lambardo’s Royal Canadians were warming up in the orchestra pit on the audience side of the moat. They were the house orchestra for the lineup of Broadway shows produced especially for Jones Beach Marine Theater. These were not travelling shows, these were dedicated productions starring the biggest names in musical theater. There was a hum of outboard motors as the ramps between the stage and the shore were retracted from the moat.
Suddenly the orchestra launched into a fanfare and the house lights dropped. The only lighting was from the stand lights in the orchestra pit and navigation lights out in the bay. Suddenly there is the roar of twin marine engines at full power. A spotlight searches the water until it lands on a speeding wooden Chris Craft runabout. Guy Lambardo is at the helm and he comes to a dramatic stop right in front of the conductors box. He hops out of the boat and onto the stage and immediately he strikes up the Star Spangled Banner.
The spectacle complete, the lights come down and the Orchestra begins the overture. And this was what it was like to see a show at the Jones Beach Marine Theater. And this was a State Park, one of the finest in the world, which is just as Robert Moses had intended. People will rave about Radio City Music Hall, but in its day, Radio City was just another big theater in a city that was full of big theaters. The Marine Theater was something totally unique.
It still operates today as a concert venue. The moat has been filled in with seats and the dining rooms are gone. It is undoubtedly an amazing venue for an outdoor concert, situated on a bay next to the Atlantic. But at one time, it was something only Robert Moses could have pulled off.
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