Times of Huntington-Northport Review: Cast of Engeman’s ‘1776’ brings history to life

Times Beacon Record

September 20, 2016

Rita J. Egan

 

With talented actors, period-appropriate costumes and a detailed set, a theatrical production can make audience members feel as if they have traveled back in time. This is certainly the case with the John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “1776,” which opened last week.

Before there was “Hamilton,” there was “1776.” The classic musical, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone, debuted on Broadway in 1969 and was turned into a movie in 1972. Dramatizing the efforts of John Adams to persuade his fellow delegates of the Second Continental Congress to vote for American independence, “1776” focuses on the last weeks leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The first lines by Adams, played by James LaVerdiere, help to set the tone for the musical: “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace — that two are called a law firm — and that three or more become a Congress.” With this quote as well as the opening number “For God’s Sake, John, Sit Down,” the audience discovers that while the musical discusses a serious matter, it is delivered with a sense of familiarity and a good dose of humor.

LaVerdiere perfectly captures the frustrations and persuasiveness of Adams, who his fellow delegates describe as obnoxious and disliked. The scenes between him and Jennifer Hope Wills, who plays Abigail Adams, where the Massachusetts delegate imagines conversations with his wife, allow the audience to learn of the struggles of the women who were left at home dealing with sick children and failing farms and business. During Act 1, the two deliver a sweet and touching version of “Yours, Yours, Yours,” and we discover a softer side of Adams.

When Thomas Jefferson, played by Michael Glavan, yearns to go home to see his wife, we meet the second of only two female characters, when Adams sends for Martha to come to Philadelphia while Jefferson works on the Declaration of Independence. Portrayed by Adriana Milbrath, the actress delivers a delightful “He Plays the Violin” with LaVerdiere and David Studwell, perfectly cast as the charming and witty Benjamin Franklin. Glavan is a strong vocalist, too, who audience members have the pleasure of hearing during “But, Mr. Adams” and “The Egg.”

A surprise standout performance comes from Matthew Rafanelli, playing the disheveled courier delivering messages from George Washington. In the beginning of the play, it’s understandable if one thinks he has a small part, but by the end of Act 1, Rafanelli delivers a perfectly executed “Momma Look Sharp.” His heart-wrenching vocals on the song, which details the loss of young boys on the battlefield, left many with tears in their eyes during the press opening last Saturday night.

It should also be noted that Robert Budnick playfully portrays a cheerful Stephen Hopkins, and Tom Lucca perfectly captures the authoritative nature of John Hancock. Special mentions should be made of Jon Reinhold (Richard Henry Lee) who plays the cocky Virginian with a great deal of humor, Benjamin Howes (John Dickinson) who provides strong lead vocals on “Cool, Cool Considerate Men,” and Peter Saide (Edward Rutledge) who delivers a powerful “Molasses to Rum.”

Igor Goldin has expertly directed the cast of 25 actors, who should all be commended for their strong vocals and mastering of a great amount of dialogue. Due to the craftsmanship of all of those involved in Engeman’s “1776,” the dreams of our country’s forefathers come to life once again.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, presents “1776” through Nov. 6. Tickets range from $71 to $76. For more information, call 631-261-2900, or visit www.engemantheater.com.

 

Read online: www.tbrnewsmedia.com/cast-of-engemans-1776-brings-history-to-life/

The Observer Review: History comes alive on Engeman Stage with 1776

The Observer

September 29, 2016

David Ambro

 

If presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump want to get it straight, they should have driven from the Hofstra University auditorium to the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport.

The Broadway musical hit 1776 opened at the Engeman and it’s a hit, certainly more entertaining politics than the show Hillary and Donald performed at Hofstra Monday.

Presenting one of the larger casts to take to the Engeman stage, 1776 is a look back at the drama of the Founding Fathers from the original 13 colonies forging the United States Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1776.

After some starts and stops down the road to independence from England, a story told in classical songs and dialogue steeped in history, a rift between the North and the South leaves the fledgling United States deadlocked. To rekindle the quest for independence, Massachusetts Congressman John Adams, played by Jamie LaVerdiere, and Benjamin Franklin, played by David Studwell, broker an agreement for Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia, played by Michael Glavan, to write the Declaration under the condition that it must be unanimously approved.

After days of amendments and compromise, the Declaration close at hand, the Congress is once again deadlocked when South Carolina Congressman Edward Rutledge, played by Peter Saide, objects to language penned by Jefferson that would free the slaves.

It doesn’t come until Act II, but Saide is powerful as Rutledge with his Molasses to Rum solo and Glavan explodes out of the shadows as Jefferson in his performance of The Egg with LaVerdiere and Studwell. These guys can sing and they bring the Engeman alive with music while they deliver the story line familiar to us otherwise only through textbooks.

If history class could only be like this.

An Act I favorite is The Lees of Virginia, a song in which LaVerdiere and Studwell, as Adams and Franklin, convince Congressman Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, played by Jon Reinhold, to go home and convince his state legislature to support independence from England.

1776 is a show that features mostly male voices, with a sprinkling of the feminine touch, and at the Engeman that sprinkle is a highlight of the performance. Jennifer Hope Wills as the Congressman’s wife Abigail Adams, and Adriana Milbrath, as the Congressman’s wife Martha Jefferson, are both talented singers with beautiful voices that balance the masculine storytellers.

With all its powerful voices of skilled acting, 1776 lives up to the Engeman motto: “Bringing Broadway to Main Street,” but it is also much more. 1776 is a musical look back at the history of America which has given rise to the political discord of the day, in what has become the greatest country on earth. It’s an interesting juxtaposition with Hillary and Donald.

1776 is another one of those must see performances at the Engeman. Don’t miss it.

1776 will be playing through November 6, two days before Election Day. For tickets call 631-261-2900, or go online to engemantheater.com or visit the theater box office at 250 Main Street in Northport Village. Tickets are $76 on Saturday evenings, $71 all other performances.

 

Broadway World Review: The Engeman’s 1776

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

September 28, 2016

 

In seeing the Tony winning Sherman Edwards/Peter Stone musical 1776, we get an interesting account of the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration Of Independence. It is actually uncanny – and kind of funny – how this story still resonates today; petty arguing amongst congress and how divided “leaders” can be are emphasized in this production. Obviously we’ve come far since then but, at the same time, it seems not far at all.

Running through November 6th at Northport’s dazzling John W. Engeman Theater, the largeIgor Goldin directed cast is headed up strongly by Broadway vet Jamie LaVerdiere excellently portraying John Adams. The tale centers on Adams’ efforts to convince his colleagues in Congress that the thirteen colonies should declare independence. This proves to be a challenging fete as his reputation as a nuisance – to say the least – precedes him; for the first number of the show, the cast sings to him “For God’s Sake, John, Sit Down”.

The entire cast is truly extraordinary. Highlights include David Studwell who makes a wonderfulBenjamin Franklin and Michael Glavan who is superb as Thomas Jefferson. Additionally, an audience favorite is indeed a charming Jon Reinhold as Richard Henry Lee who gives a spirited performance of “The Lee’s Of Old Virginia”. And Jennifer Hope Wills, another Broadway alum portraying supportive wife AbiGail Adams, gives a stunning performance of “Yours, Yours, Yours” with Mr. LaVerdiere. And special kudos to Matthew Rafanelli, portraying the Courier, whose rendition of “Momma Look Sharp” leaves the audience in tears.

As for Mr. Goldin’s top-notch creative team, Stephen Dobay‘s set is outstanding. Majestic Greenish/Greyish walls encompass the stage with several tables for each delegation. The President Of Congress, John Handcock portrayed by Tom Lucca, presides on an elevated platform and above him is a tall board which indicates how each delegation has voted. This is enhanced cleverly by Cory Pattak‘s lighting design and Kurt Alger’s costumes.

And so, 1776 is indeed another hit for the John W. Engeman Theatre’s electrifying 10th season. A stellar, Broadway caliber cast and fascinating story make for a wonderful night of theatre.

__________________________________________________________________

1776 is presented by the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through November 6th. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (631) 261-2900or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Score by Sherman Edwards, Book by Peter Stone, Directed by Igor Goldin (Off-Broadway:YANK!, With Glee, A Ritual of Faith, Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice, Crossing Swords), Musical Direction by Eric Alsford (National Tours: Nunsense, Mamma Mia!, Off-Broadway:That’s Life, I Love You You’re Perfect…, Naked Boys Singing.), Scenic Design by Stephen Dobay, Costume & Wig Design by Kurt Alger, Lighting Design by Cory Pattak, Sound Design by Laura Shubert, Casting by Gayle Seay & Scott Wojcik of Wojcik/Seay Casting, Props Design byKristie Moschetta, Stage Management by Sean Francis Patrick

Starring Jamie LaVerdiere (Broadway: The Producers, The Pirate Queen, Motown), David Studwell (Off Broadway: Applause! NY City Center Encores!), Michael Glavan, Benjamin Howes(Broadway: Scandalous, Mary Poppins), Tom Lucca, Jon Reinhold, Peter Saide, Jennifer Hope Wills (Broadway: Phantom of the Opera, Wonderful Town, The Woman in White, Beauty and the Beast), Robert Budnick, Jim DiMunno, Christopher Wynne Duffy, Gordon Gray, Andrew Hendrick, Kevin Robert Kelly, Philip Paul Kelly, Leer Leary, Rick Malone, Adriana Milbrath, Wayne J. Miller, Jake Mills, Adam Mosebach, Matthew Rafanelli, James D. Schultz, Stephen Valenti, and Doug Vandewinkel.

 

Read online: www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Review-The-Engemans-1776

Newsday review: Election year gives more spirit to ’69 Tony winner

Newsday

September 27, 2016

Steve Parks

 

I once admired “1776” because it dared to be dull. Faint praise from a boomer who resented the Founding Fathers musical because A) it won the Tony over “Hair” and B) it was Richard Nixon’s favorite.

Nearly a half-century later, I’ve gotten over my snit with the “1776” creators — music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards, book by Peter Stone. I can’t remember how the line went down in 1969, when the show opened on Broadway. Nor could I possibly know how it might’ve played during the impending independence of these United States. But it sure was a hoot when, at the top of the show on opening night at the Engeman Theater, John Adams declares, “One useless man is a disgrace, two are called a law firm and three or more become a Congress.”

Perhaps it’s because it’s a presidential election year. But for once I didn’t notice the parched stretches of speechifying necessary to convey that this Continental Congress was useless until a tragic compromise was reached. That New York abstains throughout due to legislative impotence gets knowing laughs.

So let’s hear it for Jamie LaVerdiere as “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams. If he wasn’t such a persistent pain in sweltering Philadelphia, perhaps we’d be talking about Brexiting today instead of electing our 45th president. LaVerdiere projects a political passion we’d love to see from our current candidates. Speaking of passion, it’s a “1776” conceit that the Declaration of Independence might’ve gone unwritten but for Martha Jefferson’s conjugal visit. The reunion between Michael Glavan as robust Tom and Adriana Milbrath as ripe Martha is so get-a-room suggestive, you’ll want to book one for them.

Not to be outdone, John pines for Abigail in the most passionate song ever written about saltpeter — to suppress the sexual urges of George Washington’s volunteers — while David Studwell’s Ben Franklin and Benjamin Howes’ John Dickinson bookend Pennsylvania’s tyranny-vs.-Tory debate.

Inspiring moments spring from battlefield courier (Matthew Rafanelli) in his moving “Momma Look Sharp,” reminding us there’s a war going on, and “Molasses to Rum,” a perverse defense of slavery by South Carolinian Edward Rutledge (Peter Saide).

Director Igor Goldin propels the 2 1⁄2-hour narrative forward on the 18th-century set by Stephen Dobay, accessorized by Kurt Alger’s costumes/wigs and accompanied dutifully by Eric Alsford’s orchestra.
We get that the signers risked hanging separately if they didn’t hang together.

 

Read online: www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/1776-review-election-year-gives-more-spirit-to-69-tony-winner

DC Metro Theater Arts Review: ‘1776’ at The John W. Engeman Theater

DC Metro Theater Arts

September 26, 2016

Kristen Weyer

 

This year marks the 240th anniversary of the formation of our country, and what better way to experience a taste of this magnificent history than with the musical 1776 now playing at The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport. With a book by Peter Stone, and music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards, this Tony Award winner for Best Musical is directed by Igor Goldin, with assistance from Trey Compton.

1776 takes place in Philadelphia over a three month period. It follows the struggles of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson in their efforts to convince the rest of the Continental Congress members to vote for independence.

John Adams is frustrated. His colleagues don’t seem to grasp the severity of the situation. For over a year they have avoided any decisive action, and many of the delegates vehemently oppose the entire topic. How can he spur them past their doubt and fear into action? With the help of Thomas Jefferson’s eloquence and Benjamin Franklin’s deviousness and ingenuity, Adams forefronts the movement to secede from Great Britain’s tyranny.  What else is a revolutionary to do?

This production of 1776 is exceedingly well done. The entire cast is fantastic, melding together into a believably cohesive unit. They convincingly depict the frustrations and vexations of their characters, while vividly portraying the sweltering conditions of the Pennsylvanian summer. Wonderful singing abounds, and blend together in excellent harmony, notably in “Sit Down, John.”

Jamie LaVerdiere is superb as John Adams. With his crisp and clear vocals in “Sit Down, John” and “Piddle, Twiddle,” combined with his unflagging enthusiasm and energy, LaVerdiere brings Adams strikingly to life. From incredulous and exasperated, to tender and romantic, his believable emotional range was a a great asset to the production.

The wonderful chemistry between LaVerdiere and Jennifer Hope Wills, as Abigail Adams, created a touching and intimate portrayal of the Adams’ strong relationship. Wills’ beautiful singing was a pleasure to listen to, especially in “Yours, Yours, Yours”.

David Studwell was brilliant as Benjamin Franklin.His impeccable comedic timing adds a lightheartedness to what is, predominantly, a serious plotline.

Jon Reinhold is also amusing in his role as Richard Henry Lee, the gregarious and confident Virginian. His delivery of “The Lees of Old Virginia” was quite moving.

Michael Glavan gives a marvelous performance as the taciturn Thomas Jefferson. His quiet strength and communicative facial expressions give silent insight into his character’s complexities. Adriana Milbrath is charming as Jefferson’s wife, Martha. Her strong, lovely vocals ring out in “He Plays the Violin.”

Peter Saide’s outstanding portrayal of South Carolina Delegate, Edward Rutledge, was very impressive. He exudes aristocratic elegance with manner and expression, while delivering an exemplary Southern drawl.  His sensational performance of the tenebrous “Molasses to Rum” was chill-inducing.

Benjamin Howes was splendid as Adams’ main nemesis, John Dickinson.  His eloquent rebuttals of, and heartfelt objections to declaring independence, clearly outline the momentous gravity of Congress’ decision.

Convincing performances were also delivered by both Tom Lucca as the exhausted Congress President John Hancock, and James D. Schultz as the conflicted Georgian Dr. Lyman Hall. Leer Leary impressed with a fantastic brogue as Col. Thomas McKean, while Matthew Rafanelli stole the entire scene with his haunting and emotional rendition of the showstopper “Momma Look Sharp.”

Not only is the acting fabulous, but the designers also shine.  Scenic Designer Stephen Dobay has created a stately and impressive Congressional Hall, complete with crown molding and wainscoting.  This was ably aided by Cory Pattak’s lighting design, with tantalizing effects of shadow and relief. Sound design by Laura Shubert bolstered the entire show, especially in “Molasses to Rum.”

Magnificent historical costumes from Costume and Wig Designer Kurt Alger range from humble cottons and simple colors, for the practical New Englanders, to silk and brocade, for the aristocratic Southerners. The band, under the musical direction of Eric Alsford, does credit to this beloved score, with the addition of fife and drums, which add just the right touch of historic authenticity.

1776 is a brief glimpse into the tumultuous and historic past of our nation’s birth. With wonderful music, and diverse characters, this theatrical page of history is educational and entertaining. Very well-executed, the John W. Engeman Theater’s production of 1776 is “certain-Lee” not to be missed.

Read online: www.dcmetrotheaterarts.com/review-1776-john-w-engeman-theater-northport-ny/

Patti LuPone to perform benefit concert at the John W. Engeman Theater

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

(Northport, NY, September 2016) – On January 23, 2017 the John W. Engeman Theater will host two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone performing her concert entitled Don’t Monkey with Broadway.

 

For this special performance, Patti LuPone will be joined by members of the Northport High School Choir, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Northport High School’s Performing Arts Department.

 

In Don’t Monkey with Broadway Patti LuPone will explore how her life-long love affair with Broadway began, performing indelible interpretations of classic Broadway show tunes by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jule Styne, Stephen Schwartz, Charles Strouse, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.

 

Of the upcoming engagement, Ms. LuPone said, “I’ve been dying for years to sing on Main Street Northport in close proximity to Gunther’s.”

 

“We are honored to host Patti LuPone in her hometown while having the opportunity to raise funds for a worthy cause,” said theater owners Richard T. Dolce and Kevin J. O’Neill.

 

Due to anticipated demand, tickets will be sold to Engeman Theater Season Ticket Holders through a lottery system starting Friday, September 16th at 12:00 pm.

 

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is Long Island’s only year round professional theater company, casting our actors from the Broadway talent pool. From curb to curtain, we have made it our business to provide affordable, quality theater in an elegant one-of-a-kind location with outstanding facilities and extraordinary service. The renovated theater offers stadium-style seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, a full orchestra pit, and a classic wood-paneled piano lounge with full bar.

 

For a complete show schedule and more information contact the theater directly at 631-261-2900, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visit www.EngemanTheater.com

The John W. Engeman Theater presents 1776

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

(Northport, NY- September 2016) – The John W. Engeman Theater announces the cast and creative team for 1776.   Performances begin on Thursday, September 22 at 8:00pm and run through Sunday, November 6, 2016.

Ring in the election year with 1776, the classic Tony Award®-winning musical about how the founding fathers drafted the Declaration of Independence and gave birth to a new nation. A unique show that presents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin in all their fractious, fascinating complexity, 1776 features beloved songs such as “Sit Down, John,” “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men,” and “He Plays the Violin.” This show will remind you of how far America has come – and how little we’ve changed.

1776 is directed by IGOR GOLDIN (Off Broadway: YANK!, With Glee, A Ritual of Faith, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Crossing Swords) and musically directed by ERIC ALSFORD (National Tours: Nunsense, Mamma Mia!, Off Broadway: That’s Life, I Love You You’re Perfect…, Naked Boys Singing.).  TREY COMPTON is the Assistant Director.

 

The Creative Team includes: STEPHEN DOBAY (Scenic Design), KURT ALGER (Costume and Wig Design), CORY PATTAK (Lighting Design), LAURA SHUBERT (Sound Design), GAYLE SEAY and SCOTT WOJCIK of WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING (Casting Directors), KRISTIE MOSCHETTA (Props Design), and SEAN FRANCIS PATRICK (Production Stage Manager).

 

1776 is produced by RICHARD T. DOLCE the Engeman Theater’s Producing Artistic Director.

 

The cast of 1776 features JAMIE LAVERDIERE as John Adams (Broadway: The Producers, The Pirate Queen, Motown); DAVID STUDWELL as Benjamin Franklin (Off Broadway: Applause! NY City Center Encores!); MICHAEL GLAVAN as Thomas Jefferson; BENJAMIN HOWES as John Dickinson (Broadway: Scandalous, Mary Poppins); TOM LUCCA as John Hancock; JON REINHOLD as Richard Henry Lee; PETER SAIDE as Edward Rutledge; and JENNIFER HOPE WILLS as Abigail Adams (Broadway: Phantom of the Opera, Wonderful Town, The Woman in White, Beauty and the Beast).

The cast also includes: ROBERT BUDNICK, JIM DIMUNNO, CHRISTOPHER WYNNE DUFFY, GORDON GRAY, ANDREW HENDRICK, KEVIN ROBERT KELLY, PHILIP PAUL KELLY, LEER LEARY, RICK MALONE, ADRIANA MILBRATH, WAYNE J. MILLER, JAKE MILLS, ADAM MOSEBACH, MATTHEW RAFANELLI, JAMES D. SCHULTZ, STEPHEN VALENTI and DOUG VANDEWINKEL.

Press Opening is Saturday, September 24th at 8:00pm

 

1776 will play the following performance schedule: Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00.  Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $76 on Saturday evenings, $71 all other performances and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, going online at www.EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.  Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express accepted.

 

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is Long Island’s only year round professional theater company, casting actors from the Broadway talent pool. From curb to curtain, we have made it our business to provide affordable, quality, theater in an elegant one-of-a-kind location with outstanding facilities and extraordinary service. The renovated Theater offers stadium-style seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, a full orchestra pit, and a classic wood-paneled piano lounge with full bar.

 

For a complete show schedule and more information contact the theater directly at 631-261-2900, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visit www.EngemanTheater.com

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