Engeman’s In The Heights Excites With Musical Diversity

By Janee Law
March 29, 2018

The John W. Engeman Theater brings summer time to Northport with “In The Heights,” an energetic production that brings audience members to the vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights.

Before he created the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda wowed audiences with “In The Heights,” his first musical that went on to win a Tony Award for “Best Musical.”

Engeman’s adaptation of the production brings romance, comedy and a diverse musical performance that excited the crowd at the Main Street theater last weekend.

The production is directed by Paul Stancato and choreographed by Sandalio Alvarez, with musical direction by Alec Bart, and Dana Iannuzzi as associate director.

Through rap, hip-hop, reggaeton and merengue, the music and energetic dance sequences take audiences on a journey of a dream filled community that faces the ultimate struggle of whether or not to carry the traditions of the past or leave it behind.

Audience members Gail and Don Conrad said after Saturday’s show that the “music was excellent” and the “dancers were fabulous.”

They added that their favorite character was Usnavi (Spiro Marcos), who had members of the audience bobbing their heads during his rhythmic rap sequences.

For other audience members like Lidia Rodriguez, the cast made her want to join the fun.

“I wish I could dance like that,” she said. “I love it and it was very touching. They talked about everything: life, death, hope, and home. It was a great show.”

With spirited numbers like “96,000,” “The Club” and “Carnaval del Barrio,” the production entertains from start to finish and tugs at the heartstrings with performances like “Breathe” and “Alabanza.”

With that, the story offers a love story that audiences can connect with, whether it’s Usnavi (Spiro Marcos) and his pursuit of Vanessa (Chiara Trentalange), or childhood friends Benny (Josh Marin) and Nina (Cherry Torres) whose relationship turns romantic with age.

Torres said the relationship between Benny and Nina is natural and one that many can relate to.

“Seeing someone that you grew up with your entire life and then all of a sudden seeing them in a different way is such a beautiful and natural progression that these characters have,” she said, adding that working opposite Marin is a pleasure.

Torres said she saw herself playing the character of Nina when the original production hit Broadway.

“I’ve wanted to play it for years because I had so many similarities with her,” she said, adding that when she landed the role, she was in tears. “It means the world to me to have gotten this part. I’m just honored to be able to get on the stage and play her every time.”

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Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Engeman Theater soars to new heights in latest production

By Rita J. Egan
March 22, 2018

It may be chilly outside, but things are heating up inside the John W. Engeman Theater. The Northport venue debuted its production of “In the Heights” on March 15, and with a talented cast and the energetic sounds of salsa, reggaeton, merengue and hip hop, audience members are guaranteed a fun, hot night on the town.

Before he shared the story of Alexander Hamilton through rap and song in “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda created this spirited musical, which ran from 2008 to 2011 on Broadway and won four Tony Awards.

A love letter to Latinos who live in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, the story takes place during July Fourth weekend on one city block and centers around bodega owner Usnavi and his neighbors. While the play includes a good deal of reality like money issues, the death of loved ones and the sacrifices one must make for a better life, its main themes are about love and hope, and most important of all, having patience and faith.

With book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and music and lyrics by Miranda, through dialogue and song “In the Heights” reveals the economic struggles of Usnavi and his fellow business owners, car service proprietors Kevin and Camila Rosario and beauty salon owner Daniela.

The musical throws in romance as Usnavi pines away for the beautiful Vanessa, who works at the beauty salon, and the Rosarios’ daughter Nina and their employee Benny engage in a forbidden romance. As the audience gets a peek into the heartache of Usnavi losing his parents at an early age, Vanessa yearning to move downtown, the bright Nina losing her college scholarship and the love felt for the neighborhood’s adopted grandmother, Claudia, one can’t help but feel a part of this close-knit community.

Spiro Marcos as Usnavi does a fine job filling big shoes (the role was originally played by Miranda on Broadway). The actor skillfully uses rap during most of his numbers to tell the story. Marcos is in touch with Usnavi’s softer side, making it impossible not to root for him as he longs for Vanessa and dreams of going back to the Dominican Republic, his birthplace, while trying to keep the bodega afloat.

Josh Marin is charming as Benny, and Cherry Torres is sweet and lovely as Nina. The two have a good amount of onstage chemistry during their romantic scenes, which is front and center during the song “Sunrise” where they sing beautifully together. Chiara Trentalange balances a bit of sass and attitude with a touch of softness to deliver a Vanessa who may be determined to put her neighborhood behind her, but audience members can’t help but like her, too.

Tami Dahbura is endearing as Abuela Claudia, while Paul Aguirre and Shadia Fairuz are perfect together as Kevin and Camila. Schehereazade Quiroga is perfect as the spunky Daniela and delivers comedic lines perfectly. Iliana Garcia is refreshing as naïve hairdresser Carla, and Vincent Ortega is delightful as the Piragua Guy, especially during his number “Piragua” and its reprise. Nick Martinez, as Usnavi’s young cousin Sonny, and Danny Lopez as Graffiti Pete, do a nice job adding some comic relief throughout the production.

The dancers are also among the stars in the show. Skillfully choreographed by Sandalio Alvarez, they energetically and masterfully transfer from salsa, merengue, reggaeton and hip hop dance steps.

The music in the production is top notch and is a mix of dance tunes that will have audience members wanting to dance in the aisles and emotional ballads for which some may need tissues. The band, led by conductor Alec Bart, does a superb job flawlessly moving from one musical genre to another, and the singers also do an excellent job.

During the first act, Torres expertly uses her vocal talents to perform an emotion-evoking version of “Breathe.” It is during this number audience members discover her time at Stanford University didn’t work out for her, and she now feels lost not knowing what to do with her life.

Aguirre’s number “Inútil” is just as heartbreaking as his character feels useless after discovering his daughter didn’t come to him to help her pay for school. Fairuz also displays strong vocals during the song “Siempre.”

Trentalange sings lead on the upbeat song “It Won’t Be Long Now” with Marcos and Martinez. The actress has fun with the song and her vocals are great.

Dahbura moves around convincingly like a frail grandmother, and then surprises audience members with her emotional vocals during “Paciencia y Fe.” Abuela Claudia remembers her youth in Cuba and arriving in the United States, during the song. Her mother would always remind her to have patience and faith, advice Claudia continues to share with those she loves.

During the first act, the ensemble performs “96,000” as they sing about what it would be like to win the Lotto. With the singers emanating so much energy, one can’t help but feel optimistic for them.

Quiroga gets the party started with “Carnaval del Barrio” and her vocals are outstanding. The high-energy song with exceptional dancing is sensational. It is soon followed by “Alabanza” where Torres sweetly sings the first lines and then the song builds up to a powerful number featuring the whole cast. Both performed during the second act are show stoppers.

Spanish is sprinkled throughout the dialogue and lyrics of “In the Heights” to add authenticity, but are always followed by English translations, or the lines are delivered with gestures that make things clear for those who don’t understand the language.

Many may want to see this musical because they are curious about Miranda’s earlier work, but “In the Heights” is an entertaining look into the life of Latinos in New York City and a beautiful tribute to the music that was brought to the United States from the islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

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The Observer Review

Engeman Theater to new heights

March 22, 2018
By David Ambro

In its 12th season of bringing Broadway to Main Street, the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is coming of age.

Now showing on the main stage at the Engeman Theater is the critically acclaimed Broadway hit In the Heights, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize nominated musical written and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote and currently stars in Hamilton, the hottest ticket on Broadway. In the Heights opened at the Engeman Thursday, March 15, the first professional production of the show on Long Island.

“It’s exciting to do a show that people haven’t seen a lot before,” said Richard Dolce, who produced the show and is the theater’s producing artistic director. “That’s what was exciting about [the previous show] Once. People came in having heard about it but it’s not like My Fair Lady or West Side Story where everyone remembers it and has seen it. This is something they have heard of and maybe they have heard of Hamilton, but to experience it and for us to be the people to bring it to them is very satisfying. It’s why I do this.”

Set in a closely knit neighborhood on 183rd Street in the Washington Heights section of the Bronx, In the Heights is a story about a diverse Latino community of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico, struggling to improve their lives in America. On the Engeman stage, Spiro Marcos plays the central role of Usnavi, a Dominican immigrant who operates a bodega with his cousin. Sonny, played by Nick Martinez, and under the watchful eye of neighborhood matriarch Abuela Claudia, played by Tami Dahbura. Mr. Marcos is captivating as Usnavi, a role he delivers in rhythmic rap. Mr. Martinez and Ms. Dahbura are terrific in their performances. Sonny warm, funny and engaging and Abuela compassionate and endearing.

A defining moment in the story comes when Abuela dies suddenly during a New York City blackout on a blistering hot July day. Having been raised by Abuela, her death hits Usnavi hard. He decides to give up the bodega, the heart of the neighborhood, and return to his homeland. Central to the plot is romance, Usnavi is enamored by Vanessa, a neighborhood hairdresser played by Chiara Trentalange. Josh Marin plays Benny, an African-American in love with his boss’ daughter, Nina, played by Cherry Torres.

Steeped in the Latino culture and highlighting the struggle of the American melting pot. In the Heights at the Engeman features a deep cast of stars supported by an ensemble that is more than 20 voices strong at times. It is must-see contemporary theater on the Northport stage.

For tickets, go to engemantheater.com, call 631-261-2900 or visit the theater box office at 250 Main Street in Northport village.

In the Heights is told in a mixed dialogue of English and Spanish and a variety of musical styles including Rap, Hip Hop, Salsa, Merengue, Reggaeton, Rock ‘n Roll and traditional Broadway style, all with a Latino beat.

“Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer and the guy who is Hamilton, tells a story about his life growing up and he wanted to use the music of his youth and of his culture,” Mr. Dolce said. “[Miranda] is a really big fan of rap and Latin music and a big fan of Broadway so he took this amalgamation of all this different music. There are characters who primarily rap, but there are also a lot of characters who do pretty standard ballads and storytelling and it’s all put together to portray a slice of life in Washington Heights back in the mid to late 2000s.”

“It is so much fun,” Mr. Marcos said during an interview in the lobby after the show. “We have become family. We have only rehearsed for two weeks. This is the third week of rehearsals and it has included five performances. So we are exhausted, but we have all just held each other up and we have all made it a point to tell the story and to do it justice and do it with respect and also share a little bit of our culture with the people of Northport. It is kind of amazing.”

“So I am elated. The show is fun. it’s upbeat, it warms your heart and it is all about the legacies -we leave, and I think this is so important,” he said. “People have to understand that you leave your mark wherever you are, and that is very important to me.”

Mr. Dolce said that because the script is a mix of English and Spanish, a largely Latino cast was selected to bring authenticity to the show. “Obviously, they are trying to be as authentic as possible. Fortunately, we cast actors who are Latino, so they came with their own background and their connection to the material. So it was a matter of the director, choreographer and musical director working with the actors and material to bring out the authenticity.”

“The big thing for me is showing the respect for the Spanish language because it drives the culture of almost half of the people in this country,” Mr. Marcos said. “In wanting to pay respect to the language and doing it justice, sometimes you get people who do parts like this, and they don’t know the language. It’s just them trying to figure it out and learning the words on a page. But for me it is the connection to that world and knowing exactly what I’m saying and how to say it and not just learning the lines. I know exactly what I am saying and not just words on a page, so I can pay respect to this language.”

“Lin-Manuel had a reason for putting that in this show. He had a reason for including it and I think it is so important to respect that decision of his because he is the first one to do it like that,” Mr. Marcos said.

“West Side Story did it back then and I was in West Side Story. I played Bernardo, and it was crazy because in that show they almost bastardized Puerto Rico. They were all ashamed of Puerto Rico and they wanted to get out of Puerto Rico. And this is a show that is celebrating Puerto Rico and it is just amazing that he created something that celebrates Latin American culture when the only time you’re seen it in a show it has been bastardized. And that was a huge, huge inspiration for me.”

While the dialogue is delivered in English and Spanish and the music has an uplifting Latino beat, the choreography is also modern and new to the Engeman.

“It is probably the most modern dance that we have done,” Mr. Dolce said. “It mixes elements of Hip Hop and Break Dancing with traditional Broadway dancing and with Latin musical dancing, Salsa dancing. When we did Memphis and Hairspray it was 50s Rock youth style of dancing. This is more modern. So again, it is exciting to be able to present something like this. That feels fresh, that hasn’t been done.”

“We are thrilled to be able to do the show. It is a fantastic show, and it is a complicated show, but it is one that, now that we are 12 years in, we felt we could handle and our audiences would enjoy,” Mr. Dolce said.

He said the heavy lifting was done by the authors of the script. “The script is there, the music is there. We just had to stay time to it, and just work our actors’ and our directors’ concepts into the story.”

“1 think it is fantastic,” Mr. Dolce said. “I think it’s exciting. I’ve been around the theater for a long time and it is exciting to watch Broadway theater evolve over the years. Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, and A Chorus Line and Phantom, Les Miz, and then you got into Rent, and now we have In the Heights and Hamilton, and Next to Normal—you have all of these exciting shows. So it is very exciting for me, as someone who has been there for my entire life, there was a time when I could only produce shows like My Fair Lady, Oklahoma and Sound of Music, and now I feel that audiences are more accepting and receptive to these newer styles of musicals.”

The Engeman’s last production was Once, the most successful show at the box office in the theater’s 12 year history. “Once is very different than typical Broadway, and it was one of my most successful shows,” Mr. Dolce said. “I’m hoping, based on audience reaction tonight, that In The Heights will become another wonderfully successful show and that audiences are excited and receptive to seeing musical theater in a new way, with modem music and different cultures and to disappear into a different world and a different story for two and a half hours.”

 

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Newsday Review

In the Heights: Scorching numbers on a summer day

By Barbara Schuler
March 21, 2018

Spring is having trouble making an appearance on Long Island, but summer is in full swing at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater, with a spirited take on the high-octane, dance-obsessed, Tony-winning musical “In the Heights.”

This, you might recall, was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical, started when he was still in college, well before “Hamilton” was even a gleam in his creative eye. Set on a scorching summer day, the play takes place in Washington Heights, where Usnavi (a fine performance from Spiro Marcos in the role Miranda originated) runs his bodega amid the turmoil of a neighborhood where no one is quite making it.

Director Paul Stancato has gathered an impressive cast, with voices that will blow you away and enough stage electricity to energize a small city. Tami Dahbura is endearing and heartbreaking as Abuela Claudia, the barrio matriarch who raised Usnavi (he’s named for the first thing his parents saw upon arriving in America, a ship that said U.S. Navy) after his parents died. Cherry Torres internalizes her pain as Nina, the girl who got out, coming home from her first year at Stanford with alarming news that sends her ferociously protective parents Kevin and Camila (Paul Aguirre and Shadia Fairuz) into quite the tailspin.

Other standouts include Chiara Trentalange as Usnavi’s feisty, don’t-mess-with-me love interest; Josh Marin as the out-of-place Benny (shades of “West Side Story” right down to the balcony scene), who has his sights on Nina; and Vincent Ortega as the piragua guy, selling shaved ice to anyone he can convince to pass up Mister Softee. Not to mention an ensemble of accomplished singers and dancers who bring Christopher Vergara’s street-kid costumes and Christopher Ash’s storefront set to life, while making it clear they know how to sell salsa (and we’re not talking the stuff you put on chips.)

But it’s Usnavi who holds it all together and Marcos plays him with a quiet, reserved charm and curtailed cockiness that wisely never attempts to channel Miranda (tough, because an unmistakable resemblance cannot be denied). Marcos is comfortable wherever the music takes him, moving effortlessly from haunting ballads like “It Won’t Be Long Now” and “Alabanza” to the hip-hop flavored “96,000.”

“I know I wrote a show about home,” Miranda said in his rapped acceptance speech when he won the 2008 Tony for best original score. And in the end, that is the loving message of “In the Heights,” no clicking of sparkly red shoes required.

 

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Broadway World Review

IN THE HEIGHTS at The Engeman

By Melissa Giordano
March 21, 2018

When I attended the Broadway incarnation of In the Heights, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Accordingly, when they announced their current season, I had the utmost confidence that the showing at the gorgeous John W. Engeman Theatre was going to be just as stellar. Being The Engeman, I was proven right. The wonderful production runs through April 29th at the Northport venue masterfully directed by Paul Stancato.

The Best Musical Tony winner, conceived and scored by multiple Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda with the book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, tells the tale about the historic Washington Heights community in New York City. Explored are the people, the culture, and what it is like to live in the area. Several stories weave throughout the show that, at its heart, is about people simply trying to navigate life.

Excellently leading the cast as bodega owner Usnavi – Mr. Miranda’s role from the Broadway showing – is Spiro Marcos in his Engeman début. Mr. Marcos receives roaring applause and laughs for his natural wit and first-rate renditions of “96,000” and the show’s title number with the company. Also, Mr. Marcos’ performance of “Hundreds Of Stories” with Tami Dahbura, portraying Abuela Claudia, the town grandmother, is truly endearing and an audience favorite.

Also a highlight among the amazing cast (and in another Engeman début) is Cherry Torres who is terrific as Nina, a college student who has returned to the neighborhood. Nina’s passion to make sure she makes her parents proud, yet standing up for herself under the pressure, is relatable and Ms. Torres delivers admirably. Also enjoyable is Iliana Garcia – in yet another Engeman début – as salon worker Carla. Carla is a sweet and well-meaning woman, but, shall we say, a little slow and Ms. Garcia brings many laughs in addition to being a stand-out in many of the dance numbers.

In truth, I could go on and on about the brilliant cast, but I’ll sum up by saying that I could possibly see several of them in the Broadway production had it run longer.

On the creative team, the set, designed by Christopher Ash, is stunning and seemingly captures well the spirit of the Washington Heights community. Usnavi’s bodega, the salon, and the car service that Nina’s father owns are included as well as fire escapes above the bodega and car service. This is enhanced beautifully by John Burkland‘s lighting design and Christopher Vergara‘s costume design. Sandalio Alvarez’s choreography is also top-notch and well accompanies the score filled with hip-hop, salsa, merengue, and reggaeton which is performed by a thrilling live orchestra headed up by Music Director Alec Bart.

And so, In the Heights at The John W. Engeman Theatre is incredibly entertaining with an absolutely remarkable cast. This heartfelt story and well executed show make for a thrilling night of theatre.

 

Read at Broadwayworld.com

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The Theatre Guide Review

In the Heights

By Kristen Weyer
March 20, 2018

If you’re looking for a way to escape the cold then look no further than the John W. Engeman Theater. The current production of In The Heights is a surefire way to bring warmth and excitement to your day.  This Tony Award winner for Best Musical boasts a book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, and music and lyrics by…wait for it, Lin-Manuel Miranda!  Yes, of Hamilton fame.  Filled with the sound and soul of Latin music this incredible score is a brilliant blend of salsa, merengue and hip-hop combined with the format of musical theater we all know and love.  It’s hypnotic and intoxicating, and just pure fun.

Even if hip-hop isn’t usually your cup of tea, do not under any circumstances, be dissuaded from attending. Trust me, it’s not my first musical choice either, but somehow this show makes it appealing and wonderful.  The intricate, and even amusing lyrics, combine effortlessly with the characters and mood so that the music almost feels like a physical embodiment of the setting.  It’s impressive as well. The flawless verbal gymnastics performed by Spiro Marcos as Usnavi are simply breathtaking.

The steam is rising off the concrete on a sweltering hot 4th of July in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York.  Change is upon the residents, and while some desire it, others find it difficult, hearts are broken and mended, dreams crash and burn and rise again.  We the audience follow along through the three transformative days in our characters’ lives.

This production is phenomenal.  From the authentic look of the set by Christopher Ash, to the amazing vocals performed by the entire cast, In The Heights was a delight from start to finish. The insane talent of this cast cannot be stressed enough.  Not only were their voices and dancing superb, but they all make you care about their characters as well.  The two couples in this show both had excellent chemistry and you’ll find yourself rooting for both of them from the start:  Spiro Marcos and Chiara Trentalange, as Usnavi and Vanessa; Josh Marin and Cherry Torres, as Benny and Nina.  They are sweet and charming, funny and endearing, and real.  Trentalange and Torres both have incredible powerhouse vocals which take over the stage with magical precision.  Another vocal stunner is Tami Dahbura as Abuela Claudia, and Marin’s clear and resonant tones are not quickly forgotten.

There is also plenty of comedy, and Nick Martinez as Sonny, Scheherazade Quiroga as Daniela and Iliana Garcia as Carla deliver marvelously.  Not to be overlooked are Paul Aguirre and Shadia Fairuz as Nina’s parents, and the entirety of the cast.  Of course the musical talent of the orchestra under direction from Alec Bart was on masterful display.

When I first sat down to In The Heights I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect.  Not only did this production meet my expectations, it blew them away.  By any means possible see this show!

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Smithtown Matters Review

In the Heights

By Jeb Ladouceur
March 20, 2018

The production team at Northport’s plush Engeman Theater certainly knows how to pick ‘em. Their newest offering is a stimulating show that depicts a three-day slice of life ‘In the Heights.’ Not Brooklyn Heights (the upscale area across the river from Wall Street) … nor Jackson Heights (that’s a landlocked neighborhood in Queens) … this is about Washington Heights, bordered by two rivers, up near the northern tip of Manhattan.

German immigrants first populated the area’s high bluffs, but demographics changed radically over time and by the turn of the Twenty-First Century, so many immigrants from the Caribbean Islands had moved to Washington Heights that candidates for the presidency of the Dominican Republic began to hold campaign parades there! It’s this irrepressible Hispanic element, coupled with pathos and near-feverish dance moves that make ‘In the Heights’ such an interesting musical.

And ‘Heights,’ though a bit controversial, is obviously a winner, having garnered thirteen Tony nominations and four first place trophies (including Best Musical) after its opening at the Richard Rogers Theatre in 2008. Dissimilarly, fifty years earlier, the highly touted ‘West Side Story’ had gained less than half that number of recommendations and won in only the ‘Choreography’ and ‘Set Design’ categories.

Inevitably, there will be those who assume that the current Engeman offering is a North End version of ‘West Side Story.’ Not so. At the risk of being labeled some kind of Thespian heretic, I will confess that ‘West Side Story’ has never been my cup of tea. I dislike the show’s constant drumbeat of machismo nonsense (although it must be said the frenetic ‘Heights’ production too has its share of that) … and the repetitious nature of what Bernstein and company apparently intended to be timeless romantic anthems, often renders their version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ rather tedious.

But ‘In the Heights’ is a somewhat more interesting story—Nina, the ‘bright girl who made it out’ of The Heights—is back from her Freshman year at Stanford; trouble is, ‘the pride of her neighborhood, The Corner,’ isn’t home on break … unable to pay Stanford’s steep tuition (despite working two jobs), she’s suffered academically, and been forced to drop out of the prestigious institution.

The most distressing trouble Nina gets into stems from her failure early on to have told her hard-working parents the truth about her academic collapse several months prior. In other words, it’s the cover-up that proves to be the worst part of her sad experience. Nina finally fesses-up, though, and finds out who really loves her.

Throughout this show, fate intervenes in Twenty-First Century ways. In one particularly recognizable modern-day surprise, the play benefits from a healthy shot of realism often lacking in so many modern musicals. There’s a city-wide power failure, for example—many will remember the real thing when they see John Burkland’s clever staging of the blackout … go and experience for yourself what the other familiar touches are.

To select an all-star group from among the several actors performing at The Engeman thru April 29 is not to diminish a single member of the cast. Many of the ‘also featured’ players are every bit as pleasing to watch as are the stars: Spiro Marcos (Usnavi), Josh Marin (Benny), Cherry Torres (Nina), and standout Chiara Trentalange (Vanessa).

Director Paul Stancato, and Choreographer Sandalio Alvarez, must have been paying close attention when my associate, critic Charles Isherwood, conceded in The Times ”…this musical erupts in … collective joy … the energy it gives off could light up theGeorge Washington Bridge.” He hit the nail squarely on the head. Charles could have been speaking for all of us who had just seen Northport’s rousing rendition of ‘Heights,’ though I might have added kudos for Musical Director Alec Bart and the rest of the creative team that includes: Christopher Ash (scenic design), Christopher Vergara (costumes), John Burkland (lighting design), and Don Hanna (sound).

One wonders how The Engeman comes up with so many capable theatrical craftsmen, show after remarkable show.

One caveat: you won’t like ‘In the Heights’ if you detest rap musicals, as some of us admittedly do. But if the non-stop rat-a-tat of‘street opera’ turns you on, go see the twenty-one performers currently vocalizing and gyrating at Northport’s Engeman Theater. I’m told they’ve turned in a faithful rendition of what goes on in upper Manhattan.

Read at Smithtownmatters.com[/button

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Long Islander Review: One Time Not Enough To Witness ‘Once’ At Engeman Theater

The Long Islander
Janee Law
February 1, 2018

The newest show at John W. Engeman Theater in Northport Village is taking audiences overseas, to the streets and green landscapes of Dublin, Ireland.

Starting off in an Irish pub, “Once” warms up the crowd with pre-show melodies of high energy that set the stage for what’s to come.

The tale that follows delivers a captivating love story that follows Dublin street musician Guy (Barry DeBois) and Czech immigrant Girl (Andrea Goss). The couple meets at a time when both their lives have “stopped,” but soon help each other push forward.

The cast delivers the beautiful narrative through acoustic, folksy music and choreography while adding a touch of comedy to the mix.

Together, the relatable characters share an inspirational message of pursuing one’s dreams and the music’s powerful ability to form connections among people.

“Once,” which at Engeman is directed and choreographed by Trey Compton, with musical direction by James Olmstead, and Natalie Malotke as associate director and movement consultant, is an adaption of the eight-time Tony Award-winning feature that rocked Broadway from 2012-2015.

At Engeman, the talented ensemble shows off several skills. Not only does the cast act, sing and dance, but they also play instruments — guitar, drums, violin, piano, bass, cello, accordion, mandolin and viola, just to name a few — live on stage.

Joanne Freiberger, an audience member at last Thursday’s show with her daughter Amelia, said her favorite part was a slow dance during which cast members also play their instruments.

Freiberger, of Huntington, added, “We think the cast was great, a really talented bunch of musicians. It was definitely an exciting and unique theater experience.”

Other highlights of the show include the fittingly-titled “Gold.” For the number, the ensemble fills the stage with a musical brilliance that made audience members yearn for an encore.

“Once” delivers, but with a twist as the reprisal of “Gold” sees the characters put their instruments aside for an acapella rendition.

Musical numbers “If You Want Me,” “Sleeping,” “When Your Mind’s Made Up” and “The Hill” also show off the ensemble’s breathtaking ability to unite through music.

Another audience member, Diane Wilenski, of Centerport, called the production amazing. “This is Broadway in Northport,” she said.

“I think what stands out for me are the two main characters. I liked how down to earth and natural they were,” Wilenski added. “I loved [Girl’s] zest for life and how she kind of brought that out in Guy.”

Goss, who portrays Girl and plays piano in the show, said the character’s energy is a quality she loves to play with. She also finds Girl’s passion for music and need to help others incredible.

Goss’ favorite number to perform changes show-to-show, she said, but last Thursday it was “When Your Mind’s Made Up.”

She continued, “There’s something about the musicality of it when everybody comes in and our minds focus all the energy on Guy. There’s something really special about that.”

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/one-time-not-enough-to-witness-engemans-once

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Smithtown Matters Review: ‘Once’

Smithtown Matters
Jeb Ladouceur
January 30, 2018

In March of 2012 the musical ‘Once’ opened on Broadway and stunned the theatrical world with an astonishing eleven Tony Award nominations … and eight wins! What’s more, those triumphs included Best Musical, and Best Actor. As proof of the fact that ‘Once’ was no flash-in-the-pan, the show also won 2012’s Drama Desk, and Drama Critics’ Circle awards for Outstanding Musical, and followed-up with the Drama League Award, as well as 2013’s Grammy for top Musical Theater Album.

It must have been some post-awards party!

The Boffo (if somewhat oddly-staged) Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová production closed in early 2015, following nearly 1200 performances on the Great White Way. With a simple set that mimics a soddy Irish pub, a rather one-dimensional book, and austere costumes … not to mention a scarcity of memorable songs (the unforgettable ‘Gold’ is the exception) … this show, in which the cast is also the orchestra, is not your typical big town extravaganza. Nor is the average ‘eager boy meets reluctant girl’ plot anything new. This is a ‘Musician’s Musical’ staged in Dublin with the usual ‘leaving home’ Irish plot.

It’s the story of a ‘Guy’ in his 30’s … a Dublin street musician played to near-perfection by Barry DeBois. He’s a singer-songwriter-guitarist by night, and a vacuum cleaner repairman (of all things) during the day, ‘Guy’ has recently been jilted by his iron-willed girlfriend. She’s forsaken him in favor of life in The Big Apple, leaving ‘Guy’ with a broken heart and a determination to forget about his soulful music altogether. He vows henceforth to stick exclusively to his regular job—fixing those kaput vacuum cleaners ‘…the ones that just won’t suck.’

Bidding adieu to the bar where he’s been singing and playing, ‘Guy’ has every intention of leaving his guitar and his sorrow behind in the on-stage pub; the romantic memories associated with the familiar instrument are just too painful to bear. But that’s when a delightful young Czech woman, referred to simply as ‘Girl,’ detects ‘Guy’s’ angst and, having fallen for his musicianship (and his sad tale of woe), ‘Girl’ ultimately reveals that she, too, has a balky vacuum … if ‘Guy’ can fix it, and keep on playing and singing, she’ll play piano accompaniment for him … gratis.

Deal? … okay, the deal is struck … strike up the band … etcetera.

We learn about a kindly banker … a change of heart for ‘Guy’ (and ‘Girl’ as well) … an overhauled Hoover or two … and the compulsory recording company that quickly spots ‘Guy’s’ talent … all fairly predictable, and not unpleasant stuff.

In the capable hands of Director/Choreographer Trey Compton, the Engeman audience is treated to a show that will strike a chord with every musically inclined troubadour (as some of us envision ourselves) … will resonate with anyone who has ever suffered the pangs of unrequited love (ouch!) … and will please the lucky patrons in our midst who have found serendipitous redemption from misfortune when and where they least expected it.

And speaking of serendipity, local theatergoers who never thought they’d be enchanted by a musical featuring such rarities as a soft-hearted financial loan officer (believe that or not), and a cupid-like thirty-something Mom with a daughter named Ivonka (I’m not kidding), are in for a huge surprise. Because thanks primarily to the multi-talented Barry DeBois (The Guy) and Andrea Goss (The Girl), the snazzy Engeman Theatre on Main Street in Northport is likely to keep those plush seats filled for the duration of this play’s fairly long run thru March 4th.

Some might even want to see ‘Once’ … ‘twice!’

Read online: http://www.smithtownmatters.com/long-island-theater/theater-review-once.html

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Village Tattler Review: Once Musical Captivates at Engeman Theater

The Village Tattler
Claudia Wheeler
January 28, 2018

Once more, Engeman Theater in Northport captivates audiences with its latest production of Once in which the cast also serves as the orchestra and a bar is set at center stage. I was truly blown away by the exquisiteness of the music and talent in this very special and unique production. Once runs through March 4, 2018, and if I am able I will see it more than once. It is a must-see theater experience, and when Engeman touts its productions as Broadway on Main Street, they really aren’t kidding; it’s evident with Once. As a ticket holder, you are invited for a drink up at the bar on the stage pre-show or during intermission, which has a delightful way of making you feel like you are part of the production.

Just like the 2007 movie by John Carney, music and lyrics for the musical are by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, including the Academy-Award winning song “Falling Slowly.” The book for the musical was written by Enda Walsh.

The incredible cast (several of whom also performed in Once on Broadway/National Tour) is directed and choreographed by Trey Compton. He has worked at Engeman as the Associate Director of Gypsy, Oklahoma, South Pacific, Twelve Angry Men, The Music Man, Evita, The Producers, West Side Story as well as Off-Broadway productions of YANK! and White’s Lies.

This production of Once, which I had the delight of experiencing on opening night, had the audience enthralled from the very first note on the violin. Winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Once is truly original theater—an atypical and complex love story. It feels more like seeing a live strings concert in a pub (that cozy, personal experience) than traditional musical theater. In the story, the main guy and the main girl connect through music but are bound to other partners. Somehow, despite being from very different worlds, they come together and remind everyone not to give up on your dreams, and that even when life is very complicated, there is still hope.

The cast of Once features Barry Debois as the Guy (National Tour: Once; NYC: The Shape of Things, The Wedding Singer, The Seed of Abraham, Pilgrims of the Night, Deployed; Regional: Midtown Arts Center, Media Theatre, The Armory Theatre, Players Guild Theatre, Cassidy Theatre, Kathleen Howland Theatre, Rivertree Players, Carnation City Theatre) Andrea Goss plays the Girl . Her credits include Broadway: Indecent, Cabaret, Once, Rent; National Tours: Cabaret (Sally Bowles); Regional: Baltimore Center Stage, TUTS, Alliance, McCarter, CTG/Kansas City Rep, North Shore, MUNY, Syracuse Stage; Film: “Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway.”

The amazing ensemble, who play their own instruments on stage, features: Billy Cohen, Annabelle Deaner, Elisabeth Evans, Ryan Halsaver, John Thomas Hays, Stephen Mcintyre, Rachel Mulcahy, Ryan Michael Owens, Terry Palasz, Bristol Pomeroy, Sam Saint Ours, Sophia Lily Tamburo, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman and Lauren Wright.

 

Read online: http://villagetattler.com/2018/01/28/musical-captivates-northports-engeman-theater/

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Observer Review: Three cheers to ‘Once’ at the Engeman

The Observer
David Ambro
January 25, 2018

The name certainly doesn’t define it because I would go see Once at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport again and again…

If you are Irish you’ll love this one. It’s brought out the McCooey in me (my mother’s Irish maiden name).

It is a groundbreaking performance on the Engeman Stage. In its 11th season, Once is the first Engeman show to have all of the music performed on stage, no instrumental accompaniment from the orchestra pit below. Cabaret and Rent had some music on stage, but there was an orchestra as well.

Once is all instruments played by the cast: a handful of acoustic guitars, two violins, three mandolins, an accordion, a cello and a piano. It’s an incredible experience. When some of the instrumentalists aren’t in a scene, they still sit in the wings on stage and provide musical accompaniment and it’s rousing.

Set in a pub in Dublin, Barry DeBois, making his Engeman debut, plays the lead role of Guy, a Hoover vacuum repair man in his father’s shop struggling to become a musician. He is about to hang up his guitar, but then he meets Girl, a Czech immigrant making a new home in Ireland, played by Andrea Goss, a Broadway veteran in Indecent, Cabaret, Once and Rent.

The plot of Once is straightforward, Guy and Girl fall in love but are committed to others, Girl to a husband still in her homeland and Guy to a girlfriend who left Dublin for New York City. Guy is about to give up his music, but Girl encourages him to continue, and he achieves stardom.

Ms. Goss and Mr. DeBois are wonderful together. They are both terrific singers, Ms. Goss even sings with the Czech accent, and she is wonderful on the piano and he is brilliant with an acoustic guitar. And, the ensemble joining them brings Broadway to Northport.

Song after song starts with an instrument or two, DeBois on his guitar, Goss on the piano, or both in duet, then it builds, a violin, then another, the cello, then a mandolin, and soon there are more than a dozen instruments playing together and it is uplifting. And, there are some great little ditties along the way, songs like Falling Slowly, Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy and Abandoned in Bandon.

DeBois shines in a scene where he plays at a live mike night at a local tavern, and in Gold to end Act I he is terrific. And Goss is spirited as she drives the story along. With lines to DeBois such as, “you are such a lovely person. I’m so glad my Hoover was broken,” she is engaging and makes this show fun. And, the cast is one like no other, which brings me to the other groundbreaking element of this show.

Since it is set in a pub, and since they did it on Broadway, the theater opens a half hour early and audience members are invited on stage to buy a pint of beer or a glass of wine. On opening press night Saturday, January 20, Managing Director Kevin O’Neill was the on-stage bartender manning the tap as the entire cast filled the stage and performed an impromptu concert with their instruments, folk songs mainly, with guitars, mandolins, violins and a cello.

That alone makes Once a must-see show at the Engeman, and maybe more than once. It’s like hanging out in the best pub in town with a wonderfully talented group of friends.

This one is fun. Mr DeBois and Ms. Goss are great to watch, and the rest of the cast, which includes Billy Cohen, Annabelle Deaner, Elisabeth Evans, Ryan Halsaver, John Thomas Hays, Stephen McIntyre, Rachel Mulcahy, Ryan Michael Owens, Terry Palasz, Bristol Pomeroy, Sam Saint Ours, Sophia Lily Tamburo, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman and Lauren Wright, really lifts the Engeman to a new level. Bravo.

Once will play through March 4. 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 Village.

 

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Times of Huntington-Northport Review: The Engeman delivers a musical and emotional powerhouse with ‘Once’

Times of Huntington-Northport
Melissa Arnold
January 25, 2018

If you’ve ever fallen in love, had your heart broken or faced unfulfilled passion, you’ll relate to “Once.” And even if you haven’t, the cast at the John W. Engeman Theater will still grab your heart and squeeze. The show, which is part of the theater’s 11th season, is both unique and compelling. It’s easy to see why “Once” grossed 11 Tony nominations and eight wins in 2012, its first year on Broadway. The show is a stage adaptation of the 2007 film of the same name that starred Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Both versions were written and directed by John Carney.

Under the direction of the Engeman’s Trey Compton, “Once” begins with a nameless street performer referred to as Guy (Barry Debois) singing a heartbreaking ballad about an ex-girlfriend. A bold and honest young Czech woman (Andrea Goss as Girl) overhears the song and immediately pesters him for the juicy details that inspired it. It turns out that Guy has lost his love of music since his old flame left for New York City. Performing just hurts too much, and he’s ready to throw in the towel on his dreams.

But Girl won’t hear any of that, and she’s convinced that he’d win his love’s heart again if he sang her that song. Their conversation is the beginning of an intensely passionate and emotionally raw week as the two write, rehearse and record songs together.

What makes “Once” stand out is its presentation, which you’ll notice before the show even begins. Get there early and you’ll find the cast on stage in the middle of a rocking pub party, Dublin style. They hoot and holler while they sing, play Irish tunes and dance on tables. The best part is that the audience is invited to go up and join them. The set includes a working bar that offers a single variety of beer, red wine and white wine for $10.

The musical performances in this show are also one of a kind, as there is no stage band providing accompaniment. Instead, each person in the 13-member cast also plays an instrument, and all of the songs are performed from memory, which is beyond impressive. To make it work, chairs are set in a semicircle around the perimeter of the stage. When a character exits a scene, he or she simply takes a seat, fading inconspicuously into the background.

They also function as their own stage crew, dancing and playing brief musical interludes as they carry props on and off the set. It’s a bit hard to describe in words, but the overall effect is visually compelling and speaks to the incredible talent of this cast.

Both Goss and Debois are no strangers to “Once” — she was part of its recent Broadway run, while he was the music captain of the 2016 U.S. national tour. They bring to the show an intense realism you can hear in every note they sing. Guy’s opening number, “Leave,” and Girl’s tearful performance of “The Hill,” will leave you awestruck.

The members of the ensemble, which include “Once” veterans Elisabeth Evans (Reza), John Thomas Hays (Billy), Stephen McIntyre (Bank Manager) and Bristol Pomeroy (Da) among others, are every bit as talented as Debois and Goss. They put out a powerful sound with rich harmonies and tons of energy. During their a cappella performance of “Gold,” you could hear a pin drop in the packed house. The standing ovation during the press night performance last Saturday night was well deserved.

Read online: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/theater-review-engeman-delivers-musical-emotional-powerhouse/

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Broadway World Review: ONCE at the John W. Engeman Theater

Broadway World
Melissa Giordano
January 24, 2018

One thing is certain: Northport’s stunning John W. Engeman Theatre never disappoints. This especially with their latest offering of the eight-time Tony winning musical Once. The absolutely exquisite incarnation, running through March 4th, is outstandingly directed by Trey Compton and boasts an incredibly gifted and beautiful cast.

Based on the 2007 movie, the story centers on a woman and a man (not officially named in the show) who, besides instant attraction, are drawn to each other by music. However, it is a complicated and heart-tugging situation.

Broadway vet Andrea Goss superbly portrays the woman, a young Czech mother in Dublin, Ireland. Indeed an audience favorite is her moving rendition of “The Hill” in act two. Ms. Goss and a charming Barry DeBois, who portrays the man, make a sensational team. His torment in choosing what do to – rekindling his romance with his longtime girlfriend who recently moved to New York or stay with his new found love – is well exude by Mr. DeBois. To really feel their journey, pay extra close attention to the gorgeous score by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová who are also the stars of the movie version.

The whole cast are also musicians even serving as what would be the orchestra in addition to their speaking parts. Ms. Goss on the piano, Mr. DeBois on the guitar, and there are drums, percussion, strings… it’s thrilling to see, really.

As for the set, a bar is the centerpiece. Several chairs are moved around consistently so when the cast is not “on stage”, they take a seat on the side. Also, before the show and during intermission, it is a working bar serving drinks to patrons while the cast performs. It adds immeasurably to the show when it is engaging and the audience is respectful. And above the bar section is a – if, perhaps, a little juvenile looking – hill where our leading players have a powerful conversation. The visually alluring show is strikingly enhanced by Mr. Compton’s choreography and Cory Pattak’s lighting design.

And so, Once is undoubtedly a must see for this season. An extraordinarily affecting story and a remarkable cast make for a great night of theatre.

Read online: https://www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Review-ONCE-at-the-John-W-Engeman-Theatre-20180124#

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Newsday: ‘Once’ review: Two lonely people make beautiful music together

Newsday
Barbara Schuler
January 23, 2018

The vacuum cleaner isn’t the only thing that’s stuck.

In “Once,” the seductively charming musical that opened last week at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, the same could be said of the characters known only as Guy and Girl, two lost souls who aren’t functioning much better than her broken Hoover.

The Dublin street singer and the Czech immigrant meet as he’s about to abandon his guitar on the sidewalk and give up on his music. She is a lonely pianist, struggling to raise her young daughter with a husband who’s not around. Guy, perhaps a little too conveniently, works in his father’s vacuum repair shop where her promise to pay by playing for him leads to a musical collaboration, a demo tape with major potential and the stirrings of romance.

Andrea Goss, who understudied the role on Broadway, gives Girl a quiet, commanding presence, able to make things happen with but a soft-spoken word. Or a glare. Barry DeBois is less assured as Guy, perhaps because of difficulties with the Irish accent. But both are glorious when singing the pop-folk music of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (stars of the 2007 indie film that the musical is based on), most notably in the haunting “Falling Slowly,” which won the original song Oscar.

Interestingly, while the show is an ode to the power of music (“Ya can’t have a city without music,” says one character), there’s no orchestra. Under Trey Compton’s direction, the actors portraying all the other characters — Girl’s Ma, Guy’s Pa, a ragtag bunch of musicians — double as musicians, playing more than competent guitar, violin, mandolin and the like whenever they’re not speaking. Much of the action takes place in a finely rendered Irish pub (set by Nate Bertone) where the audience is invited to buy a drink and mingle before the play starts.

There’s no happy ending, at least in the traditional sense, to this bittersweet love story, winner of the 2012 best musical Tony. But when tiny Sophia Lily Tamburo, playing Girl’s daughter, fetches a violin and joins in on the show’s last few notes, the message of hope soars with the song.

Read online: https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/once-review-two-lonely-people-make-beautiful-music-together-1.16317180

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The Theatre Guide Review: Once

The Theatre Guide
Kristen Weyer
January 23, 2018

The hit Broadway musical Once is now playing at the John W. Engeman Theater.  With book by Enda Walsh, and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová, Once is the winning recipient of 8 Tony Awards. Directed and choreographed here by Trey Compton, this touching musical will both tug at your heart strings and embolden your courage.  Its dual themes are intertwined into a beautiful, seamless whole as it stresses the importance of love, and refuses to let the fear of failure reign.

We begin in a pub in Dublin, and I really do mean “we” as this show does something very different from others you’ve probably attended.  Before the official start of the performance the actors (who are also the musicians), are having a jam session in the set pub and you the audience are more than welcome to come up on stage, watch, and grab a drink from the on-stage working pub bar.  This unique and uncommon occurrence, aids in setting a wonderfully distinctive feeling to the show.

Nate Bertone’s beautiful and charming set evokes the lush mystique of the Emerald Isle, and the cozy old world feel of the pub.  Once the audience members are in their seats, the cast transitions into the first number and the show begins. We meet a disillusioned musician (brilliantly played by Barry DeBois) who is about to give up and walk away from his guitar forever. However, just before he can actually leave, a beautiful stranger (the fantastic Andrea Goss) approaches him asking about his music and challenging and encouraging him to continue.  As her passion for life, love and music renew his own, we are taken along on their emotional journey.

This show is impeccably performed from every aspect.  As I mentioned earlier, the actors are also the musicians and all of the music for this show is performed live on stage as they are acting.  It is magnificent and very striking.  Their musicality is not alone in impressing however.  Vocal ability is fabulous, characterization superb, and comedic timing spot-on. The characters are both Irish and Czech and the consistent accents are quite pleasing.

Defining Once is quite a challenge, and I think, intentionally.  It is not a comedy, but has many funny moments; it is not a tragedy, and yet has bittersweet moments. A haunting love story to music that will leave you touched, wistful, and yet encouraged.

One word of warning however, don’t go if you’re sleepy.  It is a beautiful and sedate musical, the opening jam session is about as peppy as it gets.

A sweet and mellow tale of love and music, Once is a mosaic of many messages: never leave the doors behind you half ajar, finish what you’ve started, don’t give up, and most importantly don’t be afraid to begin.  An excellent production which should be added to your must-see list at Once.

 

Read online: http://thetheatreguide.com/2018/01/23/once-john-w-engeman-theater/

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Times of Huntington-Northport Review: Engeman Theater’s ‘Frosty’ is a magical holiday treat

Times of Huntington-Northport
Rita J. Egan
November 20, 2017

That jolly, happy soul has returned to Northport. The family musical “Frosty” opened Nov. 18 at the John W. Engeman Theater and families filled the theater eager for the annual holiday treat.

Directed by Richard T. Dolce, the production is a delightful twist on the story “Frosty the Snowman.” On the Northport stage, the snowman comes to life with the help of a scarf that is magical due to love instead of a magician’s hat and quickly becomes best friends with a little girl named Jenny.

When Jenny’s mother, who is also the mayor of Chillsville, is tricked into signing a contract with the evil Ethel Pierpot to build a machine to get rid of all the snow in Chillsville, Jenny must find a way to keep Frosty from melting.

Kevin Burns as the narrator opens the show, and it’s clear from the beginning that the audience will be part of the story. Burns easily interacts with the children and gets them involved. He also draws the most laughs as he goes from being bundled up for winter to wearing less and less each time he makes an appearance on stage to demonstrate how warm Chillsville is getting.

Kate Keating as Jenny is endearing as the sweet young girl who has no friends but possesses a warm heart. With touching vocals during “No Friends,” the audience connects with her at once.

TracyLynn Conner played Ethel Pierpot on opening day and alternates the role with Cristina Hall. Conner portrays her character with the perfect mix of evilness and silliness reminiscent of Cruella Deville from “101 Dalmatians.” Children knew she was up to no good on opening day but weren’t afraid of her, which was apparent as they chatted with the actress during the autograph session after the show.

Matthew Rafanelli delivers Frosty perfectly with a sweet, friendly speaking and singing voice. He and Keating sound great together when they sing “One Friend Is Better Than No Friends.”

Ashley Brooke rounds out the cast beautifully, playing a loving, nurturing mother and mayor who realizes Chillsville is perfect the way it is no matter what Ethel Pierpot says.

The musical ends on the right note with the whole cast singing the Frosty theme song after doing an excellent job on the ensemble number “Thanks for You.”

Young audience members were delighted with the many opportunities when the actors encouraged them to participate. An especially cute part of the production is when the narrator asks the children in the audience for ideas to solve Frosty and Jenny’s dilemma at the end of the first act. After intermission, those ideas are shared with the characters. “Frosty” also provides a few fun opportunities for the actors to come into the audience, and the show contains many magical moments.

This time of year is perfect to create special memories, and the Engeman’s production of “Frosty” is guaranteed to add magic to any family’s holiday season. While the story is geared toward younger audiences, older siblings, parents and grandparents will find plenty to enjoy in the show, too.

Theatergoers can meet Frosty and friends in the lobby for photos and autographs after the show. An autograph page is located towards the back of the program.

 

Read online: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/engeman-theaters-frosty-magical-holiday-treat/

The Observer Review: ‘A Night at the Engeman/Annie in review’

The Observer
David Ambro
November 16, 2017

On a set that just keeps on giving – from the dim opening scene at a municipal orphanage on St. Mark’s Place to a homeless encampment under a city bridge, to the snow falling in the window of billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks’ Fifth Avenue mansion – Annie at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is a delightful performance of a Christmas masterpiece.

Presley Ryan, 13, of New York City, performs an Annie worthy of the grand stage, where she has been before, on Broadway in Fun Home and at Madison Square Garden as Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Ms. Ryan’s voice is strong, crisp and clear, and her evolving relationship with Mr. Warbucks, played just right by George Dvorsky, is at first engaging and then heartwarming. Mr. Dvorsky also brings Broadway credentials to the Engeman, having performed in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Passion, Marilyn and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

With a tremendously talented chorus of six orphan girls, Annie opens with the iconic show tune It’s the Hard-Knock Life, which drew a momentous roar of applause from the Engeman audience on opening night Saturday, November 11th. Then, right into Tomorrow, so popular and iconic it makes you want to sing along – “You can bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow…” And, by then you’re hooked. The story of little orphan Annie being adopted by the billionaire industrialist Daddy Warbucks unfolds like any holiday extravaganza should, happily ever after on Christmas Day.

Annie, which played for 2,377 shows on Broadway from 1977 to 1983, setting a record for most performances at the Alvin Theater, now the Neil Simon Theater, includes a children ensemble and an adult ensemble and at times they perform as one, 14 voices strong.

Engeman Theater Producing Artistic Director Richard Dolce said a lot of work went into selecting Ms. Ryan for the part of Annie.

“It’s an iconic role, so we had to make sure she could sing – Tomorrow and Maybe  are tough songs – and you have to make sure she is an actress, because you have to believe this kid is tough and can make it on the streets and also that you an bond with her,” Mr. Dolce said. “Presley is amazing. She’s a pro, comes incredibly prepared, and is probably one of the most focused and dedicated performers we have had here.”

Ms. Ryan, who turns 14 next month, started acting professional when she was eight years old. “I’ve been acting all my life. It’s just something I love to do,” she said during an interview in the lobby after her press-night performance.

Ms. Ryan, who moved from Short Hills, New Jersey to Manhattan to pursue her career in acting, played Annie as a kid but she said that was nothing like the Engeman production. “I love this show,” Ms. Ryan said. “There are not that many shows where a girl or any kid gets to be a real lead, the title role. This has just been such a great experience for me. I love it so much.”

Ms. Ryan said Tomorrow is her favorite song because of the unknown involved with acting with a dog, Sandy, played by a rescue dog Moon.

“I always improvise in my songs, but a dog is a dog. It’s an animal so you never know what could happen,” Ms. Ryan said. “He could not want to listen one night or he could just do the right thing one night. So I’m always on my feet in that song. But it’s also such a great song that I love to sing. It’s just one of those songs that you get to belt your face off, and I just love that.”

Ms. Ryan said she also loves working with Mr. Dvorsky.

“I love George,” she said. “It’s different, because when we first meet, Annie is why with him and she doesn’t really want to get to know him. She is scared to death because she has never really seen a male figure this way. Mr. Warbucks is a new male figure to her and she has to get more comfortable with him as the show progresses. I think that’s really interesting.”

“And it’s so much fun when we get to work onstage together,” she said.

This is Ms. Ryan’s first performance at the Engeman Theater. She said it is a beautiful theater, especially the lobby. “I just love the whole cast; everybody is just so nice and this is just a great show. Everybody should come and see it. It’s just so great.”

“It’s a great show for families,” Mr. Dolce said. “For the holiday season we pick a show you can bring your children and grandchildren and this is the perfect show for that.”

“In these times we’re living in, a little optimism and a show that lifts your spirits a little isn’t the worst thing in the world, and I think this show gives it to you in spades,” Mr. Dolce said. “It leave you smiling on the way out and it is a show that you are happy sharing with your kids and your family during the holiday season.”

Mr. Dolce doesn’t like to pick one classic tune over another in this iconic Broadway hit, but he did admit that It’s the Hard-Knock Life is a classic he likes and another favorite is Easy Street with Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan, Jon Peterson as Rooster and Gina Milo as Lily St. Regis. “The three of them are just so talented. They really sell it,” Mr. Dolce said.

Mr. Dolce said they began rehearsing with the children two weeks before they brought in the adult actors in the cast. “So when they began rehearsing with the adults they were already good to go and the adults were like whoa,” he said.

Mr. Dolce said another dynamic is that other than Annie they have two casts of orphans performing on alternating nights, which added to the challenge of the show.

“Every time we do anything we have to do it twice. Every scene change has to be done twice, every costume change has to be done twice. So we had to make sure that two sets of kids had enough time to really learn everything,” Mr. Dolce said. “But kids are like little sponges. They are just so into it, and the director Antoinette [DiPietropolo] has kids. So we just had a very seamless experience.”

The set for this show is absolutely incredible, one of the most dynamic ever built on the Engeman stage, arches in three layers in dissenting sizes, with lights that dim for a dark mood at the orphanage and then brighten for cheerier times at the Warbucks mansion. Inside the arches there are also movable parts, pillars sliding in and out and chandelier lighting rising and lowering from the ceiling. Mr. Dolce said it is all operated manually by the actors coming and going from the stage to the wings.

“I think this is one of the best sets we have ever had as far as going from location to location,” Mr. Dolce said.

Compared to a Broadway stage, Mr. Dolce said the Engeman is limited in space. So in the set design they try to establish the overarching theme and build a shell, then bring different things into the shell for each scene: Oklahoma! a barn and bring in a chair or something; or Gypsy the back stage of a theater and bring in a table.

In Annie they needed to go from the lower east side orphanage to the wealthiest man in the world’s mansion on Fifth Avenue. “We couldn’t think of a way to do it the way we normally would, so we came up with this whole different concept and make things completely go away and by making accommodations in the arches with the lights,” Mr. Dolce said.

Mr. Dolce said the intent was to make the orphanage feel dark and claustrophobic and then to make the Warbucks estate bright, open and inviting. “The lights and the brightness of it gives us different looks, and then you throw in the radio station and the presidential cabinet, but the orphanage and the mansion are two big ones that we needed to nail,” Mr. Dolce said.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: Kick off the holidays with ‘Annie’ at Northport’s Engeman Theater

Times of Huntington-Northport
Melissa Arnold
November 15, 2017

There are few characters from a musical more enduring across generational lines than the curly-haired, ever positive orphan Annie. The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is celebrating the holidays with its mainstage production of “Annie” through Dec. 31. Now in its 11th season, the Engeman has once again teamed up with director/choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo (“Grease,” “Memphis”) to bring Annie and her friends to life.

The story of New York’s most beloved orphan was partially inspired by “Little Orphan Annie,” a comic strip created by Harold Gray in the 1920s. After his death, the strip was carried on by a number of cartoonists until 2010. The comic followed the adventures of a little redhead girl and her dog while also offering commentary on political issues of the day, including the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal.

“Annie” the musical debuted on Broadway in 1977, with book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin. Since then, the show has toured around the world, won a slew of Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score and inspired several film adaptations.

When the play begins, 11-year-old Annie and her fellow orphans are growing up in the shadow of the Great Depression in New York City. Life is tough for these kids, especially living in a run-down, dirty orphanage under the care of calloused Agatha Hannigan. For years, Annie has waited eagerly for the return of her birth parents, who left her at Hannigan’s door with a letter and a locket. But they never come, and when Annie is chosen to spend two weeks with lonely billionaire Oliver Warbucks, her life is forever changed.

The cast of Engeman’s “Annie” will win your heart as soon as the show begins. Young Broadway veteran Presley Ryan embodies Annie’s charisma and unbreakable spirit effortlessly. Ryan’s Annie is appropriately youthful, and her voice is pleasant to listen to — sweet and strong, never shrill. You’ll fall in love with her during the first song, “Maybe,” and it’s hard to resist singing along with her on “Tomorrow.”

Ryan is far from the only young lady to stand out in this show, however. All of the girls at the New York Municipal Orphanage have a key role to play — to remove even one of them would make the ensemble seem incomplete.

At the Engeman, the cast features two teams of orphans that will appear on different nights, but if the “red team” is any indicator, you’re in for a treat regardless of whose turn it is. The chemistry among the girls is natural and endearing — a special note of praise should go to the adorable Sophia Lily Tamburo, who plays Molly, the youngest of the bunch. Her comedic timing and dance moves are so impressive for her age, though all of them are incredibly talented with bright futures ahead.

Lynn Andrews is reprising her role as Miss Hannigan for this production — she and Elizabeth Broadhurst (Grace Farrell) were part of the 30th Anniversary Tour of “Annie” beginning in 2005. Andrews’ character is loud, proud and shameless with bold vocals to match. She’s snarky, funny and foolish, sometimes all at once, which is entertaining to watch. Her rollicking performance of “Easy Street” with Jon Peterson and Gina Milo (Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis, respectively) is one of the best in the show with fantastic harmonies.

George Dvorsky, another seasoned Broadway actor, plays Oliver Warbucks, the billionaire looking to make one orphan’s Christmas a bit brighter. He wasn’t expecting a little girl, however, and the relationship he builds with Annie is full of emotion and nuance. Dvorsky has both comedic and poignant moments in the show, and his performance of “Something Was Missing” will resonate with anyone who has experienced deep love of any kind.

There are also a few special guests in this show. For a brief time, Annie finds a loveable sidekick in a stray dog named Sandy. In this production, Sandy is actually played by two real dogs, Moon and Sandy. Moon was once a stray himself, and Sandy was recently rescued from a kill shelter following this summer’s devastating Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The dogs are amazingly well-behaved onstage thanks to hard work with Happy Dog Training & Behavior and the support of the cast “animal wrangler,” Cassidy Ingram.

While the ensemble serves as the supporting cast for the show, they have plenty of time to shine on their own — keep an eye out for them during the hilarious scenes at the White House and the radio station.

New York scenic designers Christopher and Justin Swader are behind the unique and versatile set for this production. Detailed artwork of a hazy NYC skyline remains in the background throughout the show, and scene changes are made by the cast themselves. There’s not a lot of variation, but the transitions are simple and clear, so it gets the job done. Jonathan Brenner leads a seven-man orchestra in performing the classic score.

As of this writing, it still feels a bit early to think about the holidays, but the Engeman is dressed to the nines with garland and lights. And since “Annie” is set just before Christmas, it’s hard not to catch the holiday spirit during your visit. You might even feel like you’re a guest at Warbucks’ elaborate Christmas party.

Each year around the holidays, the John W. Engeman Theater gives back to its community through charitable support. This year, the theater is partnering with the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry at the First Presbyterian Church of Northport, which helps feed more than 160 local families each week. Consider bringing some extra cash to the show, or visit www.fpcnorthport.org to learn more.

 

Read online: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/kick-off-holidays-annie-northports-engeman-theater/

Broadway World Review: ANNIE at The Engeman

Broadway World
Melissa Giordano
November 15, 2017

The holiday offering from the exquisite John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, is an excellent production of the classic Tony winning musical Annie. Marking the half-way point of the Engeman’s dazzling 11th season, this production, running through December 31st, is superbly directed by Antoinette DiPietropolo who also serves as Choreographer. Now I know you’re probably thinking: Another production of Annie? Well, when you have a cast as remarkable as this, it definitely warrants another visit.

The tale, based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie, follows 11-year-old Annie as she tries to locate her parents who dropped her off at the orphanage when she was just days old. With a lot of hope – and luck – she meets a well-connected billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, to help her on her quest. Broadway’s Presley Ryan is terrific as our red headed heroine. Annie’s hopeful attitude and positivity are well executed by Ms. Ryan and receives roaring applause for her performances of the iconic “Tomorrow” and “Maybe”. Additionally, Ms. Ryan makes a great team with George Dvorsky, another Broadway vet, in the role of Mr. Warbucks. Their rendition of “I Don’t Need Anything But You” is charming and charismatic and you can sense their connection.

Additional highlights of the cast include Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan, the horrible matron of the orphanage where Annie stays. Ms. Andrews’ rendition of “Little Girls” is delightfully creepy and the comedic spin she puts on the role is extremely entertaining. And, if I may, a special kudos to the absolutely adorable AnnaBelle Deaner portraying Molly, the youngest of the orphans, who is an absolute firecracker. There are two casts among the children and Annabelle is part of the superb Green cast. As you can probably tell, the entire company is truly top notch.

On Ms. DiPietropolo’s clever creative team, the set, done by Christopher Swader and Justin Swader, is stunningly enhanced by John Burkland‘s beautiful lighting design and Kurt Alger‘s gorgeous costumes. It seems like a very busy show and being a large cast, everyone is able to pitch in to ensure seamless scene changes. And the company runs through Ms. DiPietropolo’s fun choreography with élan particularly the children with “Hard Knock Life”. The entire production is visually stunning. And, of course, it is always thrilling to see a fantastic live orchestra headed up by talented Music Director Jonathan Brenner.

And so Annie is certainly another hit for the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island. A stellar cast and a classic show make for a fun night of theatre.

 

Read online: https://www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Review-ANNIE-at-The-Engeman-20171115#

 

Newsday Review: ‘Annie’ Review – The sun comes out in this charmer, onstage and off

Newsday
Barbara Schuler
November 14, 2017

The orphans missed the entrance to one of their big numbers, the dog didn’t come when he was called and one actor’s mustache (hysterically) wouldn’t stay on his face.

No matter. Minor technical mishaps at a preview performance of “Annie” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport took nothing away from the charm of this endearing, enduring classic. It could even be said they added to it.

Let’s start with those orphans, an adorable bunch of little girls with big voices and major charisma. Annie is played by Broadway vet Presley Ryan (“Fun Home”), who wisely gives the famed cartoon character a bit of street smarts to go with her wistful yearning for a family. (One quibble, though, with the wig she wears before switching to her iconic curls. Much too nice — does that orphanage have a hairdresser on staff?)

Her six compatriots light up the stage. When they finally got together on “It’s the Hard-Knock Life,” they were, well, a knockout. And “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” has the show-stopping quality it demands.

Stealing some of the spotlight is Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan, the bedraggled, beleaguered matron of the orphanage. She’s a powerful belter, raising the roof in “Little Girls,” and she knows how to shake what she’s got as she flirts shamelessly with everyone from the laundry man, Bundles, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt (a pivotal character in this play).

Other standouts in director-choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo’s production include George Dvorsky as a touching Oliver Warbucks and Elizabeth Broadhurst as his loyal secretary, Grace Farrell. Jon Peterson as Miss Hannigan’s just-out-of-the-joint brother, Rooster, was appropriately sleazy. As for his errant mustache, it was so funny I wouldn’t be half surprised if the director decides to keep it in the show.

“Annie,” winner of the 1977 Tony Award for best musical followed by two Broadway revivals and countless community theater productions, has many charms. And not all of them happen onstage. Consider the pure wonder of the little guy next to me when he realized it was snowing on Christopher and Justin Swader’s lovely set, or the way parents snuggled a little closer to their children when Daddy Warbucks sings to Annie the haunting “Something Was Missing.” Or especially when Roosevelt urges his cabinet to raise their voices in the famed ode to positivity “Tomorrow,” and half the audience sings along.

Consider this production a holiday gift from the Engeman and join them.

 

Read online: https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/annie-review-engeman-1.14980070

The Theatre Guide Review: Annie – John W. Engeman Theater

The Theatre Guide
November 13, 2017
Kristen Weyer

The holiday shows have arrived, and the John W. Engeman Theater is presenting none other than the charming classic, Annie. This beloved musical has a book by Thomas Meehan, with music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin. Directed and choreographed here by Antoinette DiPietropolo, this wonderful performance is playing until December 31, 2017. A perfect holiday treat for the entire family, Annie is most definitely not to be missed!

While I’m confident that most of you are quite familiar with the plot of Annie, for anyone who has yet to see it, or just wants a refresher, read on. Annie tells the story of an optimistic, red-headed orphan living in New York City during the Great Depression. Just in time for Christmas, she is given the unexpected opportunity to spend a couple weeks living in the home of the famous billionaire Oliver Warbucks. They teach each other about life, family, and love as they sing their way through fabulous songs, to a feel-good ending. It is impossible to leave Annie without a smile on your face and tune in your head.
This cast is spectacular, pure and simple. Presley Ryan gives an impressive performance as Annie. Her beautiful voice, and spot-on comedic timing are well beyond her years. She is simply a pleasure to watch, directly from her opening number of “Maybe”.

George Dvorsky makes an excellent Oliver Warbucks. His perfect characterization has Warbucks’ no-nonsense shell cracking just enough to show his soft heart, and his endearing cluelessness about kids. This, combined with a strong voice and the nice chemistry between himself and Elizabeth Broadhurst as Grace Farrell, makes a great package. Broadhurst’s lovely vocals and charming persona have you falling in love with Grace from her first scene.

Lynn Andrews is an awfully awesome Miss Hannigan. Her killer voice and completely convincing loathing of the orphans, brings her character vividly to life; especially in “Little Girls”. Equally as evil, or perhaps more so, are Jon Peterson and Gina Milo as Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis. Their fantastically slimy characters are exactly what you want them to be and “Easy Street” is a treat.

Every single actor in this cast deserves commendation on a fantastic performance. Each one dove whole heartedly into all of the multiple characters they portray and the effect is magic. Not one maid, street person, or cabinet member didn’t give their all for a complete performance. Todd Fenstermaker makes a superb President Roosevelt, and Michael Santora is especially funny.

No discussion of Annie would be complete without mentioning the orphans, and the incredible girls in this performance deserve the highest praise I can give. Their acting and vocal abilities are quite simply stunning, and the well-known “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” is amazing. Keep an eye out for the absolutely adorable Sophia Lily Tamburo as Molly, who stole every scene she was in. There are two casts of orphans for this show, the group I saw was the red cast consisting of Sophia Lily Tamburo, Meaghan Maher, Meaghan McInnes, Cassandra LaRocco, Cordelia Comando and Emma Sordi. The green cast includes Annabelle Deaner, Erin Haggerty, Amelia Freiberger, Keira Eve Ballan, Megan Bush, and Brynne Amelia Ballan. While I have not seen the green cast perform, I am convinced that your experience will be equally as wonderful no matter which cast you get the pleasure of seeing.

Rounding out the performance was a great set by designers Christopher and Justin Swader, and fabulous historical costumes by designer Kurt Alger. The iconic score was played to perfection by the entire orchestra, under direction from Jonathan Brenner.

Annie is an exceptional production with appeal for all ages and generations. This outstanding show is a must-see this holiday season for the entire family.

 

Read online: http://thetheatreguide.com/2017/11/13/annie-john-w-engeman-theater/

Smithtown Matters Review: Annie

Smithtown Matters
Jeb Ladouceur
November 13, 2017

One can hardly believe it’s been forty years since ‘Annie’opened at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre) on West 52nd Street in Manhattan. What was even more improbable, was viewing Andrea McArdle (creator of 11-year-old Annie in 1977) as she starred in the Gateway (Bellport) revival of ‘Anything Goes’ last year. How stunning that McArdle, now an all-grown-up 53 years of age, still prances about the stage like a teenager! Andrea is one of those legends who, like 2016’s Encore-winning show, ‘Anything Goes,’ just doesn’t age.

And now, courtesy of Northport’s plush Engeman Theater, we get to see first-hand that ‘Annie’too, is as fresh and vibrant as ever. Which is saying something … because the 1977 boffo hit was nominated for an eye-popping eleven Tony Awards—and won seven—including Best Musical!

Is it any wonder that the show ran for 2,377 performances? That translates to nearly six continuous years … at the time, a record for the 1500-seat Alvin Theatre. Figure about a million seatings, and close to a hundred million bucks at the box office (if my calculations add up). Not even ‘Snoopy’ … ‘L’il Abner’ … or the irrepressible ‘Spider Man’ … could come close to ‘Little Orphan Annie’ as a comic strip-based Broadway attraction.

The story line in this gem of a Depression Era musical (lyrics by Martin Charnin, music by Charles Strouse) has pre-teen Annie escaping from the orphanage where she lives, in a laundry bag thrown over the shoulder of a deliveryman. She winds up in the home of wealthy … and well-connected … Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks, who reluctantly warms to her. From there on, the thin plot becomes improbably political, but this is a musical, after all, and the tale provides ample opportunities for appropriately uplifting ballads … especially the number that has become the international anthem of optimism, ‘Tomorrow.’ 

This production is directed and choreographed by Engeman veteran Antoinette Dipietropolo (better choreographed than directed, it seems), and it features a sterling performance by George Dvorsky as ‘Daddy’ Warbucks. Someone once implied that it’s theatrical suicide to compete with kids or dogs on stage. But in ‘Annie’ Dvorsky takes on both … and holds his own quite well indeed. This multi-talented actor proves to be the flat-out chairman of the boards in what has become one of the most widely esteemed musicals ever staged … the New York Times estimates that ‘Annie’ is produced around 800 times in this country … every year! That’s popularity, folks.

The kudos for Dvorsky aside, it should not be concluded that Presley Ryan in any way takes a back seat with her interpretation of Annie in the demanding title role. To the contrary, the young lady fills the bill of the perky little redhead convincingly and then some. The same is true for Lynn Andrews, who plays the deliciously mean antagonist, ‘Miss Hannigan,’ and gives us someone to hiss at. Without Andrews’ Dickensian presence to balance the several loveable characters on this show’s endearing roster, the plot would suffer greatly.

Significantly, ‘Annie’ runs right thru Christmas, and the production’s festive lighting, period costumes, choreography (and that elevating score) make it a good choice for presentation over the holidays. Combined with ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at Star Playhouse in Commack (thru November 19) … and the perennial fixture ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Theatre Three (which, as always, will play to packed houses thru December 30th), local audiences once again can expect to be treated to the very best in Broadway-caliber entertainment.

In short, ‘Annie’ helps make this a wonderful time to experience legitimate theater on Long Island.

 

Read online: http://www.smithtownmatters.com/long-island-theater/2017/11/13/theater-review-annie.html#entry35995928

Northport Inn Survey – Your Input Matters

Dear Friends,

We hope you will take the couple of minutes necessary to answer the attached brief 12 question survey that will assist us in the formation of the boutique inn and restaurant that we will be constructing across the street from the theater at 225 Main Street.

 

Over the years our patrons feedback has been invaluable in fine tuning the experience enjoyed by all at the John W. Engeman Theater, and has allowed us to offer the world-class experience to which our patrons have become accustomed.  This survey will help us craft a quality venue on par with the theater.  Please take five minutes and help us shape your future with us.

 

Thank you for your assistance and we look forward to sharing more information with you in the coming months.

 

Proposed Northport Inn

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: The Engeman’s ‘Cinderella’ proves there’s a happily ever after

Times of Huntington-Northport

Heidi Sutton

October 3, 2017

 

For many, Disney’s “Cinderella” will always have a special place in their hearts. Released in 1950, it was Walt’s 12th animated feature film and rumored to be his favorite.

Now, under the direction of Matt Kunkel, the timeless, “rags to riches” fairy tale takes on new life in “Cinderella KIDS” at the Engeman Theater in Northport through Oct. 29. Performed by a cast of nine teens, each one more talented than the next, the show features the original story and wonderful songs, much to the delight of the little princesses in the audience, with a comedic twist.

Now, 67 years later Cinderella (Kira Williams) is still at the mercy of her stepmother (Ava Dell’aquila) and stepsisters Anastasia (Katherine Gallo) and Drizella (Lexie Spelman), who seem to take much pleasure in making her miserable. When a messenger from the castle drops by and announces that all unmarried girls are invited to the Royal Ball, the stepmother tells Cinderella she can go if she finishes her chores. Her mouse friends, Gus and Jaq (Melissa Aliotta and Samantha Foti), make her a beautiful gown from items the stepsisters have discarded. When the stepsisters see how beautiful Cinderella looks, they throw a tantrum and destroy the gown.

When all seems hopeless, Cinderella’s fairy godmother (Maeve Barth-Dwyer) appears and with a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, concocts a beautiful blue gown, glass slippers and a fancy coach and sends the young girl off to the ball. There she meets the handsome prince (Theron Viljoen), they fall in love and dance the night away, that is, until the stroke of midnight. Will Cinderella’s dreams come true? Will she marry her Prince? Will her stepmother and stepsisters finally get their comeuppance?

From the very beginning, the narrator (Danny Feldman) makes it is clear that the audience will be a part of the story. When Cinderella is given a four-foot-long list of chores, the stepsisters ask the audience what else they should make her do. “Bake a muffin!” yells one child. “Scrub the toilet!” offers another. Tough crowd.

When the fairy godmother tries to help Cinderella get to the ball, she asks the children, “What can we use for a coach?” “A pumpkin!” is the immediate response. When Cinderella disappears at the stroke of midnight, the prince and his herald frantically run through the theater searching for her with the help of the children who eventually find the glass slipper. Later on, Cinderella walks through the aisles singing “So This Is Love,” as the young theatergoers sit mesmerized. The interactive concept is genius and works to a T. Even the youngest guests won’t have time to grow restless and that is the greatest wish of all.

Stay after for a meet and greet and autographs with the cast in the lobby. An autograph page is conveniently located toward the back of the program. Running time is one hour with one 15-minute intermission. Booster seats are available and costumes are encouraged. The theater also hosts birthday parties (Happy Birthday, Chloe!).The beautiful costumes by Jess Costagliola and the delightful choreography by Emma Gassett complete the experience. Disney’s “Cinderella” may be timeless but Disney’s “Cinderella KIDS” is a real fall treat and the perfect show to introduce young children to live theater. I guarantee they’ll love you for it.

 

Read online: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/theater-review-engemans-cinderella-proves-theres-happily-ever/

Buy Tickets: http://engemantheater.com/event/cinderella

Long Islander Review: Engeman’s ‘Gypsy’ Cast Is Broadway Quality

The Long Islander

Janee Law

September 28, 2017

 

The John W. Engeman Theater’s rendition of “Gypsy” instantly sets the scene, as the orchestra opens up the production with a jazzy introduction that brings audience members back to the 1920s.

Directed by Igor Goldin and choreographed by Drew Humphrey, “Gypsy” depicts the rags-to-riches transformation of Louise (played by Austen Danielle Bohmer), an awkward girl who rose to national prominence as burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee.

The production brings energetic musical numbers, comedy and sincerity.

The journey is ruled by Rose (played by Michele Ragusa), who pushes her daughters Louise and June (played by Charity Van Tassel) into show business in an effort to live vicariously through them.

The show begins, however, with younger versions of the sisters, Baby June (played by Kyla Carter) and Baby Louise (played by Amanda Swickle), before jumping years ahead in the story.

Ragusa’s performance as the fame-hungry mother is mesmerizing. Her passion to push her daughters into show business intensifies throughout the production, climbing up the ladder that will lead her to discontent and awareness.

Audience member Sharon Boyle, of Sayville, said after last Thursday’s show that Rose was her favorite character of the night, praising Ragusa for her “strong voice” and “big personality.”

Another member of the audience Tove Abrams, of West Sayville, said the talent of the cast is of the same quality as that found on Broadway.

Abrams continued, “What impressed me was the scenic design. I very much enjoyed the transitions. It’s very well thought out and it moves the whole plot along very quickly.”

Her favorite scene of the night was “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” in which burlesque performers Mazeppa (played by Jennifer Collester Tully); Electra (played by Amber Carson); and Tessie Tura (played by Suzanne Mason) demonstrate their individual burlesque acts to Louise.

The number was packed with energy and drew plenty of laughs from the audience.

Another iconic scene, the energetic tap dancing number “All I Need Is The Girl,” comes in the first act of the production. Tulsa (played by Brian Thomas Hunt) and Louise deliver the number, conveying the dreams of the young characters, and hinting at Louise’s anticipated transformation.

Bohmer, who plays Louise, said after the show the scene is one of her favorites.

“I love that whole sequence,” Bohmer said. “I think that’s the first moment that [Louise] feels like a woman and that somebody really looks at her as a woman so I love doing that scene.”

She added that playing Louise is a dream role for her.

“She is one of the best well-written arcs in all of musical theater history,” Bohmer said. “She goes on quite the journey so to be able to go from zero to 100 really quickly has been awesome.”

Bohmer added that she enjoyed the second half of the production, working closely with Ragusa, to convey an intense, but caring, mother-daughter relationship.

“Working with Michele has just been a master class,” Bohmer said. “Michele is brilliant and getting to learn from her and work with her every night is the greatest gift I could have ever been given.”

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/engemans-gypsy-cast-is-broadway-quality

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: ‘Gypsy’ shines at the Engeman

Times of Huntington-Northport

Heidi Sutton

September 28, 2017

 

Since its Broadway debut in 1959, “Gypsy” has often been referred to as one of the greatest musicals of all time, with such classic hits as “If Mama Was Married,” “Together Wherever We Go,” “Let Me Entertain You” and everyone’s favorite, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Now the award-winning show arrives at the Engeman Theater in Northport through Oct. 29 and lives up to its reputation in spades.

With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “Gypsy” is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of the 1930s burlesque star Rose Louise Horvick, known professionally as Gypsy Rose Lee. Her mother Rose has big dreams for her youngest daughter June (actress June Havoc) to make it in show biz and drags both sisters around the country to perform their Vaudeville act, which isn’t very good.

Rose hires dancers and an agent, Herbie, to help them get gigs, but the act never gets off the ground. When June has finally had enough and runs off to elope with one of the dancers, Rose turns her attention to the less talented Louise. It is then that the audience realizes that Rose is the one craving stardom and Louise is just a pawn to achieve that goal.

With a totally revised show, Louise and her dancers mistakenly end up in a burlesque house. With not a dime to their name, Rose convinces Louise to give stripping a try and Gypsy Rose Lee is born. Now famous all over the world, Louise eventually tires of her mother’s controlling ways and breaks away, leaving Rose devastated and alone in the final scene.

Directed by Igor Golden, the large cast features Michele Ragusa as Rose, Austen Danielle Bohmer as Louise, Charity Van Tassel as June and John Scherer as Herbie. From her first solo, “Some People,” to the finale, “Rose’s Turn,” Ragusa shines in the role of the quintessential stage mother. Last seen on the Engeman stage as the scheming Mrs. Meers in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Ragusa can easily take a seat alongside her predecessors Ethel Merman, Bernadette Peters, Bette Midler and Tyne Daly.

Bohmer, making her debut on the Engeman stage, gives a rousing performance as Louise. Watching her transform from a shy, awkward teenager to a burlesque star is truly remarkable. Though only seen in the first act, Van Tassel has her work cut out for her as the star of a failing Vaudeville act that sometimes includes a cow. Scherer is brilliant as Herbie and quickly garners sympathy from the audience as he patiently waits for years for Rose to marry him, only to walk away in the end.

There are too many wonderful performances to mention, and the entire ensemble is terrific — particularly when delivering Drew Humphrey’s clever choreography. But special mention must be made of Jennifer Collester Tully, Suzanne Mason and Amber Carson for their showstoppping rendition of “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” and to Bryan Thomas Hunt as Tulsa who gives an incredible performance in “All I Need Is the Girl.”

The set, designed by Nate Bertone, is impeccable and lighting by Zach Blane is brilliantly executed. Kudos to Kurt Alger for capturing America’s fading Vaudeville circuit with beautifully detailed costumes and to the six-member powerhouse band led by Alex Bart that tie the show together in a neat little package that is not to be missed.

Let the Engeman entertain you. Go see “Gypsy.”

 

Read online: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/theater-review-gypsy-shines-engeman/

Newsday Review: Let Engeman’s ‘Gypsy’ entertain you, yes sir

Newsday

Barbara Schuler

September 20, 2017

 

A wise director knows not to mess with “Gypsy.”

The classic musical — some think it’s one of the best ever written — that opened last week at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport stays true to the vision that Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents first set down in 1959. The story of the ultimate stage mother determined to make at least one of her daughters a star unfolds seamlessly under the direction of Igor Goldin, while highlighting some of Broadway’s most loved songs — “Let Me Entertain You,” “Together Wherever We Go” and the plaintive first-act closer “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

From the moment she enters with that famous line, “Sing out, Louise,” echoing from the back of the theater, Michele Ragusa as Mama Rose has you in her grip. Following in impressive footsteps — Ethel Merman, the first Rose, was followed by, among others, Angela Lansbury, Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters — Ragusa is a wall of steel in portraying the steadfast determination required to get her daughters top billing, or any billing, really, on the vaudeville circuit.

The act moves from theater to theater (Nate Bertone’s evocative set could be backstage anywhere), but it’s a dud and the girls well know it. That doesn’t stop Rose from her relentless pushing, first with June (played by an adorable Kyla Carter as a child, then a somewhat grown up Charity Van Tassel), later with Louise (a delightfully dour Amanda Swickle as a kid, an older Austen Danielle Bohmer in a beautifully nuanced performance).

When in the second act Louise and her “Toreadorables” mistakenly end up in a burlesque house, Rose seems ready to throw in the towel and marry the ever-suffering agent Herbie (John Scherer). But the resident strippers — Suzanne Mason, Jennifer Collester Tully and Amber Carson in Kurt Alger’s witty costumes for the always showstopping “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” — have given her an idea. Next thing you know, the wedding isn’t happening and Louise undergoes a remarkable metamorphosis, from awkward showgirl whose “strip” consists of shyly dropping a single strap of her gown to one of the most famous burlesque stars of all time (the musical is inspired by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee.)

When, at the end, Mama takes the stage for the heartbreaking “Rose’s Turn,” you finally understand her years of torment, of trying to live through her children. “Mama’s lettin’ go,” she sings. But, truthfully, you don’t believe that for a minute.

Broadway World Review: ‘Let GYPSY At The Engeman Entertain You’

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

September 20, 2017

 

Northport’s exquisite John W. Engeman Theatre does it again with a stellar version of the iconic Laurents/Styne/Sondheim musical Gypsy. The Tony winner runs at the Long Island venue through October 29th excellently directed by Engeman vet Igor Goldin boasting an outstanding cast. And I know you are probably saying that there are showings of this everywhere you look. However, when you have a production like this, it definitely warrants another visit.

First on Broadway in 1959, the tale, set in the early 1920’s into the 1930’s, is based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. We follow Louise, the role Gypsy is based on, as she goes from a gawky teen performing in kiddie acts to a burlesque icon. It focuses on her relationship with her mother, Rose, who has gained a reputation for being a difficult manager and stage mom. Beneath the commanding persona, Rose’s heart is in the right place as she wants to protect her daughters – Louise and June – from the mean side of the show business machine.

Austen Danielle Bohmer, in her Engeman debut, superbly portrays Louise. Particularly impressive is her overall transformation from the awkward early years to the time she begins burlesque as a mature young woman. A terrific voice and keen sense of what the role needed make her a natural. And Michele Ragusa is thrilling as Mama Rose. Certainly a favorite among the enthusiastic audience is her powerful renditions of the classic numbers “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Rose’s Turn”. Additionally, John Scherer is a highlight portraying Herbie, Mama’s boyfriend and sometimes manager for the girls. Indeed his performances of “Small World” and “You’ll Never Get Away From Me” with Ms. Ragusa receive thunderous applause.

The entire large cast is truly extraordinary as is the clever creative team. Nate Bertone‘s set is smart and seems easily movable for seamless scene changes (though possible excessive visibility of those doing the changes might prove a little distracting). This is enhanced stunningly by Zach Blane‘s lighting and Laura Shubert‘s top notch sound design. And Kurt Alger‘s costumes shine in the visually gorgeous production. Special kudos, too, to Music Director Alec Bart who leads the wonderful live orchestra.

And so, Gypsy is undoubtedly another hit for the Engeman. A classic of musical theatre and an absolutely boffo cast make for an entertaining night of theatre.

 

Read online: https://www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Review-Let-GYPSY-At-The-Engeman-Entertain-You-20170920

Theatre Guide Review: Gypsy

The Theatre Guide

Kristen Weyer

September 19, 2017

 

Let them entertain you, and go see Gypsy at the John W. Engeman Theater.  With a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, this musical was suggested by the memoirs of legendary burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee.  It contains such hits as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”, “Together Wherever We Go” and of course, “Let Me Entertain You”.  Directed here by Igor Goldin, Gypsy is a historical romp through the vaudeville and burlesque scenes of the 1920s-1930s.

Gypsy, while based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, has less to do with burlesque than you might expect.  Rather it is more a story of the quintessential stage mother. Rose, marvelously played by Michele Ragusa, has two daughters, Louise and June. Her star and lead is “Baby June” who gets most of the attention and affection, while Louise is relegated to being her sister’s supporting cast on stage, and off.  Taking us from the beginning of Rose’s and her girls’ struggles in 1920s vaudeville through the changing times in the early 1930s, we are privy to the ups and downs of their relationships both professional and private.  Though when one of her girls is finally the “Star” she dreamed of, it is not in the fashion any of them ever imagined.

Michele Ragusa is an incredible force to be reckoned with as Rose.  Her brilliant characterization and vocals, combined with a fabulous crazy look in her eyes has you believing every line. Show manager/love interest Herbie, is fantastically portrayed by John Scherer.  His easygoing manner and charming smile have you falling for him from his first scene.

Austen Danielle Bohmer gives a stunning performance as Louise.  Her lovely vocals, and subtle expressions create an outstanding character.  In the beginning, her meek and mild-mannered persona tugs at your heart strings, and then in an almost bittersweet change, she transforms in to the confident and alluring Gypsy.  It is the end of sweetness and innocence, but the beginning of strength and independence. Don’t worry, you won’t get an eyeful of more than you’re supposed to.  The spotlights come up just in time.

Kyla Carter as Baby June, and Amanda Swickle as Baby Louise, both did a wonderful and entertaining job.  Charity Van Tassel as grown-up June has a sweet voice, and great comedic timing.

The clever rotating archway of Nate Bertone’s set was very effective in creating, and portraying the numerous varying locations in this musical.  Combined with the delightful costumes by Kurt Alger, and great sound from designer Laura Shubert, they assist in transporting the audience to another era.  A couple of excellent lighting effects were employed by designer Zach Blane.  Particularly appealing are the slow-motion strobe light portraying the aging process, and the perfect uses of light and shadow throughout.  The orchestra under conduction from Alec Bart performed magnificently.

While definitely not for all audiences, Gypsy is a fun and intriguing look at how far one woman will go to push fame onto her children, whether they want it or not.  With music, fabulous acting, and yes, stripping, this show is most certainly…entertaining.

 

Read online: http://thetheatreguide.com/2017/09/19/gypsy-john-w-engeman/

Newsday: Northport Village approves zoning for hotels around Main Street

August 23, 2017

Northport Village Hall in Northport is seen on Dec. 27, 2014. Photo Credit: Ian J. Stark

By Valerie Bauman

Northport Village trustees approved zoning changes Tuesday night that will allow hotels to operate on and around Main Street.

The village previously had nothing in its code that would allow hotels.

Officials drafted the legislation after Kevin J. O’Neill and Richard T. Dolce, owners of the John W. Engeman Theater, on Main Street purchased a three-floor building across the street from the theater with the goal of converting it into an upscale inn.

The multimillion-dollar project faced a final round of opposition from residents concerned that the hotel — and its planned 200-seat restaurant — would worsen an already congested parking situation downtown.

“In Northport there is a lot of pain about parking, and it’s not a trivial matter,” business owner Carolyn Colwell said at Tuesday’s meeting in Village Hall. “It affects access to small business, civic services and even residents’ access to their homes.”

O’Neill and Dolce still need to obtain the standard permit and project approvals before they can break ground for the hotel.

Residents and Northport business owners had collected signatures on a petition that urged village trustees to address parking problems before allowing a hotel with a large restaurant to move into the village.

O’Neill has said he has a vested interest in making sure that parking runs smoothly because he is committed to making the community a better place to live. The hotel, like the theater, would offer valet parking, he said.

“There’s been a lot of due diligence done on this project,” O’Neill said. “My goal all the time is to make sure that we inconvenience those around us as little as possible with the hopes that we’ll bring something that will enhance the village. That was the hope with the theater, and that’s the hope with the hotel.”

O’Neill said the partners decided to pursue a hotel and restaurant as a way to diversify revenues and ensure financial stability for the theater in the future.

“We go as the show goes,” O’Neill said. “We can’t rely solely on ticket sales.”

Grease extended at the John W. Engeman Theater

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

(Northport, NY- July 2017) – Due to overwhelming demand, the John W. Engeman Theater has added an extra week to the run of GREASE, offering six additional performances. Originally scheduled to close Sunday, August 27th, the final performance will now take place on Sunday, September 3rd at 2pm.

 

The schedule for the added performances is as follows:

 

Wednesday, August 30th at 8pm

Thursday, August 31st at 8pm

Friday, September 1st at 8pm

Saturday, September 2nd at 3pm

Saturday, September 2nd at 8pm

Sunday, September 3rd at 2pm

 

Tickets are now on sale for the additional performance dates and can be purchased online at www.EngemanTheater.com, by calling (631) 261-2900, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport. Tickets are $78 on Saturday evenings, $73 all other performances. Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express accepted.

 

GREASE plays the following performance schedule: Wednesdays at 8:00pm, Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm and 7:00pm.

 

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

DC Metro Theater Arts Review: ‘Grease’ at the John W. Engeman Theater

DC Metro Theater Arts

July 23, 2017

Kristen Weyer

 

Grab your leather jacket and go back in time to Rydell High, 1959 in Grease. The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport has opened its 2017-2018 season with this much loved classic, and it’s fabulous. With book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, this production is directed by Paul Stancato.

The well-known storyline from the 1978 movie remains basically in place, with a few grittier tweaks reminiscent of its raunchier 1971 origins. Danny (Sam Wolf) and Sandy (Liana Hunt) meet at school after some fun “Summer Nights”, sung with great energy and flawless harmony from the cast. As they struggle to find a balance between their very different lives, and navigate friendships and romance with their peers, the audience rides along with the fun and the fantastic music. The most noticeable difference, besides song order, is Sandy’s substantially feistier personality, which is logical considering her eventual transformation.

This cast was incredible. Every character was impeccable, every song stupendous. Meticulous attention to every detail is apparent in each scene, from the perfectly executed favorites such as “You’re the One That I Want”, down to the subtle aspects of Miss Lynch (Tracy Bidleman) sneaking a drink during the dance. Sam Wolf and Liana Hunt play off one another extremely well. Both have stunning voices which never fail to please, whether in harmony in “Summer Nights” or solo in “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “Sandy.” Zach Erhardt as Doody gives an unbelievable performance of “Those Magic Changes.”

Chris Collins-Pisano as Roger and Hannah Slabaugh as Jan are wonderfully comical in the number “Mooning.” Laura Helm beautifully portrays the sensual Marty with exquisite vocals in “Freddy, My Love.” Madeleine Barker and Chris Stevens are delightful as Rizzo and Kenickie. Their strong vocals are on notable display in “Greased Lightnin” and “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” Both Casey Shane as Sonny LaTierri and Sari Alexander as Frenchy play up their characters to excellent comedic effect. Tim Falter’s portrayal of Vince Fontaine and Teen Angel are superb, and his performance of “Beauty School Dropout” is inspired. Kaitlin Nelson and Tim Russell are very funny as Patty and Eugene; while Robert Serrano sings charmingly as Johnny Casino, and Katherine Margo Brown gives a great performance as Cha-Cha DiGregorio.

Supporting this magnificent cast is a very clever set designed by Stephen Dobay, and great costuming by Matthew Solomon. Incredible music is provided by the entire orchestra under direction from Alec Bart. Lighting by Zach Blane is very effective, while Laura Shubert’s terrific sound design allows the entire show to be fully appreciated and enjoyed.

The only problem? It’s over too soon, you’re going to want to stay longer. Grease is most definitely the word you’ll be repeating over and over.

Running Time: 2 hours, including one 15 minute intermission.

Grease plays through August 27, 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.

 

Read online: http://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/2017/07/23/review-grease-john-w-engeman-theater/

Long Islander Review: Engeman’s ‘Grease’ is Electrifying

The Long Islander

July 20, 2017

Janee Law

 

Audience members experienced high energy, fun choreography and lots of laughter during Thursday night’s show of the John W. Engeman Theater’s electrifying production of “Grease.”

The production, which kicks off the theater’s 11th season, is based off the 1971 musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, which inspired the classic 1978 film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Audiences are brought back to the late 1950’s at Rydell High, where leather jackets, bobby socks and greasy slicked back hair were the latest fashion.

With Paul Stancato directing and Antoinette DiPietropolo managing choreography, the cast lit up the stage last Thursday with dance numbers that made audience members whistle and holler in satisfaction.

In “Greased Lightnin’,” actors delivered a colorful performance jumping and jiving and pumping their arms on stage. Kenickie (Chris Stevens) was on lead vocals for the number, and gave an effortless and powerful performance while both singing and dancing.

The show doesn’t fall short on laughs either. Gags like Patty Simcox’s (Kaitlin Nelson) comical way of flirting, Sonny LaTierri’s (Casey Shane) failed attempt to make moves on the ladies, or Roger (Chris Collins-Pisano) and Jan’s (Hannah Slabaugh) hysterical rendition in “Mooning,” keep the laughs coming.

With that, the production touches on the pressures and stressors of being a high school teen in “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” performed by Betty Rizzo (Madeleine Barker).

Rizzo delivers an intense performance and captivates audiences with powerful vocals as a teen faced with a difficult situation.

Audience member Laurel Breen, of Sea Cliff, said after the show that was her favorite scene of the night.

“When Rizzo sang her number, she really stood out,” Breen said. “She was really on pitch tonight and it was a turning point for her character, as it should have been.”

Sandy Dumbrowski (Liana Hunt) also stood out on stage as the innocent school girl turned bad, demanding Danny Zuko (Sam Wolf) to “shape up” in the bouncy number “You’re The One That I Want.”

“This character takes such a huge journey throughout the show and where she ends up is so different from where she began,” Hunt said after the show. “That’s kind of all you can ask for in a role and where she ends up happens to be in spandex and giant heels. I’m having a great time.”

When preparing for the role as Danny, Wolf said it involved having his own interpretation of the character and getting down to the basics of the script.

“The main thing for Danny was the sincerity in him,” Wolf said. “He’s not just this player, he really is very genuine, very sincere, especially when he’s with Sandy.”

He added that he is having the time of his life playing the iconic role.

“As painful as high school can be, it’s kind of fun to go back and relive that experience and do that coming of age story again,” Wolf said. It’s so much fun.”

Productions of “Grease” at The John W. Engeman Theater (250 Main St., Northport) are 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 ($73-$78) are available at the box office or Engemantheater.com.

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/engemans-grease-is-electrifying

Broadway World Review: GREASE at John Engeman Theater

Broadway World

July 16, 2017

Anthony Hazzard & Scott Stolzenberg

 

“Grease,” the 1950’s rock and roll musical is back and slick as ever at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Expertly directed by Paul Stancato and brilliantly choreographed by Antoinette DiPietropolo, this production of “Grease” combines all of the magical moments from the original 1972 Broadway production as well as the one of the most successful Hollywood movie musicals ever. Danny, Sandy, Frenchie, Kenickie and the whole gang from Rydell High School are alive and well on stage and seem to be having the time of their lives!

Lead by the outstanding Broadway star Liana Hunt as Sandy and regional favorite Sam Wolf as Danny, “Grease” takes us back to a much simpler time when poodle skirts, hula hoops, and drive-in movies were all the rage. We head back to high school in 1959 with a great gang of greasers known as the T-Birds and a troop of no-nonsense young ladies who call themselves the Pink Ladies. Despite growing pains, peer pressure, on-again off-again romances, and typical teenage angst, the kids make it through their senior year at Rydell High and everything turns out a rama lama ding dong.

Each cast member has the opportunity to shine as they sing and dance across the Engeman stage and into our retro hearts. Zach Erhardt as Doody has a terrific voice and adds an impressive falsetto to his song “Those Magic Changes.” Laura Helm is wonderful as Marty as she dreams of Freddy her love. Chris Stevens is a sensational Kenickie and Madeleine Barker is a perfect Betty Rizzo. Chris Collins-Pisano as Roger and Hannah Slabaugh as Jan are great fun. Tim Falter is in fine vocal form as Teen Angel/Vince Fontaine as well as Robert Serrano as Johnny Casino. Comic relief is provided by the delightful Sari Alexander as Frenchie and charming Casey Shane as Sonny. Rounding out the multitalented cast are Tracy Bidleman as a superior Miss Lynch, Kaitlin Nelson as high achiever Patty Simcox, Tim Russell as nerdy but sweet Eugene Florczyk, and dance sensation Katherine Margo Brown as Cha-Cha.

The live band is conducted by Alex Bart and there is nothing like live music! “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin’,” “You’re The One That I Want,” “We Go Together,” and so many other gems from the ever popular “Grease” score have all become standard hits. “Grease” was the word on Broadway in 1972 and will always be successful in every future production. The show is a genuine slice of Americana and the gang at the Engeman certainly did America proud!

 

Read online: http://www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Review-GREASE-at-John-Engeman-Theater

UPDATE: July 18th Public Hearing

Dear Friends,

Another public hearing has been called for this coming Tuesday, July 18th at 6:00pm, after which the trustees will vote on the proposed zoning changes that would allow hotels within the Northport Village limits.

If these changes are approved, we will be able to move forward with our plans to convert the current structure at 225 Main Street into a beautiful, first-class inn and restaurant, which we believe would be a great benefit to both the economy and the residents of the Village of Northport.

Additionally, we plan to renovate and expand the current two onsite parking lots that sit directly behind the building at 225 Main Street. Once completed, the two lots will contain a total of 54 onsite parking spaces.

Current view of 225 Main Street
Proposed Northport Inn
In order for this project to move forward, we need to garner as much public support as we can, particularly from Village residents. We hope you can join us and voice your input for the project on Tuesday, July 18th at Northport Village Hall, 224 Main Street, where we will be able to address any questions or concerns you might have.

If you have any questions prior to the hearing, please feel free to contact me directly at koneill@engemantheater.com.

The hearing will begin at 6:00pm, so we suggest you arrive no later than 5:45pm.

We are so grateful for the feedback we’ve received since this project was first announced and for your continued support of the theater. We hope to see you on Tuesday.

Please forward this to anyone you think would be interested in learning more about this project.

Sincerely,
Kevin J. O’Neill
Managing Director
The John W. Engeman Theater

Newsday: Northport trustees to vote on allowing hotel in village

July 13, 2017

Kevin J. O’Neill and Richard T. Dolce purchased a three-story building on Main Street in Northport, seen on March 23, 2017, with the goal of converting it into an upscale inn. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

 

By Valerie Bauman

Northport officials could vote as soon as Tuesday on a resolution to allow a proposed hotel project to move forward in the village, officials said.

Trustees will hold a second public hearing that day on proposed zoning changes to make hotels a permitted use within village limits. The current code does not include language for hotels in Northport.

Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin said trustees could vote after the hearing Tuesday or hold the issue for further consideration, depending on public feedback and board discussion about the proposal.

“The area definitely needs a hotel,” Mayor George Doll said. “People stay out on the turnpike down in Melville when they’re here visiting.”

Kevin J. O’Neill and Richard T. Dolce, owners of the John W. Engeman Theater, purchased a three-story building across Main Street from the venue with the goal of converting it into an upscale inn.

The first public hearing in May showed overwhelming public support for the project, with many residents saying a new hotel would fill an unmet need in Northport.

If village officials pass the zoning changes, O’Neill and Dolce would still need to go through standard permit and project approvals before they could break ground. The project would include a restaurant on the street level, about 24 rooms on the upper two floors and a 54-space parking lot.

O’Neill said the partners have spent $150,000 on planning, design and legal costs for the proposed hotel. He said if all necessary approvals are obtained, work could start this fall and be completed in 12 to 14 months.

He said their goal is to work with the community on any concerns — including parking, which was the biggest issue raised among a few opponents at the initial public hearing.

“It’s important to know we’re a neighbor in this town,” he said. “We have every interest in improving the quality of life in the residential and business communities … I start getting agita when we’re doing anything that’s disruptive to the village around us.”

Tuesday’s public hearing will be at 6:00 p.m. in Village Hall, 224 Main St.

 

Read online: http://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/northport-trustees-to-vote-on-allowing-hotel-in-village

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: ‘Grease’ is the word at the Engeman

Times of Huntington-Northport

July 13, 2017

Melissa Arnold

 

When it comes to musical theater, few shows are more beloved with theatergoers than “Grease.” Can you blame us, though? It’s an old, familiar story: Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Things get messy.

Put simply, it’s a snapshot of teenage relationships that’s almost universally relatable. And thanks to the 1978 film adaptation starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, “Grease” is permanently cemented into the hearts of so many.

All this makes it the perfect summer kickoff for the John W. Engeman Theater’s 11th season.

For those of you who are not familiar with the plot, “Grease,” written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, follows the Rydell High School Class of 1959 through the highs and lows of hormone-fueled infatuation.

At the center of it all is Sandy Dumbrowski (Liana Hunt), the naïve, charming new girl in town who catches the eye of notorious bad boy Danny Zuko (Sam Wolf). While the two develop a whirlwind summer romance, the transition back to Rydell High is a tough one. Peer pressure, social stereotypes and the desire to fit in pull Danny and Sandy in different directions while sending ripples of tension through their circle of friends.

While is sounds like a lot of drama, the show is full of fast-paced banter and folly that will keep you laughing and singing along until the end.

Director Paul Stancato leads a cast of theater veterans in a well-polished performance that’s hard to criticize. Such high quality is what you can expect to see regularly at the Engeman.

Liana Hunt plays Sandy in a way that’s down to earth and totally believable. Her voice is strong without being over the top. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” allows her to shine on her own, which is appreciated in a show mostly comprised of duets and chorus numbers.

As Danny, Sam Wolf builds fantastic chemistry leading the rebellious Thunderbirds. The first words in the iconic “Summer Nights” will leave no doubt about why Wolf got the role – he can sing, and that same passion translates to everything he does on stage.

But this production wouldn’t be what it is without the phenomenal supporting cast, who are every bit as talented as Hunt and Wolf. In fact, they nearly stole the show.

The T-Birds (Zach Erhardt, Chris Collins-Pisano, Chris Stevens and Casey Shane) are hysterically funny. Their antics will make you laugh out loud, especially when they briefly dip into the audience. They’re also incredible dancers, pulling off flips and jumps like they’re nothing.

The Pink Ladies (Hannah Slabaugh, Laura Helm, Madeleine Barker and Sari Alexander) are a force of their own as well – each one stands out from the group with individuality and assertiveness. Of particular mention is Barker, who plays the cynical Betty Rizzo with tons of natural swagger, and Slabaugh, who you can’t help but love during “Mooning,” a duet her character Jan performs with Roger (Collins-Pisano).

The efforts of choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo and dance captain Tim Falter have definitely paid off in this production. Dancing is central to the plot in “Grease,” and the cast’s quick, complicated routines are worth shouting over. From the opening “Grease is the Word” to the dance contest during “Born to Hand Jive,” they should be commended for both their skill and the stamina required to pull off the show.

And while you can’t see the band at the Engeman – they are tucked neatly under the stage – their rock ‘n’ roll carries the whole show. In fact, if not for their credits in the program, you might think the music was prerecorded. The six-man ensemble is led by conductor/keyboardist Alec Bart.

Costume designer Matthew Solomon does a fantastic job transporting us back to the ’50s. The dresses worn by the girls at the school dance are gorgeous and colorful, and their twirling skirts are perfect for all the dancing in that scene. The set, designed by Stephen Dobay, is simple but functional. The stage is flanked by generic buildings on either side, but there are also a set of risers leading up to a second level. This area was transformed throughout the performance last Saturday night and allowed for multiple conversations or settings to occur at once. It works especially well as a stage for the school dance.

Overall, this production is exactly what you’d expect to see from such a classic show – there are no surprises, and that’s a good thing. Find your seats early to relax with a drink while listening to top hits from the ’50s, and make sure you stay through the curtain call for a brief, fun sing-a-long with the cast.

Runtime is 2 hours and 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Be aware that strobe lights and haze are used throughout the show.

See “Grease” now through Aug. 27 at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport. Tickets range from $73 to $78 and may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com. Free valet parking is available.

The Observer Review: Love is in the air on Northport stage

The Observer

July 13, 2017

David Ambro

 

Move over Olivia Newton John.

Grease opened at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport last week and Liana Hunt is a blockbuster as Sandy D. in this musical classic journey with the Rydell High School class of 1959. Ms. Hunt is a veteran of the Engeman stage, having played here two shows ago as the lead female Emma in Jekyll & Hyde. She was terrific as Emma, but Sandy Dumbrowski in Grease is a perfect role for Ms. Hunt. When she hits the stage in the closing scene as a transformed bad girl in leather, Ms. Hunt exudes the sexiness the role demands, but it is her voice that steals the show.

In the spotlight she shines, an actress who can sing as well as any other who has come to the Northport theater, and that’s saying something. She has performed in Newsies and Mamma Mia! on Broadway, and as Sandy D at the Engeman she delivers on Main Street a Broadway performance.

A 15-voice chorus singing “Alma Mater” starts the show off, then the classics start rolling, “Grease is the Word,” followed by “Summer Nights,” the introduction of Sandy D. and her crush Danny Zuko, played by Sam Wolf, another Engeman veteran who performed as Riff in West Side Story. Everyone knows this one – “Tell me more, tell me more…” – and the Engeman version is as Grease as it gets.

There are also some great treats in this show. Laura Helm’s version of Marty in “Freddy My Love” is excellent and the full company of T-Birds and Pink Ladies in “We Go Together” is perfect. Also, Zach Erhardt as Doody in his performance on the acoustic guitar of “Those Magic Changes” – “What’s that playing on the radio…” another one of those songs everyone knows when they hear it – is terrific.

Grease is a story line that we all know, and the Engeman cast is talented and fun to watch. Their versions of the classics “Shakin’ at the High School Hop” and “Born to Hand-Jive” is fast, furious and fun. And, “You’re the One That I Want” – another classic everyone knows when they hear it: “I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying…” – is delivered as a great climax to the show.

But, Ms. Hunt as Sandy D makes Grease a must see at the Engeman Theater. Her Act II performance of the classic “Hopelessly Devoted to You” is the highlight of the show.

Get tickets to this one, because they will likely sell out.

 

Newsday Review: “Grease: An energetic dose of high school spirit”

Newsday

July 11, 2017

Steve Parks

 

If Rydell High’s class of 1959 were to hold a reunion this summer, it would celebrate the 58th year since graduation. But judging from the IQ exhibited in “Grease,” the ever-popular rock-and-doo-wop musical, we’re not sure how many classmates could count that high, never mind collect a diploma.

The John W. Engeman Theater, named for the East Northport Army officer killed in the line of duty in Iraq in 2006, opens its [11th] season with the 1971 musical that inspired the hit film version starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. In “Grease,” there’s no hint of a worldview beyond high school, which no doubt accounts for its escapist appeal.

On the first day of school, Sandy, a new girl at Rydell, gushes about a boy she met at the beach. In front of his black-leather-jacketed T-Bird pals, Danny (said boy) won’t admit he’s sweet on any girl. Meanwhile, the Pink Ladies clique, led by Rizzo, makes an outcast of Sandy because she doesn’t smoke or drink or wear skintight outfits. She’s derided as the squeaky-clean movie star (“Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”). Played with a daring chip on her shoulder by Madeleine Barker, Rizzo fiercely changes her tune on “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” when she finds that her “friend” is late.

Directed by Paul Stancato, Liana Hunt makes an appealing Sandy on “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and with Danny (Sam Wolf) on their bouncy duet, “You’re the One That I Want” — songs from the movie. Of the other Pink Ladies, Frenchy (Sari Alexander) makes a sympathetic impression as the “Beauty School Dropout” in a dreamy duet with Tim Falter. Chris Collins-Pisano and Hannah Slabaugh embody the “Grease” level of humor in “Mooning.”

The T-Birds — including Wolf (a young Marlon Brando look-alike) and Chris Stevens as Rizzo’s boyfriend — sing and dance energetically. But they’d only pass for high schoolers if they’d flunked 10 grades. Heavily made-up, the women fare better as teens, among them Laura Helm as the vamp in the hand-jive contest (athletic choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo).

Alec Bart’s band rocks steady to the final note of “We Go Together.” Stephen Dobay’s set design catches us in the headlights of “Greased Lightnin’,” the drive-in-movie centerpiece.

Dumb jokes aside, sometimes it’s fun — even therapeutic — to park your mind for a couple of hours. “Grease” greases the way.

 

Read online: http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/grease-review-an-energetic-dose-of-high-school-spirit

Smithtown Matters Review: “Grease” Engeman Theater

Smithtown Matters

July 10, 2017

Jeb Ladouceur

If nearly all the songs in the current Engeman production of ‘Grease’ sound the same, it’s because that’s the way most melodies were in the late 50’s. Tunes of the day seemed to have been produced by a musical cookie cutter. That said, give Director Paul Stancato and his cast of seventeen singers and dancers high marks for capturing the mood of teenage life and love at fictional Rydell High (based on the William Howard Taft  School) in 1958 suburban Chicago.

It was a time, of course, when most American kids nearing graduation snuck an alcoholic drink now and then … and everybody (but everybody!) … smoked cigarettes religiously. Indeed one of the more ironic lines in this musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey has a girl coaxing her classmate to go ahead and take a puff because, “…heck, it won’t kill ya’.”

If only we’d known then, what we know now.

Speaking of which … there’s a subliminal message that might be learned from this throwback show. Of all seventeen members of the cast, this reviewer spotted only two who bore tattoos (and even they appeared to have been the subjects of unsuccessful attempts to cover them). The caveat might effectively caution young actors who hope to bring authenticity to their interpretations of roles gone by … to lay off the ink. After all, they make those ‘wash-off’ kiddie tats if I’m not mistaken. The fact, however, is that mid-20th Century high schoolers didn’t use tattoos … just as they didn’t wear torn jeans (we called them dungarees at Riverhead High, if I remember correctly.)

With ‘Grease,’ The Engeman continues a long string of more-than-satisfying musical revivals. On the distaff side, Laura Helm (as Marty) and Madeleine Barker (playing Rizzo) contribute most significantly to this production … while Sam Wolf (in the play’s demanding lead role) turns in a classic Danny Zuko.

Naturally, with the passing of years, fewer and fewer theatergoers will recognize the dance, ditty, and dialogue patterns that make creations like ‘Grease’ so familiar and appealing. Already, those patrons who have not yet reached the age of ‘three score and ten’ will be puzzled by many of the 1958 references written into this show. But even with the necessity of inferring a term, or a phrase’s meaning in lieu of actual recollection, a well-constructed show laced with capable players never loses its ability to entertain us.

Some things haven’t changed since Adam & Eve, and ‘Grease’ comes up with a surprise when Betty Rizzo announces hers … yep … the play’s pepperpot informs us she’s “…five days late, and in a family way.”

Oh, my! You’ll just have to see for yourself how that works out, but the situation pretty much verifies that what’s been hinted at throughout the musical, has indeed been going on (probably in the on-stage convertible named ‘Greased Lightning’ that the various couples seem to share … for a variety of activities.

It seemed to my companion and me last weekend that the costumes (by Matthew Solomon) while interesting, didn’t quite constitute the period garb we remembered … she in Queens in the 50’s … myself in Eastern Long Island during the same time frame. Then again, the locale for this show is the Chicago area, so those leather jackets and polka dot or flaring skirts could actually be spot on.

 

Read online: http://www.smithtownmatters.com/theater-review-grease-engeman-theater

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