Long Islander Review: Northport Heads West With ‘Oklahoma!’

The Long Islander

Janee Law

May 22, 2017

 

John W. Engeman Theater’s “Oklahoma!” delivered a strong cast, catchy tap dancing, beautiful melodies and fits of both comedy and drama that kept the audience laughing and singing along Thursday night in Northport Village.

Audience member Abbey Slawitsky, of Central Islip, said loved both the cast and set designs.

She added, “I loved the costumes and I thought the orchestra was really great too. A lot of people don’t even notice that.”

“Oklahoma!” set the standard for all future musicals by incorporating music, lyrics and dance numbers into a well-crafted story. It follows two sets of love triangles amid a high-spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys in the Indian territory of Oklahoma.

Engeman’s production is produced by Richard T. Dolce, producing artistic director; directed by Igor Goldin; and choreographed by Drew Humphrey.

The cast is led by Bryant Martin (as Curly), Kaitlyn Davidson (as Laurey) and Nathaniel Hackmann (as Jud Fry). Supporting cast members include Jane Blass (as Aunt Eller), Chris Brand (as Will Parker), Brianne Kennedy (as Ado Annie Carnes) and Danny Gardner (as Ali Hakim).

Blass delivers authenticity to the story, while Hackmann delivers intense drama, and Gardner never fails to draw laughs whenever he’s onstage.

The intense love triangle between the three lead characters, Curly, Laurey and Jud, continues to grow throughout the production. However it’s balanced out by another, comedic love triangle between Will Parker, Ado Annie Carnes and Ali Hakim.

One of the most memorable scenes in the production is “Out of My Dreams-Ballet.” The cast takes audience members on a journey through Laurey’s subconscious that’s topped off with an intense, romantic dance number.

Although this isn’t his first “Oklahoma!” production, Brand said this is his first time playing a lead role in the play. He added that Engeman’s “Kansas City” number, which delivers a high-energy tap dancing, is his favorite to perform.

“I always love singing ‘Oklahoma,’ but this is maybe my favorite ‘Kansas City’ that I’ve seen or heard,” he said. “The guys are great dancers, the choreography is really great and it tells the story clearly. It’s just fun to feel something come together organically.”

When putting the play together, Brand said, the creative team was focused on “telling an honest, real and entertaining story to make these characters relatable and real people.”

“That’s been a really good experience,” he added.

“Oklahoma!” is showing Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets ($71-$76) are available at the 250 Main St. box office or Engemantheater.com.

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/northport-heads-west-with-oklahoma

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: ‘Oklahoma!’ sweeps into Northport’s Engeman

Times of Huntington-Northport

Katherine Espinoza

May 20, 2017

 

Calling all cowboys and farm girls yearning to see turn of the century Oklahoma Territory! The John W. Engeman Theater is the place for you! The Northport playhouse kicked off its seven-week run of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration, “Oklahoma!,” this past weekend to a full house. The musical, based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, “Green Grow the Lilacs,” tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Willliams.

The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943, and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, along with a Pulitzer Prize for Rodgers and Hammerstein the following year.
Despite Curly’s attempts at charming her, Laurey accepts an invitation from the hired hand Jud, played to perfection by Nathaniel Hackmann who returns to the Engeman stage fresh off of a powerful performance as the lead in “Jekyll & Hyde.”Directed by Igor Goldin (“1776,” “Memphis”) the Engeman’s production is warm, funny and full of high-energy performances. The show opens in a barn, with Laurey’s wise and witty Aunt Eller (Jane Blass) churning butter while doling out advice. It quickly becomes clear that Eller’s steady hand and calm mind is needed to keep the town afloat. We encounter our lead cowboy Curly, played by a commanding Bryant Martin, soon after the opening scene. Belting out an incredible “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,’” he tries to woo the beautiful Laurey (Kaitlyn Davidson) to the box social — what we today know as a local dance.

A 15-minute “dream ballet” reflects Laurey’s struggle with her feelings about Curly and Jud. We see an actress who looks exactly like Davidson, and we see Davidson watching her, and eventually we understand what is unfolding before us …

Hackmann delivers once again, and makes you feel his loneliness and desire for Laurey with his rendition of “Lonely Room.” It’s hard not to feel for his character even as the rest of the town seems to shun him for being nothing more than the help.

One of Laurey’s friends, the very flirtatious Ado Annie (Brianne Kennedy) is causing heartache for her boyfriend Will Parker (Chris Brand) who has just returned from a rodeo in Kansas City where he has won the $50 needed to offer for her hand in marriage. Ado Annie has fallen for the town peddler Ali Hakim (Danny Gardner) who is a ladies man and doesn’t really want to marry her or any woman. Does she give the handsome Will her hand or does she run away with the peddler? Ali Hakim is very convincing as he tells her it’s “All er Nothin” and bares his heart.

The drama continues as the box social begins and the town gets ready for some dancing. Choreographed by Drew Humphrey (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”), the southern dance numbers are great fun, especially during “Kansas City,” where you get to see some fantastic cowboy moves.

The set, designed by D.T. Willis, is very authentic looking and effectively transports you back in time to the life of the early pioneers. Lasso ropes hang from the wooden walls of the barn and the stage is covered in wood to give the setting a rustic feel. Wooden stools and chairs were also hung from the walls.As the show continues on, Curly makes the audience believe in the power of love and root for his relationship to succeed. But you can’t count out Jud, who is sure to leave his mark on the stage as his character brings trouble to the town — you’ll almost want him to bring trouble just for another chance to see Hackmann on the stage.

Matthew Solomon brings the fashion fun to life, designing the costumes for the show. At the box social, the women trotted across the stage in laced up boots with a heel, antique gowns with petticoats underneath and adorned with lace and bonnets. The cowboys are dressed with leather chaps over their denim, cowboy hats and down to the last detail the spurs on their cowboy boots. The wedding gown Laurey wears is especially beautiful, covered in delicate lace from head to toe, and topped off with a long veil and beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Musical director Jeff Theiss brings all the tunes of the original show to life again and has you tapping your feet as the cast superbly sings the beloved classic “Oklahoma!” The music and romance and comedy combined make for a fantastic show. Come on down and join the fun as you relive life on the prairie!

Cast includes: Jane Blass, Chris Brand, Sari Alexander, Charles Baran, Robert Budnick, Kaitlyn Davidson, Danny Gardner, Nathanial Hackmann, Zach Hawthorne, Tyler Huckstep, Brianne Kennedy, Bryant Martin, Kaitlyn Mayse, Kim McClay, Danny McHugh, Nick Miller, Katilin Nelson, Meghan Nicole Ross, Connor Schwantes, Kelly Sheehan and Michael J. Verre.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Okalahoma The Musical” through June 25. Tickets range from $71 to $76 and valet parking is available. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

 

Read online: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/oklahoma-sweeps-into-northports-engeman/

The Long Islander: Huge Support Voiced For Inn Plan

May 18, 2017

By Janee Law

jlaw@longislandergroup.com

Northport Village Hall was packed Tuesday night with supporters, and at least one dissenter, of a plan to bring a boutique inn to Main Street.

The support was voiced during a public hearing on a proposal made by trustees to add a “Hotel/Inn” designation to village code, paving the way for the plan to move forward. Trustees are waiting on county and village planning department approval before voting on the change.

In the meantime, Trustee Ian Milligan said he wasn’t surprised by the support.

“I think that people really want this, and we certainly need it, but we also definitely need to listen to the concerns of neighbors,” Milligan said. “We have to weigh that out.”

This inn is planned by John W. Engeman Theater co-owners Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce, who proposed the three-story Northport Village Inn in February. They want to build it at 255 Main St. in the building that was formerly Danyell’s Kitchen, footsteps away from their theater.

Milligan added, The “key is that someone’s willing to put such a huge investment to help build the infrastructure of the village. You have to recognize that as a positive.”

The proposed multi-million-dollar inn would span around 22,000 square feet. Along with 22-24 guest rooms across the two upper floors, they also want to have space for a restaurant on the first floor.

O’Neill said after the hearing that he was pleased with the warm reception. He said he thinks residents are in support of it because of the lack of lodging in the village.

“I’m very satisfied,” he said. “It sounds very well received.”

Kevin Lawlor, a Lisa Drive resident, one of 21 people to voice support during the public hearing, said he thinks the inn would “be a boon to this town.”

“I do think the place needs a facelift,” Lawler added. “It will be a boon to the establishments, the businesses that are in this town and it’ll put us on the map.”

Bruce Adams, an Ocean Avenue resident, said he’s thrilled with the plan.

“When you want to put people up, it is alwaysvery difficult to find a decent hotel,” Adams said. “We’ve had hotels here in the past, but they were all torn down and there’s still a need.”

An opponent of the proposal, JoAnne Hall, said she thinks the inn would bring more congestion to the village.

“There is no parking here at all. People park on my street and I can’t get out of my driveway,” Hall, of Woodbine Avenue, said. “There’s going to be additional traffic on that street and noise with people coming up the hill and coming down the hill… It’s a reality. I think the idea is lovely, but not for here.”

The focus of Tuesday’s hearing was a local law that would allow a business owners to operate their building, so long as it is smaller than 12,000 square feet, as a hotel or inn with sleeping accommodations for paying, transient customers.

The proposal would also allow such buildings to house a bar and restaurant, and other typical hotel features, such as a spa.

Northport officials will send two draft zoning resolutions, one to the Suffolk County Planning Commission and the other to the Northport Village Planning Board, before scheduling a vote.

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/the-long-islander-archives/huge-support-voiced-for-inn-plan

Newsday: Northport considers zone changes allowing downtown hotels

May 17, 2017

By Valerie Bauman  valerie.bauman@newsday.com

A rendering of a hotel proposed for Main
A rendering of a hotel proposed for Main Street in Northport by the owners of the John W. Engeman Theater. More than 100 people packed Northport Village hall Tuesday night, May 16, 2017, at a hearing on proposed zoning changes that would allow the hotel on Main Street. Photo Credit: Hoffman Grayson Architects LLP

More than 100 people packed Northport Village hall Tuesday night, voicing overwhelming support for proposed zone changes that would allow hotels to operate on and around Main Street.

Officials drafted two proposals addressing the issue after Kevin J. O’Neill and Richard T. Dolce, owners of the John W. Engeman Theater, purchased a three-story building across the street from the venue with the goal of converting it into an upscale inn.

In order for O’Neill and Dolce’s project — or any hotel proposal — to move forward, village code would first need to be revised, Northport officials said.

Current village law does not include hotels in its list of permitted uses of commercial property downtown, Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin said Tuesday.

O’Neill said Tuesday night that it would be a “multimillion”-dollar project if the village changes the code, and he and his partner succeed in pushing their proposal through further regulatory procedures.

“The concept, in general, was very well-received because there’s no place to stay,” O’Neill said. “I think the area has been starved for lodging opportunities, and the residents are very, very excited about the prospects of that coming into the town.”

“I’m sure all of you have been in a situation where you have people come to visit and you don’t particularly want them to stay in your home,” Northport resident Jeff Barasch, 69, said. “You have to tell them, ‘You don’t have to leave, but you can’t stay.’ Now there’s an opportunity to stay.”

Barasch’s comments — and those from others supporting the new hotel — were met with applause. However, three residents spoke up with concerns about how a hotel could impact Northport’s already limited parking.

“There is no parking here at all,” JoAnne Hall said. “If you don’t think there’s going to be additional traffic on that street and noise with people coming up the hill, coming down the hill, there will be. It’s a reality. The idea is lovely . . . but not for here.”

Village officials said the current hotel proposal would provide one off-street parking space for each room at the inn The inn would have about two dozen rooms, proponents have said.

Village trustees adjourned the hearings without voting, but kept the hearings open for future comment.

Officials said they will send the two draft zoning resolutions to the village Planning Board and Suffolk County Zoning Commission for review.

 

Read online: http://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/northport-considers-zone-changes-allowing-downtown-hotels/

The Long Islander: Engeman Owners Unveil Parking Plan For Inn

April 20, 2017

Long Islander News photo/Janee Law Kevin J. O’Neill, co-owner and managing director of the John W. Engeman Theater, presenting the tentative parking plan for a proposed three-story Inn to be built on Main Street in Northport Village.
LONG ISLANDER NEWS PHOTO/JANEE LAW KEVIN J. O’NEILL, CO-OWNER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE JOHN W. ENGEMAN THEATER, PRESENTING THE TENTATIVE PARKING PLAN FOR A PROPOSED THREE-STORY INN TO BE BUILT ON MAIN STREET IN NORTHPORT VILLAGE.

By Janee Law
jlaw@longislandergroup.com

Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce, co-owners of the John W. Engeman Theater, presented the tentative parking plan for their proposed three-story, Northport Village inn at Tuesday’s trustee meeting.

The plan calls for a total of 54 parking spaces — 30 of which will be new — across two Woodside Avenue lots, which will be expanded and renovated as part of the plan. The lots sit behind the 225 Main St. plot eyed, up on the hill along Woodside.

O’Neill and Dolce, managing director and producing artistic director of Engeman Theater respectively, plan to expand the two parking lots 15 feet to the east into a wooded area. O’Neill said they also plan to take the lower lot and move it back while moving the upper lot forward so that is upper lot is suspended over the other. There will be separate entrances for both lots, avoiding the need for a ramp between the two, which O’Neill said would take up parking spaces.

In addition to renovating the parking lots, O’Neill said he will also help resolve the rapids in Northport by installing drainage and dry wells under the lower lot to catch water coming down from the upper lot, preventing roof water from running onto Main Street.

In January 2016, both O’Neill and Dolce bought the building, which is across the street and few steps west of their theater.

A rendering of the proposed inn depicts it as a three-story building that would total approximately 22,000 square feet, O’Neill said. Dubbed as The Northport Inn, the building was inspired by The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, he added.

The multimillion-dollar project also calls for restaurant on the first floor. The upper floors would be a mix of around 22-24 rooms, and would also have some office space for management.

Dorothy Walsh, Northport resident and recording secretary for the Northport Chamber of Commerce, read a statement from members of the chamber at Tuesday’s trustee meeting.

“We receive calls all the time from residents and out of towners looking for accommodations for their friends and relatives, visiting for weddings and other events. Unfortunately, we have to suggest accommodations far from Northport,” Walsh said. “Kevin and Richard have certainly demonstrated in the past their concern for the quality of life in the village and have brought such a beautiful venue in the John W. Engeman Theater on Main Street. The Northport Chamber of Commerce wholeheartedly supports their project.”

Village officials are currently mulling a proposal to alter village code to allow for the land to be used for the inn. They plan to propose the resolution at their May 2 meeting, and will set a public hearing on it May 16.

If approved, O’Neill said, he’d like to break ground in October. Since they haven’t gone into detail with planning, he added, O’Neill wouldn’t be surprised if the project is pushed to the start of 2018.

In the meantime, he said, “The mayor and the trustees have all been very receptive to the concept and we’re happy to provide them with whatever they need to continue to make this project advance.”

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/the-long-islander-archives/engeman-owners-unveil-parking-plan-for-inn/

Newsday: Northport theater owners dream of upscale inn nearby

March 27, 2017
By Deborah S. Morris  deborah.morris@newsday.com

Northport Village could soon get a hotel.

The owners of the John W. Engeman Theater have purchased the three-story building across the street from the venue and hope to transform it into an upscale inn.

The three-story building at 225 Main St. would have a restaurant on the ground level, with about 24 rooms spread over the other two floors.

Kevin J. O’Neill said he and his partner in the venture, Richard T. Dolce, are inspired by the inns that populate the seaside downtowns of Maine and the American Hotel in Sag Harbor.

“We wanted to see if we could bring to fruition a first-class inn into Northport,” said O’Neill. “My goal is to make it feel like a place that has been here for 150 years, but will have all the current, state-of-the-art accouterments that we all want.”

Photo Credit: Ed Betz

The partners purchased the building in 2016. Right now, it’s used as office space. O’Neill said he envisions a high-end, full-service hotel experience with the quaint and charming feel for which the village is known.

O’Neill and Dolce presented their idea for the Northport Inn to village trustees at a February public meeting and said so far the reaction has been positive.

“The idea is sensational and we are very happy about it,” Northport Chamber of Commerce president Ron Iannacone said. “It just adds another dimension, a destination venue for people to come to the village.”

Northport Village Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin said he thinks it would be great for Northport to have a hotel.

“I think it would be wonderful, convenient to have a hotel,” Tobin said. “So far everyone I’ve spoken with feels the same way.”

Currently, the zoning category where the building sits does not allow a hotel as a permitted use. Village officials would have to amend the code to allow the hotel to be built, Tobin said.

“We don’t have hotels permitted anywhere in the village that I know of,” Tobin said. “Main Street and Bayview and Woodbine [avenues] did have quite a number of hotels in the past, but by the middle of the 20th century those were all gone, and our code was not adopted by the late 1940s, so it was a moot issue.”

O’Neill said he’s hoping village trustees set a public hearing to consider amending the village code to allow for a lodging category sometime this spring.

He said while the hotel will be an added benefit to the village, the restaurant will not encroach on the bottom lines of already established restaurants, pointing out the theater seats 400.

“It’s a unique property in that it’s already zoned for a restaurant and it has parking lots in the back, so you put those two together and it makes for a unique piece of property,” O’Neill said. “We’re really excited about it.”

 

Read online: http://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/northport-theater-owners-dream-of-upscale-inn-nearby/

The Long Islander: Engeman Owners Plans Main Street Inn

March 02, 2017
By Janee Law

jlaw@longislandergroup.com

A rendering by Hoffman Grayson Architects, LLP, pictures the development of a proposed three-story inn on Main Street in Northport Village.

The minds behind Northport Village’s John W. Engeman Theater unveiled last week plans to create an inn with a restaurant on Main Street in the village.

Owners Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce, managing director and producing artistic director of the theater respectively, presented the plan to Northport Village trustees during their Feb. 21 public meeting.

Plans call to take over 225 Main St., across the street and a few steps west of the theater, which was previously home to now-closed Danyell’s Kitchen and is now used for office space.

“It’s a very unique piece of property and it offers the ability to provide onsite parking,” O’Neill said in an interview Tuesday. He did not specify how many parking spaces could be provided. “The concept is to develop this building into a beautiful inn with a restaurant.”

The building currently scales the hill along Woodside Avenue and has half of a Dutch Colonial home peeking out its top.

“That house is just sticking out of the top of the rectangular roof — it’s cut off at the waist, basically. It’s in disrepair,” O’Neill said, adding that he wants to “renovate this building in a serious way.”

Northport Village Trustee Ian Milligan said Wednesday that the inn would be a good addition to the village.

“Years ago, there were many hotels in Northport, so I don’t think that it’s not in keeping with the feel of the village,” Milligan said. “Judging by Mr. O’Neill’s past projects, we know that he’s going to do a good job with a renovation like that.”

O’Neill said that both he and Dolce bought the building in 2016.

A rendering of the proposed inn depicts it as a three-story building inspired by The American Hotel in Sag Harbor. What’s been dubbed The Northport Inn would total around 20,000 square feet.

O’Neill said the first floor of the building would house a restaurant. The upper two floors would be a mix of rooms, and some office space for management.

“We’ll have much greater detail available as time goes on,” O’Neill added. “We’ll continue to work with the village on whatever they need from us to hopefully complete this.”

In order for the plans to move forward, village trustees need to adjust current commercial codes to accommodate inns and hotels, according to Milligan.

He added that the board is looking into making a change and the potential impact it could have.

“We’re going to see what we need to do to carefully move forward and do something that’s in the best interest of everyone,” Milligan said.

At their March 7 meeting, village trustees plan to schedule a public hearing on the potential code change for March 21, according to Milligan.

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/the-long-islander-archives/engeman-owners-plans-main-street-inn/

Observer Review: There’s a bright golden show at the theater

The Observer

David Ambro

May 18, 2017

 

As I sat in the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport looking at the playbill and waiting for Oklahoma! to start on press night on the eve of Mother’s Day Saturday, May 13, my mind was on other things, not my mom.

I was wet and uncomfortable after running in the rain up Main Street to the theater from the LaMantia Gallery down the block where I had just attended the opening of gallery owner James LaMantia’s work. I was trying to catch up with the show I was about to see, and I engaged in friendly conversation with the Engeman usher.

That all changed though after the lights dimmed, and the first words rolled off the tongue of Curly McLain, played by Bryant Martin, as he sang “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.”

“There’s a light golden haze on the meadow,”

“There’s a light golden haze on the meadow,”

“The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye,”

“An’ it looks like it’s climbing clear up in the sky…”

With those words my mom, Helen Ambro, was now in the forefront of my mind. Mr. Martin’s rendition of this iconic song was beautiful, and it brought back fond memories of the days of my youth.

Oklahoma! is the first musical ever written by the renowned theatrical team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and it was the first live show I had ever seen.

When I was a little boy my mother would try to bring me, my brother and my sister and our friends to live theater whenever she could. We went to American Legion and VFW halls, church basements, school auditoriums – my mom would have loved the Engeman – and Oklahoma! was one of her favorites. So, I have seen it more than once.

I haven’t seen this play in many years, though, and never have I seen it with such a talented cast. But, as I watched Curly McLain Saturday night it conjured up fond memories of my mom, reinforcing her place in my memory banks as one of the finest and most influential people in my life.

And, as I sat through Oklahoma! at the Engeman Saturday night watching Mr. Martin portray the iconic character Curly McLain, and angelic Kaitlyn Davidson portray the love of his life Laurey Williams, I soon came to realize why my mom loved this show so much, and why she was so fond of live theater.

Song after song this show is laced with classic music: Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, The Surrey  with the Fringe on Top, Oklahoma…; and dance routine after dance routine, this show is full of fun and drama, all of it strung together to tell a love story. The rendition of Oklahoma!, a classic musical, is a fitting way for the Engeman Theater to start its second decade of bringing Broadway to Main Street.

As Laurey, Kaitlyn Davidson brings Broadway credits to the cast – she played Ella in Cinderella and before that was in the cast of Nice Work if You Can Get it. As Oklahoma! progresses, the spotlight shines brighter and brighter on the talented Ms. Davidson, who is as good a singer as the Engeman stage has seen. And, she leads a cast deep with talent, actors and actresses who can sing and who can dance the hoedown.

A highlight of the show comes near the end of Act I, with the performance of “Our of My Dreams – Ballet,” which features Ms. Davidson as Laurey and her look alike Kelly Sheehan, as her dream figure. Sheehan is a veteran of the Engeman stage and another actress in the cast with Broadway credentials, having performed in 42nd Street and White Christmas.

Another veteran of the stage in Oklahoma! cast is Nathaniel Hackmann, who plays the deadly cowhand Jud Fry, who competes with Curly McLain for Laurey’s love but ends up dead, falling on his own knife during the wedding of the lead couple. Hackmann, a big man perfect for the role as a hardworking cowhand, is fresh off a run in the lead role of Jekyll and Hyde at the Engeman. He can sing, and he can act and his presence on stage is formidable.

Oklahoma! runs through June 25. For tickets, call the Engeman at 631-261-2900, order online at engemantheater.com or visit the box office at 250 Main Street in Northport.

Broadway World Review: RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S OKLAHOMA!

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

May 17, 2017

 

Brilliantly ending their spectacular 10th season, Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theater offers a great incarnation of the iconic, game-changing musical Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!. Excellently directed by Engeman vet Igor Goldin, this production runs through June 25th at the gorgeous Northport venue. The cast is truly outstanding and the whole production is well done.

Based on Lynn Riggs‘ 1931 play Green Grow The Lilacs, this story, set at the turn of the 20th century, follows Laurey as she grapples with her feelings for Curly and Jud. Marking the first time the two legendary composers worked together, the score for this show includes several very familiar pop culture hits including “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'” and the iconic title number. To add, an audience favorite is the illustrious ballet scene closing Act I.

Kaitlyn Davidson splendidly portrays Laurey, a sassy, independent farmgirl working on her Aunt Eller’s ranch. Ms. Davidson makes a great Laurey with a fiery disposition and head strong demeanor. Speaking of Aunt Eller, Jane Blass is terrific in the role of the respected community leader. Her one liners bring many laughs. Bryant Martin portrays Curly, a cowboy who is in love with Laurey. Ms. Davidson and Mr. Martin make a great team especially when they adorably tease each other when we first meet them. Jud, a worker on Aunt Eller’s farm, is portrayed by Nathaniel Hackmann in a return engagement to the Engeman. Jud is very mysterious… a loaner; and he is exceedingly enamored by Laurey. Mr. Hackmann’s intense and chilling take on Jud is superb. Also a highlight is Danny Gardner as Persian peddler Ali Hakim who brings many laughs throughout the show. And Brianne Kennedy is also stellar as the sweet, but ditzy (and easy), Ado Annie.

On Mr. Goldin’s creative team, DT Willis‘ set is ideal. The Engeman’s is already a good size stage to begin with, but Mr. Willis’ set makes it look larger. This is enhanced beautifully by Zach Blane‘s lighting and Laura Shubert‘s sound design is top-notch. Additionally, most of Matthew Solomon‘s [costumes] are stunning, but, personally, I wasn’t over the moon with some of the designs on the dresses. Style-wise they were pretty – I love a full skirt – but the designs seem rather unadorned. But other than that little quibble, the whole production is visually exquisite.

And so, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! is indeed another hit for the John W. Engeman Theater and a wonderful end to their season. Is this show produced frequently? Perhaps. But this fantastic cast and clever creative team certainly make this showing a must see for the season.

 

Read online: http://www.broadwayworld.com/BWW-Review-RODGERS-AND-HAMMERSTEINS-OKLAHOMA

Newsday Oklahoma! Review: Oh, what a beautiful show in Northport

Newsday

Steve Parks

May 16, 2017

 

“Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends . . .”

—Oscar Hammerstein II

My first thought as the “Oklahoma!” cast gathered for an opening-night photo at the Engeman Theater was that there’s no way there are any farmers in this picture. But Curly (aka Bryant Martin) corrected me. He was raised on a Pennsylvania dairy farm. Full disclosure: This critic was raised on a Maryland dairy farm. (Martin’s dad sells milk to Land O’Lakes; mine sold to Breyer’s.)

Cowman Curly longs to spark with farm girl Laurey. But on the eve of the box-social square dance and auction, Laurey says her date is Aunt Eller’s surly farmhand, Jud. Nothing changes her mind, not even Curly’s “Surrey With the Fringe on Top.” It’s hard to imagine another song that could follow “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” which opens this groundbreaking Broadway classic. Martin leads both numbers with a voice you’d swear could be heard all the way from the title territory to Northport. Or at least to Kansas City, where “everything’s gone about as fer as it can go.” That’s where none-too-bright Will won $50 at the state fair to woo Ado Annie, the girl who “Cain’t Say No.” For a dowry in that amount, Annie’s dad will marry her off. But Will spends it instead on gifts for her. So now, she’s promised to Ali, the “Persian” peddler.

Tragicomic conflicts ensue in this grand new presentation of the show that practically invented the book musical in which songs are written to develop character and plot rather than accessorize them. Martin’s vigor as Curly is matched by Kaitlyn Davidson’s stubborn but vulnerable Laurey. Kelly Sheehan, her dream ballet double, another “Oklahoma!” innovation, originated by Agnes de Mille and choreographed here by Drew Humphrey, is as riveting as she is dramatic.

Annie (Brianne Kennedy), Ali (Danny Gardner) and Will (Chris Brand) sharply angulate a comic-relief triangle, while Jane Blass as Aunt Eller gamely referees a farmer-vs.-cowman peace. Struggling for peace within himself is Jud, played by Nathaniel Hackmann with the glowering intensity he brought to the evil half of Engeman’s recent “Jekyll & Hyde.”

Director Igor Goldin’s vision is framed by the barnlike DT Willis set and amplified by Jeff Theiss’ orchestra delivering Richard Rodgers’ flawless, tear-inducing score.

“People Will Say We’re in Love” with this show. Let ’em.

 

Read online: http://www.newsday.com/oklahoma-review-oh-what-a-beautiful-show-in-northport/

DC Metro Theater Arts Review: ‘Oklahoma!’ at John W. Engeman Theater

DC Metro Theater Arts

Kristen Weyer

May 15, 2017

 

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is closing its 10th season with the rousing classic, Oklahoma! With book and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein, this beloved musical has been a family favorite for generations, and the Engeman’s production is no exception. Directed here by Igor Goldin, with fun and energetic choreography by Drew Humphrey, Oklahoma! is a triumph.

The plot is set in the Oklahoma Territory at the turn of the century. It is a land of dust and grain, of cattle ranchers and farmers. A place where hardworking people live and work together, where tensions run high, and so does attraction. Curly and Laurey are in love, and the whole town knows it, but they won’t admit it to themselves or each other. Trading insults and flirtations, they skirt around their feelings, each hoping to make the other bend first. When farmhand Jud Fry starts paying his addresses to Laurey, she sees a perfect opportunity to make Curly jealous. But when Jud’s obsession gets out of hand, the dangerous turn of his behavior threatens the happiness of all involved. A sweeping tale of romance, pride, stubbornness and hope, Oklahoma! is a must see for the whole family.

The cast of this production is phenomenal. Bryant Martin is a wonderful Curly. His cheeky grin and confident swagger bring his charming cowboy character to life. His fantastic voice reverberates throughout the theater from his opening number of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ ” directly into “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” and straight through to the “Oklahoma!” finale. The famous duet “People Will Say We’re in Love” between Curly and Laurey, played to perfection by Kaitlyn Davidson, is an absolutely lovely addition to the performance, played with just the right combination of humor and tenderness. Davidson’s beautiful soprano also rings out in “Many a New Day,” while her exquisite facial expressions and body language competently portray her character’s emotions.

Chris Brand and Brianne Kennedy play the lovable but dim-witted couple of Will Parker and Ado Annie. Their pleasing voices and excellent comedic timing are exhibited not only in the duet “All er Nothin’,” but also in their individual numbers of “Kansas City” and the iconic “I Cain’t Say No.” Peddler man Ali Hakim is amusingly performed by Danny Gardner. His humorous number “It’s a Scandal! It’s an Outrage!” is superbly done as a solo of verbalized thoughts.

The hearty-but-tender Aunt Eller is portrayed with enviable skill by Jane Blass. Her dry-humored character adds a touch of sarcastic comedy to her lines and numbers, notably “The Farmer and the Cowman.” The infamous Jud Fry is impressively played by Nathaniel Hackmann. His raw and sporadically uncontrolled emotion, combined with an imposing presence, make for a remarkable performance. His strong vocals thrum in the haunting number “Lonely Room.”

D.T. Willis’ stunning wooden set works perfectly for this production, and is gorgeously highlighted by the work of Lighting Designer Zach Blane. Great costumes by Matthew Solomon and sound by designer Laura Shubert round out the entire show. The band, here conducted by Jeff Theiss, performed this iconic score magnificently. Oklahoma! is a fabulous show that has maintained its popularity for decades.

The Engeman’s production Oklahoama! – this well-known and much loved classic – should definitely not be missed.

Running Time: 3 hours, including a 15-minute intermission.

Oklahoma! plays through June 25, 2017 at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport – 250 Main Street, in Northport, NY. For tickets, call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or purchase them online.

The John W. Engeman Theater presents OKLAHOMA!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

(Northport, NY- May 2017) – The John W. Engeman Theater announces the cast and creative team for OKLAHOMA! Performances begin on Thursday, May 11 at 8:00pm and run through Sunday, June 25, 2017.

This is the show that set the standard for all future musicals by incorporating music, lyrics and dance into a well-crafted serious story. OKLAHOMA! spins the tale of the high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys in the Indian territory of Oklahoma at the turn of the twentieth century. This provides a colorful background against which Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a winsome farm girl, play out their love story. Nominated for Seven Tony Awards® and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, it’s filled with some of the most recognized songs in theatre, including “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and of course, the resounding “Ok-la-hom-a.”

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

The Director is IGOR GOLDIN (Engeman Theater: 1776, Memphis, West Side Story, The Producers, Evita, Twelve Angry Men, South Pacific; Off Broadway: YANK!, With Glee, A Ritual of Faith, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Crossing Swords). The Choreographer is DREW HUMPHREY (Engeman Theater: White Christmas (Choreographer) , Thoroughly Modern Millie, A Chorus Line (Director)). The Musical Director is JEFF THEISS (Broadway: Book of Mormon – Rehearsal Pianist, Keyboard 2 sub, Conductor sub; Off Broadway: The Band’s Visit; Regional: Merry-Go-Round Playhouse). The Assistant Director is TREY COMPTON (Engeman Theater: South Pacific, Twelve Angry Men, The Music Man, Evita, The Producers, West Side Story; Off-Broadway: YANK!, White’s Lies). The Associate Choreographer is KELLY SHEEHAN (Engeman Theater: A Chorus Line (Sheila); Broadway: 42nd Street (Lorraine), Irving Berlin’s White Christmas).

 

The Creative Team includes: D.T. WILLIS (Scenic Design), MATTHEW SOLOMON (Costume Design), ZACH BLANE (Lighting Design), LAURA SHUBERT (Sound Design), KURT ALGER (Wig Design), GAYLE SEAY, SCOTT WOJCIK and HOLLY BUCZEK of WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING (Casting Directors), SUZANNE MASON (Props Design), SEAN FRANCIS PATRICK (Production Stage Manager) and LEILA SCANDAR (Assistant Stage Manager).

The cast of OKLAHOMA! features BRYANT MARTIN as Curly (Regional: The Last Ship at Pioneer Theatre Company, Phantom at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Oklahoma! at Musical Theatre West and Lyric Stage, 1776 at Lyric Stage, First Date at the Mason Street Warehouse, Shenandoah at Totem Pole Playhouse, Gentleman Volunteers for the Pig Iron Theatre Company and Sedition at the Westport Country Playhouse), KAITLYN DAVIDSON as Laurey (Broadway: Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Nice Work if You Can Get It; National Tour: Ella in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Judy in  Irving Berlin’s White Christmas; Regional: Signature Theatre,  Riverside Theatre, The Cape Playhouse, American Repertory Theatre, The Marriott Theatre, The Maltz Jupiter) and NATHANIEL HACKMANN as Jud Fry (Engeman Theater: Jekyll & Hyde (Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde); Broadway/National Tours: Les Miserables (Valjean, Javert u/s), Paint Your Wagon (Steve); Regional: Beauty and the Beast at MUNY (Gaston), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Oliver!, Sweeney ToddA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ForumCarousel, Ragtime, Into the Woods, Camelot, Sanders Family Christmas, Bye Bye Birdie).

The cast also features: JANE BLASS as Aunt Eller (Engeman Theater: Mary Poppins, Oliver!; Broadway: Mrs. Greer/Miss Hannigan u/s in Annie; Broadway Tours: Prudy/Female Authority Figure in Hairspray, Margaret/Violet u/s in 9 to 5), CHRIS BRAND as Will Parker (Engeman Theater: Mary Poppins (Bert); National Tour: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) and BRIANNE KENNEDY as Ado Annie (National/International Tour: Annie (Lilly u/s); Regional: Les Miserables, Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Legally Blonde).

The cast also includes: SARI ALEXANDER, CHARLES BARAN, ROBERT BUDNICK, DANNY GARDNER, ZACH HAWTHORNE TYLER HUCKSTEP, KAITLYN MAYSE, KIM McCLAY, DANNY McHUGH, NICK MILLER, KAITLIN NELSON, MEGHAN NICOLE ROSS, CONNOR SCHWANTES, KELLY SHEEHAN and MICHAEL J. VERRE.

Press Opening is Saturday, May 13th at 8:00pm

 

OKLAHOMA! 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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