NY Times Review: ‘God of Carnage’ Puts Parents in a Metaphoric Bull Ring


Review: ‘God of Carnage’ Puts Parents in a Metaphoric Bull Ring

From left, Nancy Lemenager, Mickey Solis, Alet Taylor and Chris Kipiniak as two sets of parents in “God of Carnage.” The couples have met to discuss a playground altercation between their 11-year-old sons.


The ceramic red bull prancing on a shelf could be considered a symbol for the action that takes place before it, in a chic living room in Brooklyn.

The two married couples in the room are ostensibly striving for “the art of coexistence” as they discuss an earlier playground altercation between their 11-year-old sons. At first, the parents seem to be engaged in no more than a bit of social banter, politely lobbing remarks and rejoinders back and forth. But they end up in a metaphoric bull ring — free of actual blood, of course, this being a comedy by Yasmina Reza.

“God of Carnage,” now at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport in a thoughtful and well-acted production, draws both laughs and gasps as the characters become more and more belligerent. Toward the end, the sparring parents are helped along by a lot of rum.

An episode of projectile vomiting (unrelated to the rum) that damages some treasured art books may simply be an unavoidable accident. But it could also be interpreted as an unconscious passive-aggressive gesture. Either way, it is a spectacular special effect and a trigger for more overtly hostile language.

The beginning of the play is calm enough. Michael (Mickey Solis) and Veronica (Nancy Lemenager) have invited Alan (Chris Kipiniak) and Annette (Alet Taylor) to their apartment in the upscale Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. Henry, the hosts’ son, sustained two broken teeth when Benjamin, the guests’ son, hit him with a stick. Veronica is drafting a statement about the event, and the first item the parents discuss is whether Benjamin did the deed while “armed with a stick,” as Veronica — who proudly mentions that she is at work on a book about “the Darfur tragedy” in Africa — has written. Alan, a shark of a lawyer (as we hear during his constant cellphone conversations), suggests “furnished with a stick,” and they all quickly agree on the less prejudicial wording.

The writing, elegantly translated by Christopher Hampton from Ms. Reza’s French into culturally on-target American English, is often as telling as this exchange. The details are exquisitely precise, which leads to much of the humor that made this play a Broadway hit and a Tony Award winner after it opened in 2009. (Reza’s 1998 “Art” also won the Tony for best play.)

What the play never really explains is why Veronica thinks a written document, which is not intended, apparently, for any public forum, will help to bring peace or closure, and why she as the aggrieved parent would want that. Some revelations also don’t make much sense: Michael inexplicably admits to questionable behavior toward a family pet that he should know will put him in a bad light, while Alan later loudly proclaims, “My son is a savage.” Reasonably smart people (who haven’t hit the rum yet) know better than to say such things.

The Broadway production, with its blindingly star-studded cast (Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini) and a much longer rehearsal period than the Engeman production, managed to gloss over the play’s weaknesses. That doesn’t always happen here.

Nevertheless, the intelligent direction by Richard T. Dolce and the brightly energetic acting bring out the fun — call it schadenfreude — in watching an escalating battle among four accomplished and privileged adults. Problems in both marriages surface, even as mitigating circumstances emerge that make the playground episode seem much less one-sided. The parents behave like playground bullies (or matadors gone wild), throwing tantrums, fists and four-letter words. The subtle warning — or promise — of the decorative bull in Stephen Dobay’s excellent set, which is expertly lighted by Driscoll Otto, is fulfilled.

“God of Carnage” continues through March 6 at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main Street. Information: 631-261-2900 or engemantheater.com.

A version of this review appears in print on January 31, 2016, on page LI8 of the New York edition with the headline: Brooklyn Parents in a Metaphoric Bull Ring. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

Newsday Review: ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ review: Holiday fantasy at the Engeman

Updated December 13, 2015 11:52 AM
By Steve Parks steve.parks@newsday.com
WHAT “Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical”
WHEN | WHERE 3 and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. Dec. 2, 2 p.m. Sunday, 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 3, through Jan. 3, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.
TICKETS $69-$74; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com
It’s not just that Gimbels was still around, competing across Herald Square from Macy’s, that dates “The Miracle on 34th Street.” The Meredith Willson musical based on the 1947 movie of the same title celebrates the holiday season at Northport’s Engeman Theater with a corny fantasy.

Broadway producers, aiming for a miracle that would extend Willson’s 1963 musical far beyond the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season, misnamed the show “Here’s Love.” (That idea proved to be a turkey: “Here’s Love” closed eight weeks before the next Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.) Even with its mostly forgettable score, “Miracle” survives as a regional theater holiday chestnut.
It’s the story of Kriss Kringle. Yes, Virginia, that’s his real name. Only in this telling, the girl is Susan and her mother Doris, a Macy’s executive, has hired Kriss as the flagship store’s Santa. He causes a stir when he directs parents to the competition when children ask for a toy outside of Macy’s inventory. Recognizing a publicity boon for Macy’s as the department store that cares, Doris champions her new hire. But when, in an interview with the store’s dour psychologist, Kriss insists he really is Santa Claus, he’s committed to Bellevue. A judge who’s up for re-election presides over a hearing to determine Santa’s fate. Kriss’ attorney is a guy who, improbably, lives next door to Susan and her cynical divorcee mom. Will Santa be locked away on Christmas Eve?

Engeman producer Richard Dolce directs “Miracle” with an eye for spectacle, distracting us from the show’s treacly moments. In “Expect Things to Happen,” choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo turns an imaginary birthday party into a scene rivaling elements of Radio City’s “Christmas Spectacular,” embellished by Kathleen Doyle’s fanciful costumes and Stephen Dobay’s period set.

Kim Carson, Marian in Willson’s superior “Music Man” at the Engeman, presents a formidable single mom who’s nevertheless susceptible to a kiss from her neighbor, Fred — Aaron Ramey, whose lead in “She Hadda Go Back” evokes “Ya Got Trouble” in River City. Bill Nolte as R.H. Macy is a bug-eyed delight, while Meaghan Marie McInnes, double-cast with Sophia Eleni Kekllas, steals the show with little-girl irresistibility as Fred’s pathway to her mom. (Today, that might be considered creepy.) Kevin McGuire’s approachable, white-whiskered Kriss Kringle convinces us that “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” as the song, accompanied by David Caldwell’s orchestra, declares.

BWW Review: The Engeman’s MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET

November 25
10:33 AM2015
BWW Review: The Engeman's MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET

The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season is about to get under way and, as always, the John W. Engeman Theatre excellently delivers a fabulous holiday production. This years’ offering, running through January 4th, is the musical Miracle On 34th Street by Meredith Willson based on the classic movie.

The story centers on single mother Doris Walker who doesn’t want Susan, her young daughter, exposed to “fairy tales” like the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and, most importantly, Santa.

Indeed, the large Richard T. Dolce directed cast is absolutely stellar.

BWW Review: The Engeman's MIRACLE ON 34TH STREETEngeman favorite Kim Carson splendidly portrays Doris, an executive at Macy’s department store. After her Santa for the parade gets overly intoxicated, she unexpectedly meets Kris Kringle and immediately hires him as her new Santa. Ms. Carson’s confident performance is received well particularly her rendition of “You Don’t Know”. Incidentally, Kevin McGuire(Broadway: Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, et. al.) is a remarkable Kris Kringle. A gentle voice and the whole “Santa aura” make him a natural for the role.At the same time, their – also single – neighbor, former Marine Fred Gailey, portrayed by Aaron Ramey, attempts to court Doris by charming Susan branding himself as a father figure. Susan is enjoying this, but Doris is not amused.

And of course the children in the cast are wonderful and excited to be on stage. They have two casts and the role of Susan is divided up between two adorable young ladies; Sophia Eleni Kekllas and Meaghan Marie McInnes.

Another highlight is the innovative set designed by Stephen Dobay. There are many scene changes in the two act show. Inside the “Macy’s windows” there are also three small sets that move out when needed. This is enhanced beautifully by Jimmy Lawlor‘s lighting and Kathleen Doyle‘s costumes. In the score, you will also notice subtle tones here and there of Mr. Willson’s arguably most famous work The Music Man. “She Hadda Go Back” sounds delightfully similar to “Trouble”.

And so, Miracle On 34th Street is certainly another hit for the Engeman. A wonderful cast and a classic story make for a thrilling night of theatre this holiday season.


Miracle On 34th Street is presented by the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through January 4th.

By Meredith Willson, Directed by RICHARD T. DOLCE, Choreography by ANTOINETTE DIPIETROPOLO, Musical Direction by DAVID CALDWELL, Scenic Design by STEPHEN DOBAY, Costume Design by KATHLEEN DOYLE, Lighting Design by JIMMY LAWLOR, Sound Design by LAURA SHUBERT, Props Design by KAYE BLANKENSHIP, Casting by FRANCK CASTING, Stage Management by RENEE SANTOS STEWART


Photos by Michael DeCristofaro; Photo #1) SOPHIA ELENI KEKLLAS and KIM CARSON; Photo #2) KEVIN MCGUIRE

Long Island Press: ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ Works Its Holiday Magic at Northport’s Engeman Theater


It began to feel a lot like Christmas  when the musical version of one of the most heartwarming  holiday classics of all time,  Miracle on  34th Street, enlivened the stage at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater right before Thanksgiving.

A holiday show is a genre all its own. It must be family friendly, and evoke nostalgia and sentimentality while it tugs on our heartstrings, yet have music and glitz that fire up the imagination.

Directed by Richard Dolce, the theater’s producing artistic director, Miracle on 34th Street delivers this and so much more.

Valentine Davies’ sentimental tale, which pits the yearnings of our inner child against the dictates of reason, inspired the Academy Award-winning 1947 movie starring Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood. The book, music and lyrics for the musical were penned by Meredith Willson of The Music Man fame. The extremely gifted composer, songwriter and playwright’s deep understanding of human nature shines throughout this production.

This show transports us back to Manhattan in the early ’60s. It’s Thanksgiving morning, and families are embracing the gaiety of the season and anticipating the big parade. Doris Walker, a single mother and Macy’s Department Store executive, has the challenge of orchestrating the festive procession down to the letter.

Soured by a failed marriage, Doris is all work and no play, a staunch pragmatist who has discouraged her young daughter Susan from believing in anything remotely imaginative, including Santa Claus.

Yet after Susan develops a relationship with  charismatic Fred Gailey, a retired marine captain who is about to embark on a career as an attorney, she cannot help but start to believe in the Jolly Old Elf and long for a father.

Meanwhile, back at Macy’s, a  major stumbling block is miraculously  averted when a rosy-faced gentleman bearing  an uncanny resemblance to Santa Claus—and going  by the unlikely name of Kris Kringle—steps up replace  the shamefully drunken gentleman hired to greet the kids in the toy department.

Kringle, who genuinely loves children, more than fits the bill and accomplishes the inconceivable by promoting good will between Macy’s and its rival, Gimbel’s. Here, Kringle breaks the fourth wall by distributing candy canes to the audience, adding to the festivity.

When Kringle indicates that he really believes that he is Santa, he is subjected to a psychological brow-beating by Dr. Sawyer, an egotistical psychologist, and threatened with commitment to Bellevue Hospital.

Willson’s treatment of the romantic subplot adds new dimension to the story. Doris and Fred immediately get off on the wrong foot, and express their mutual disdain in the delightful duet, “Look, Little Girl.” There seems to be no common ground between Fred, a confirmed bachelor who refers to women as dames, and Doris, a smart cookie who has succeeded in breaking Macy’s glass ceiling. Yet, their body language says otherwise, especially when Fred unexpectedly kisses Doris, and she kisses him back. Can these opposites really attract?

The action really heats up in Act II. I particularly enjoyed “She Hadda Go Back,” a delicious slice of musical repartee between Fred and his card-playing buddies during which Fred parades his knowledge of female reasoning.

Fred must somehow defend Kringle’s sanity and his honor by proving that the man is really Santa. Will this mission impossible be Kris’s undoing? The shenanigans that animate the courtroom are  worth the price of admission.

Kevin McGuire, who plays Kringle, is a consummate professional who has appeared in Les Miserables,  Phantom of the Opera and The Secret Garden. He begins to cast his spell as soon as he steps on stage, and the result is pure magic.

It is through the eyes of little Susan Walker that we navigate what we know to be true and our heart’s desire. She is alternately played  by Meaghan Marie McInnes and Sophia  Eleni Kekllas. Meaghan, who performed the night that I attended, is incredibly endearing. She graces the stage with great poise and she has a beautiful singing voice. When she smiles, you can’t help but be smitten.

Many may remember Kim Carson, who plays the doubting Thomasina Doris Walker, from her starring roles in Engeman’s The Music Man, South Pacific, andCamelot. She delivers an astoundingly charismatic performance and her singing is outstanding.  Her Act II solo, “Love Come Take Me,” brought tears to my eyes.

The chemistry between Carson and Aaron Ramey, who plays Fred, her romantic sparring partner, rings true. Ramey, who has appeared on stage and on television, excels as a man who has unwittingly met his match.

A number of actors rein in the laughs with their own unique blend of comedy.  These include Matt Wolpe (as Marvin Shellhammer) and John Little (Dr. Sawyer). I particularly loved the humorous song, “That Man Over There,” as delivered by R.H. Macy (Bill Nolte) and the ensemble during Kringle’s commitment hearing at the New York Supreme Court.

Kathleen Doyle’s costumes—the  plaid dresses, the wonderful cloth coats—will have you nostalgic for this bygone era.

I believe that this is the ninth production that Antoinette DiPietropolo has choreographed for the Engeman Theater, and as always, her work is outstanding.

Miracle on 34th Street  runs through January 4. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, 250 Main St, Northport, or by calling 261-2900 or going to:www.engemantheater.com.  

(Photo credit: John W. Engeman Theater)

NY Theatre Guide Review: ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ at John W. Engeman Theater

Theatre Review: ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ at John W. Engeman Theater

 Sophia Eleni Kekllas and Kim Carson. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

With the holidays fast approaching, the John W. Engeman Theater opened its seasonal production of Miracle on 34th Street last weekend.  With book, lyrics and music by Meredith Wilson, it is based on the classic 1947 movie of the same name with story and screenplay by Valentine Davies.  Directed here by Richard T. Dolce, Miracle on 34th Street is a heartwarming, holiday treat for the whole family.

When Doris Walker hires a kindly, white-bearded gentleman to play Santa Claus for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, she has no idea what is about to happen.  A cynical single mother, she has raised her daughter, Susan, to be nothing short of completely practical, with no fairy tales, or fanciful hopes and dreams allowed.  The man she hired, however, goes by the name Kris Kringle and claims to actually be the real Santa Claus, spreading his Christmas love and affecting the attitudes of people around him.  As Susan becomes friends with him, and their handsome neighbor Fred Gaily, Doris is forced to reevaluate her outlook on life, faith and love.

. . . a heartwarming, holiday treat for the whole family.

With pleasant voices, sharp comedic timing, and wonderful characterization this entire cast was a pleasure to watch perform.  Kim Carson and Aaron Ramey as Doris and Fred were immensely enjoyable together, and they created a believable atmosphere of romantic tension.  Kevin McGuire was a perfect Kris, from his beard to the twinkle in his eye and the merry spring in his step.  Meaghan Marie McInnes was an absolutely adorable and delightful Susan, and the entire cast of children gave fabulous performances.  Doris’ over-eager assistant Shellhammer, was amusingly played by Matt Wolfe, while R.H. Macy was represented with aplomb by Bill Nolte.  (The character of Susan is alternately portrayed by Sophia Eleni Kekllas.)

A clever set by designer Stephen Dobay greatly aided the plotline, as scenic “windows” were lifted and allowed different rooms to appear.  Costuming by Kathleen Doyle alluded to the past and gave the feel of a time gone by. Wonderful props by Kaye Blankenship and excellent music from conductor David Caldwell and the entire band rounded out the performance beautifully.  A definite must for your holiday schedule, this fun and charming production will certainly help put you in the Christmas spirit.

Running Time: Approximately 2 ½ hours including one 15-minute intermission.

Miracle on 34th Street is playing at The John W. Engeman Theater through January 3, 2016.  The theater is located at 250 Main Street, Northport NY.  For more information and tickets, click here.

NY Times Review: A Review of ‘Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical’


When the show now known as “Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical” had its Broadway premiere in 1963, it was called “Here’s Love,” and received reviews that varied wildly, including a rather dismissive one from The New York Times (“right off the assembly line, shrewdly engineered,” the critic Howard Taubman wrote).


The mixed reviews are understandable, because this musical by Meredith Willson — who also wrote “The Music Man,” a splendid work — is itself a combination of delightful moments and dull ones. It is full of scenes and songs that don’t quite mesh, contributing to abrupt mood swings throughout the show.

Richard T. Dolce, the producing artistic director at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport and director of this production, has managed, with the help of an engaging cast, to ultimately turn it into an enjoyable mess. Mr. Willson’s adaptation of the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street” is far livelier and filled with more surprises than a different version, by Douglas M. Smith and Vernon L. Stefanic, presented by the Engeman in 2009 (though that one had a talented cast, too).


Aaron Ramey, as Fred, with Sophia Eleni Kekllas, who also plays Susan. Credit Michael DeCristofaro
The story — by Valentine Davies, who won an Academy Award for it — focuses on a man who goes by the name Kris Kringle and claims to be Santa Claus, and his interactions with a girl named Susan Walker and her mother, Doris, who works for Macy’s and hires the kindly Kris as the store’s Santa. Also in the mix is Fred Gaily, who befriends Susan and woos Doris while sparring with her over her hard-edge view of the world, inspired by a bitter divorce.

The musical veers from the children’s-show exuberance of the opening number, “Big Ca-lown Balloons,” during which Kris and a gaggle of youngsters march into the audience, to the seriousness of “You Don’t Know,” an adult ballad about disappointment that shifts the musical’s tone radically when Doris sings it in Scene 2. By Scene 3, the show has returned to the jolly family-musical category, with an ensemble of clerks singing about the virtues of plastic alligators.

Echoes of “The Music Man” can be heard in that opening tune, which recalls the marching beat of “76 Trombones.” Mr. Willson used other devices employed in “The Music Man” here too, including quick patter and multiple-part harmonies. These touches serve the show well, as does the small band under the musical direction of David Caldwell. Many of the songs are pleasing, including the metronome-like “My Wish,” a duet by Fred and Susan as the girl sits on a swing. (What a grown man is doing in a playground with a little girl, without her mother’s knowledge, is not an issue in this musical, set in a presumably-more-innocent 1963.)

Sophia and Kim Carson, as Doris. Credit Michael DeCristofaro
“Pinecones and Holly Berries” is a jaunty tune that is interwoven with “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” which Mr. Willson wrote in 1951 but included here. A couple of silly songs that could easily seem hokey — “That Man Over There,” referring to Kringle, and “My State, My Kansas,” an attempt to butter up a judge from that state — are unexpectedly appealing.


The judge figures into the second act, which, as fans of the film are likely to surmise, centers on the trial at which Fred tries to keep Kris out of Bellevue Hospital by proving that he is indeed the real Santa Claus.

The set by Stephen Dobay, lit by Jimmy Lawlor, is cleverly versatile, and Kathleen Doyle’s costume designs add cheer.

The production is fortunate to have Kim Carson, who has a fine voice and a gentle but strong manner, playing Doris. Ms. Carson has appeared in similar feisty-romantic roles at the Engeman, including Marian in “The Music Man.” Meaghan Marie McInnes (who alternates with Sophia Eleni Kekllas) is a winning Susan: sweet, unaffected and a good singer. Kevin McGuire, as Kris, is another convincing actor and good singer, as is Aaron Ramey as Fred.

Helping to make the show twinkle are some quirky actors in secondary roles, notably Matt Wolpe as Marvin Shellhammer, the nervous head of the Macy’s toy department, and Bill Nolte as a blustery R. H. Macy, a character almost as mythical as Santa, since the real Mr. Macy died in 1877.

“Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical,” with book, music and lyrics by Meredith Willson, based on the 1947 movie, is running through Jan. 3 at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main Street. Information: 631-261-2900 or engemantheater.com.

A version of this article appears in print on November 29, 2015, on page LI9 of the New York edition with the headline: Believing in Santa, and Singing About It. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe


The Village Tattler Review: The Joyous Miracle On 34th Street, The Musical At Engeman Theater

Kevin McGuire as Kris Kringle in Miracle On 34th Street at The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The holiday classic we all know and love, Miracle On 34th Street, is brought to the stage at The John W. Engeman Theater this holiday season, running through January 3, 2016. Picture everything you enjoyed about the movie—the spreading of love and joy in New York City during the holidays, the New York Supreme Court case proving that Santa Claus is not a myth, the happiness that a single mom and her daughter find when they start having faith again—and then, add the magic of a book with music and lyrics by Meredith Willson of Music Man fame. Story and screen play are by Valentine Davies.

Produced and directed by Richard T. Dolce, Engeman Theater’s Producing Artistic Director, Miracle on 34th Street soars, uplifting our hearts and filling them with hope and happiness. With Antoinette DiPietropolo’s magical touch as choreographer, each scene comes to life. DiPietropolo’s credits include Engeman Theater: The Producers, A Christmas Story – The Musical, Evita!, The Music Man, South Pacific, Hairspray, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, and Nunsense; Off Broadway: With Glee; Regional: Annie, Jesus Christ Superstar, Chicago, Ragtime; National Tour: How The Grinch Stole Christmas; and Associate Director/Choreographer for The Big Apple Circus

The incredible cast includes Kim Carson as Doris Walker, who returns to Engeman after performing in The Music Man, South Pacific, and Camelot,and Broadway veterans Aaron Ramey as Fred Gaily, Kevin McGuire as Kris Kringle, and Bill Nolte as R.H. Macy.

McGuire, who has performed on Broadway and in both National and International Tours of Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The Secret Garden, and Jane Eyre, plays a convincing Santa Claus with just the right “wink of his eye, twinkle of his toes, and the Joy.”

The fabulous children’s ensemble are notable and equally convincing in musical numbers such as “That Man Over There,” in which they insist “that man over there is Santa Claus, I know, I know, I know.” Also, engaging and delightful is the scene when the children become the toys in Macy’s Toy Department. The Red Cast of kids who appeared on opening night are Miranda Jo DeMott, Katie Dolce, Erin Haggerty, Meaghan Maher, Shane McGlone, Christopher McKenna, Jr., Theron Viljoen, and Chloe Wheeler.

DeMott, Dolce, Haggerty, Maher, McGlone, Viljoen, and Wheeler all return to the Engeman stage after appearing in previous MainStage musicals (DeMott in South Pacific; Dolce in White Christmas, Music Man, and A Christmas Story; Maher inMusic Man, A Christmas Carol, and A Christmas Story; and Haggerty, McGlone, Viljoen and Wheeler in A Christmas Story). The red cast of kids all give fantastic performances–dancing, singing, and spreading holiday joy as seen through the eyes of the young. Their excitement is infectious in every scene they are in, including the lively opening number, “Big Ca-lown Balloons,” taking place outside of Macy’s Department Store on 34th Street on Thanksgiving morning.

New to Mainstage at Engeman are the two lovely young actresses who play Susan Walker: Meaghan Marie McInnes and Sophia Eleni Kekllass.

Kevin McGuire (Kris Kringle) and Meaghan Marie McInnes as Susan Walker. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

McInnes plays opening night’s Susan and is most charming—an adorable, precocious and talented young actress who is sure to be seen in future stage productions. She is magnetic, capturing the audience in every scene in which she appears. In Scene 2 of Act 1, McInnes sings “Arm in Arm” with the amazingly talented Carson, who plays Susan’s mom Doris.

Miracle is warm, engaging, and lively, with big musical ensemble numbers such as “Big Ca-lown Balloons,” “Here’s Love,” and “That Man Over There.” And this show is also funny. The comedic timing of “Plastic Alligators,” is perfect and well-choreographed by DiPietropolo, and Matt Wolpe is amazing and hilarious as Shellhammer, along with the adult ensemble.

Wolpe has appeared in the National Tour of Once and Off Broadway in Hells Bells. His Regional theater credits include: Weston Playhouse, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Laguna Playhouse, Sacramento Music Circus, Ensemble Theatre of Santa Barbara, Pasadena Playhouse, NoHo Arts Center, Blank Theatre, Boston Theatre Work and La Miranda.

Miracle has it all. In addition to all its holiday joy as “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas,” there are also the themes of divorce and finding love again, not believing in anything anymore and then, finding faith and belief again. Carson and Ramey (who plays Gaily) have an amazing stage chemistry, in a tango of dislike and like that turns to love. “He’s always right, I’m always wrong…and then we were kissing just like it was the last kiss on earth,” sings Carson.

Ramey’s voice is warm and rich. His acting is impressive; he has a great chemistry with the audience and with McInnes as well in “My Wish,” which takes place on a swing in a Central Park playground. His credits include Engeman Theater’s White Christmas, and Broadway in The Visit, The Bridges of Madison County, Jekyll & Hyde, Young Frankenstein, Curtains, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Ramey has also appeared in the National Tours of South Pacific, Jekyll & Hyde, Sweet Charity, and Disney’s Beauty & the Beast. 

Also fun and so enjoyable to watch, is “She Hadda Go Back,” in Act 2, with Ramey and some of the adult male ensemble who play his friends. The song is very reminiscent of The Music Man.

Nolte is unforgettable as R.H. Macy, the owner of Macy’s department store, “the largest department store in New York City.” His acting chops are on display throughout. Nolte has performed on Broadway in The Producers, La Cage Aux Faux, Cats, and more. His regional credits include Hello Dolly, The Drowsy Chaperone, My Fair Lady, Damn Yankees, Fiddler and Most Happy Fella.

The cast also includes Todd Thurston, who is fantastic as Judge Martin Group and whose credits include Broadway in Ragtime; Tours: La Cage, Little House on the Prairie, and Les Miserables; and Regional: Long Warf, Goodspeed, Barrington, St. Louis Rep, Asolo, Berkshire, Pioneer and Wichita.

John Little plays Dr. Sawyer; he is hilarious in the scenes with Kris Kringle. Little returns to the Engeman after acting in  Little Women, Run for Your Wife and My Fair Lady. Off Broadway credits are Poetic License, Hamlet and Taming of the Shrew; Regional: The Grapes of Wrath, Amadeus, Glimmerglass, Major Barbara and My Fair Lady; and TV: Boardwalk Empire and Law & Order.



Musical Director is DAVID CALDWELL (Off-Broadway Music Director: Forbidden Broadway, Murder for Two. Off Broadway Composer: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Uh-Oh Here Comes Christmas,Third Wish, Gotta Getta Girl. Conductor: American premiere of Stephen Schwartz’s Children of Eden. Arranged and orchestrated Marvin Hamlisch’s song “I’m Really Dancing” forCareer Transitions for Dancers’ 25th Anniversary Gala.

The Design Team is STEPHEN DOBAY (Scenic Design), KATHLEEN DOYLE (Costume Design), JIMMY LAWLOR (Lighting Design), LAURA SHUBERT (Sound Design), KAYE BLANKENSHIP (Props Design), FRANCK CASTING (Casting Director), RENEE SANTOS STEWART (Production Stage Manager), and MEGAN COUTTS (Assistant Stage Manager).

Miracle on 34th Street is not to be missed this holiday season. The performance schedule is Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00 with some Wednesday (8:00pm) and Sunday evenings (7:00pm) available. Tickets are $74 on Saturday evenings, $69 all other performances and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, going online atEngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.


Smithtown Matters Review: Theater Review – “Miracle On 34th Street”


THEATER REVIEW – Miracle on 34th Street – Produced by: John W Engeman Theater, Northport – Reviewed by: Jeb Ladouceur

Chalk up another smash hit for The Engeman!

Meaghan McIinnis as Susan Walker & Kevin McGuire as Kris Kringle ( photo by Michael DeCristofaro)The famed equity company’s new holiday offering is the musical, “Miracle on 34th Street,” based on the 1947 non-musical film of the same name. The movie, of course, famously starred Academy Award winner Edmund Gwenn, and has become a classic in its own right.

“Miracle…” tells of a skeptical little girl who claims to doubt the existence of Santa Claus. And when the actual Kris Kringle is inadvertently hired as Santa at Macy’s…where the child’s divorced mother works as the store’s publicist…Kris has to convince the girl, Susan, and her jaded mother, Doris (initially a cynic if ever there was one) that he’s the real deal.

There are amusing plot turns along the way…the most believable of which is a love interest that might choke-up even the most prosaic among us…and the grownups in this feel-good story comprise an exceptionally talented group of singers. Northport newcomer Kevin McGuire (Kris Kringle), lovely Engeman veteran Kim Carson (Doris Walker), the irrepressible Aaron Ramey (Fred Gaily), and Broadway standout Bill Nolte (R. H. Macy) lead a superlative cast of adult songsters. And Matt Wolpe (as the madcap Marvin Shellhammer) is a delightful stumblebum whom we know is destined to say and do all the wrong things…at precisely the wrong times.

Essentially, though, this is a children’s story told at a magical time of year for kids, predominantly in that most wondrous place imaginable for boys and girls at Christmas…Macy’s toy department! Accordingly, it’s appropriate that the youngsters in the cast soon take control of the proceedings (there are two alternating companies of children, of course). The group I saw at The Engeman’s November 21st Press Opening was led by Meaghan Marie McInnes. Four-foot-tall Meaghan is a young, disarmingly precocious actress, and she filled the starring role of pre-schooler Susan Walker adorably.

Right behind her was a young lady whose stage presence impresses me more every time I see her. She’s a veteran hoofer (even at a still-tender age) and former ‘Encore Award’ winner for excellence in Theater Arts…Katie Dolce. Katie has easily lived up to the promise she displayed with her top hat and cane a few years ago in “White Christmas,” when little more than a toddler.

There’s another up-and-comer we should all watch for, too. Unless I miss my guess, Christopher McKenna, Jr. is destined for stardom. The boy can’t be much older than ten or eleven, nevertheless he seems born to the stage. Rather than fear his audience, little Christopher obviously thrives on their adulation…and it’s doubtful he’ll ever forget their erupting in spontaneous applause at one point during his brief performance Saturday night.

Which brings this reviewer to a final point: Sometimes an audience helps professional critics form judgments as surely as do the performers themselves. That was the case during opening night of “Miracle on 34th Street.” All evening long patrons at Northport’s comfortable Engeman Theater seemed to break into applause at the drop of a hat. They applauded following every song…after every exit…and at the conclusion of every dance routine. The full-house of attendees laughed heartily when each joke or otherwise humorous observation was delivered…and at the final curtain they stood and cheered in unison.

I challenge any critic to submit a less-than-glowing review in the wake of such a reception.


Award-winning writer, Jeb Ladouceur is the author of eleven novels, and his theater and book reviews appear in several major L.I. publications. His newest book, THE GHOSTWRITERS, explores the bizarre relationship between Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Ladouceur’s website is www.JebsBooks.com


Times Beacon Record Review: The Jets and the Sharks clash again at Northport’s Engeman

by TBR StaffSeptember 30, 2015

Nikko Kimzin and Sam Wolf in a scene from ‘West Side Story.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Charles J. Morgan

When dance master Jerome Robbins inspired Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim to come up with “West Side Story,” they in turn went to The Bard for his “Romeo and Juliet,” morphing the Guelphs and Ghibellines — that’s the Montagues and Capulets of Verona — into the street gangs, the Jets and Sharks. The “star-crossed lovers” became Tony and Maria. This gift to musical theater hit the boards at the Engeman two weeks ago, and the boards are still rattling.

The entire production is built around dance. The pirouettes, arabesques and jetes were neatly comingled with the modern interpretive method to produce a mathematically perfect, yet emotionally penetrating terpsichorean feast.

At the head of all this was the choreography skills of Jeffry Denman and his two assistants Lauren Cannon and Trey Compton, who also acted as fight choreographer. This talented team gave the audience a night of dance the excellence of which your scribe has not seen in his near decade of writing “criticism.”

They say that the “devil is in the details” but not in this production. Imagine if you will a six-foot-high chain link fence running from upstage center down to stage left … suggesting urban schoolyards. This “prop” was climbed on, jumped on and over by male dancers of the Jets and Sharks in their attempts to escape … in tempo. They actually scaled the fence, landing on the other side on the beat — an incredible act of choreography.

Overall direction was in the always capable hands of Igor Goldin (“The Producers,” “Evita”). If one prescinds from the dance numbers, his blocking and interpretation efforts were carried through with exemplary professionalism.

Outstanding among the dancers were Scott Shedenhelm of the Jets and Karli Dinardo in the role of Anita. Shedenhelm was at his best in “Gee, Officer Krupke,” by far the funniest and most clever number in the show. Dinardo scored talent-wise in “America.”

The leads were handled skillfully by Zach Trimmer as Tony and Samantha Williams as Maria. Both have fittingly tender voices; he a more lyrical tenor, she a mellow, yet strong soprano. They excelled as the star-crossed lovers.

The leader of the Jets, Riff, was played by Sam Wolf who pits himself and his gang against Bernardo, played by Nikko Kimzin and his Sharks. The battles of Sharks vs. Jets is the dance armature of the play, and these two lead their factions brilliantly in dancing, acting and singing.

Among the musical numbers, the “Jet Song” really set the theme of pride and struggle. “Dance at the Gym” by the whole company brought out the animosity that almost erupted in violence. The tender “Tonight” by Wolf and Williams presented the balcony scene in all its romance. The mordant “America” that also showcased the patent talent of Ashley Perez Flanagan as Graciela, hit hard musically at the state of society in both the USA and Puerto Rico.

The cast also included Mike Baerga, Josh Bates, Christian Bufford, Mark T. Cahill, Nick Casaula, Victoria Casillo, Joey Dippel, Jon Drake, Roy Flores, Eric Greengold, Joan Heeringa, Melissa Hunt, Gregory Kollarus, Leer Leary, Rick Malone, Ashley Marinelli, Kelly Methven, Kaitlin Niewoehner, Joseph Rosario, Tori Simeone and Marquez Stewart who all did a fabulous job.Trimmer and Williams also performed romantically in “One Hand, One Heart.” And there was that Officer Krupke number that was most memorable.

Piercing live music was led by James Olmstead on keyboard with assistance from Craig Coyle; Robert Dalpiaz and Joel Levy on reeds; the indomitable Joe Boardman on trumpet with Steve Henry and Pete Auricchio; Brent Chiarello and Frank Hall on trombone; bass was Russell Brown with the reliable Josh Endlich on percussion. This ensemble was at its best in the staccato numbers of both Jets and Sharks such as “Dance at the Gym” and especially in “The Rumble.”

The Engeman spares no opposition when it produces a massive piece of entertainment like “West Side Story.”

All elements of the production including costume design by Tristan Raines, set design by DT Willis, lighting by Zack Blane and sound design by Laura Shubert were masterfully integrated into a sophisticated, articulated and authentic whole.

Many critics a few years back tried to see a “social significance” dimension latent in this show. On TV one described it as “… a slice of New York life.” Nonsense, of course. It was Shakespeare with a life of its own as true musical theater.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present evening performances of “West Side Story” on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and matinees on Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 8. Tickets are $74 on Saturday evenings, $69 all other performances. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

This version corrects the spelling of Jeffry Denman’s name.

The Long Island Press Review:‘West Side Story’ Is a Knockout Hit at Northport’s Engeman Theater

by Elise Pearlman on September 30, 2015

“West Side Story” had the audience on its feet applauding wildly and shouting bravos after its first Saturday night performance at the John W. Engeman Theater. The musical saga of star-crossed lovers whose Manhattan romance is doomed by cultural discord is not only simply sensational, but the perfect choice for the Northport theater’s 50th production.

The show itself has some stellar history too. “West Side Story” first graced Broadway in 1957. It brought together an extraordinarily talented creative team: composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, playwright Arthur Laurents, and director and choreographer Jerome Robbins. According to Larry Stempel’s Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater, the production ushered in a new era by blurring the lines between musical theater and opera while adding social commentary to the mix.

Showcasing what many consider to be Bernstein’s finest work, the musical also gave these legendary artists the opportunity to stretch themselves as never before. It was the first time that Sondheim ever wrote lyrics for a Broadway production; for Laurents, it was his first Broadway libretto.

If the story line of forbidden love gone terribly awry sounds familiar, it should. “West Side Story” is based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” which tells of the tragedy ensnaring the romantically linked offspring of two feuding noble families, the Montagues and Capulets. Fast-forward another four centuries to the 1950s, and “West Side Story” is the urban version.

Shakespeare’s portrayal of the intoxication and blind innocence of first love countered by senseless rivalry and the unceasing desire for revenge still rings true today. Under Igor Goldin’s masterful direction at the Engeman Theater, the cast brings this New Age Romeo and Juliet, this blend of light and dark, hope and heartache, comedy and despair, to glorious fruition.

Set in a blue-collar neighborhood in the Upper West Side in 1957, the venue is far from pretty, yet this forsaken piece of turf bound by brick walls and chain-link fences is the subject of intense rivalry between two street gangs, the Jets, the established white ethnics, and the Sharks, the Puerto Rican newcomers.

A dance at a local gymnasium brings the warring gangs together on what is supposedly neutral territory. As the Jets and Sharks assert their superiority by alternately usurping the dance floor, something magical happens. Amidst the whirlwind of frenetic movement, Tony, a Jet, and Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the Shark’s leader, spot each other from across the room and are drawn together like magnets. Both are immediately smitten, but Bernardo has brought Maria from Puerto Rico so she could marry his friend, Chico.

While his friends are riveted in the gritty here and now, Tony, played by Zach Trimmer, is dreaming of a better life. Carl Sagan once spoke of the optimistic human belief that there is something marvelous around the corner yet undiscovered, a vision that Tony brings to life when he sings “Something’s Coming.”

Later that night, Maria (Samantha Williams) stands on her tenement apartment’s fire escape with Tony below, and the chemistry is palpable. His serenade, “Tonight,” is a joyous prelude to the uncharted territory that is love. Young Williams’ mellifluous singing voice is astounding. Trimmer renders “Maria,” so tenderly that he makes it a fitting tribute to the transformative power of love.

Shakespeare liked to alternate between moods in his plays, and “West Side Story” follows his lead, with romance giving way to comedy–before the tragedy you know is coming.

In the sardonic song, “America,” Rosalia (Ashley Pérez Flanagan) extols the virtues of Puerto Rico, while the other Shark Girls–Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita (Karli Dinardo), Francisca (Victoria Casillo) and Marguerita (Ashley Marinelli) counter with wisecracks. The girls are dressed in gorgeous jewel-toned dresses made for swirling and flaunting. The song is incredibly amusing; the dancing spectacular. It’s pure eye candy that delights the heart and the soul. Kudos to Tristan Raines for the costume design.

What a cast! Dinardo excels as Anita, the worldly, “older” sister to Maria, who has just come to America and is inexperienced when it comes to the opposite sex. Their close relationship makes their final duet, “A Boy Like That/I Have a Love,” all the more bittersweet.
Riff (Sam Wolf) and Bernardo (Nikko Kimzin) are both effectively commanding and conflicted in their roles as respective leaders of the Jets and Sharks who must decide the terms of the rumble that will settle the turf dispute once and for all.

The action slowly builds momentum, with anticipation reaching its apex towards the end of Act I, when the whole company gathers to sing “Tonight.” Absolutely breathtaking, it is musical theater at its best.

This show demands great choreography, and Jeffry Denman, assisted by Lauren Cannon, and assistant director/fight choreographer, Trey Compton, deliver it big time. Some of the finest dancing is showcased in “Somewhere,” a dreamy, wishful sequence in which Maria and Tony watch dancers dressed in white move blithely across the stage with joyous grace despite the rumble’s tragic ending. As Trimmer, Williams and company sing, Ashley Pérez Flanagan gives an outstanding solo that further lights up this poignant scene.

Also worthy of mention is the hilarious song, “Gee, Officer Krupke,” featuring the well-choregraphed antics of Action (Scott Shedenhelm) and the rest of the Jets. In Act II, it offers needed comic relief as the world that these young adults know starts to spiral out of control.

As always, the band at the Engeman, led by musical director James Olmstead on keyboard, is topnotch and does full justice to Bernstein’s musical genius. The music and lyrics linger on long after you leave the theater.

“West Side Story” runs through November 8, but the popular show will likely sell out soon. The John W. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport. For more information, call (631) 261-2900 or by visitwww.engemantheater.com.

NY Times Review: ‘West Side Story’ at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport


Review: ‘West Side Story’ at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport

SEPT. 25, 2015

From the first sinewy notes of Leonard Bernstein’s music and the first hard-edged finger snaps of glowering young men prowling across the stage, it’s clear that the production of “West Side Story” at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is on the right track.

As the musical’s mostly wordless prologue continues, the dancers portraying the Sharks and the Jets, opposing gangs in 1950s Manhattan, execute stylized acrobatics that suggest palpable danger while also staying true to the elegant, balletic choreography. Igor Goldin, the director; Jeffry Denman, the choreographer; and Trey Compton, the assistant director and fight choreographer, have found the balance between a realistic portrayal of violence and an artful depiction of it.
Jerome Robbins, who directed and choreographed the original 1957 production (and contributed the idea for the musical), created the template that the Engeman production follows — but not slavishly. The show has been tailored for a more intimate theater and a smaller stage than those that housed either the original or any of its four Broadway revivals. More important, they have resurrected the emotional urgency of a show that may now seem touchingly antiquated with its comic-relief interludes and clean-cut juvenile delinquents.

When it first opened, the musical shocked many critics and audience members. Referring to the gang warfare theme, Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times in 1957 that “very little of the hideousness has been left out.”

The plot, based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” is especially affecting here because of the appealing cast. Tony, a Polish-American former member of the Jets, is played by Zach Trimmer, who looks athletic enough to have been a gang leader but has a sweet smile that turns charmingly goofy whenever he thinks about Maria, the young Puerto Rican woman he meets at a dance. Beforehand, anticipating that good things are about to happen, he sings a lyrical “Something’s Coming,” and immediately afterward he delivers a haunting “Maria” filled with delicate tenderness. (The memorable lyrics of all of the songs are by Stephen Sondheim. Arthur Laurents wrote the musical’s book. Along with Bernstein, they form a starry triumvirate.)
As Maria, Samantha Williams looks and moves like the teenager she is supposed to be and speaks in a girlish voice. It’s a surprise to hear her singing voice, rich and operatic, bringing mature nuances to the wistful songs she shares with Mr. Trimmer’s Tony, including “Tonight” and “Somewhere.” She holds her own in a face-off with Karli Dinardo, who gives a strong performance as Anita, the girlfriend of Maria’s brother Bernardo, leader of the Sharks. After a rumble that results in two deaths, Anita sings an angry “A Boy Like That,” warning Maria to stay away from Tony, while Maria counters with a plaintive “I Have a Love.” The duet could turn maudlin but here remains taut and heartbreaking.

Sam Wolf, who plays Riff, leader of the Jets, is another standout. An impressive dancer, he is one of the few gang members who looks tough. (Others just dance tough.) Ashley Pérez Flanagan takes a shining turn in the comic song “America” as the lone holdout among the Puerto Rican girls who prefers her previous home to New York. The boys’ equivalent is “Gee, Officer Krupke,” in which Scott Shedenhelm steps up as the lead satirizer of the police officer who hounds the gangs.
The orchestra, under the direction of James Olmstead, provides lush support, and the set, stylishly designed by D T Willis, combines abstract elements with realistic ones in ways that reflect the balance between artifice and realism in the choreography. (It’s a shame that it appears to be made of cardboard or ultra-thin plywood.) It includes a real chain-link fence that the skilled dancers have no trouble climbing over — not even Melissa Hunt as Anybodys, a girl who wants to join the Jets. The costumes by Tristan Raines are mostly true to the 1950s, though the pristine matching tennis shoes worn by five of the Jets are a little disconcerting.

The scuff-free footwear, however, doesn’t stop the Jets actors or the rest of the cast from expressing their characters’ frustrations and desires through passionate dance.
“West Side Story” continues through Nov. 8 at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main Street. More information: 631-261-2900 or engemantheater.com.

BWW Review: The Engeman’s Exquisite WEST SIDE STORY

BWW Review: The Engeman’s Exquisite WEST SIDE STORY

September 23
BWW Review: The Engeman's Exquisite WEST SIDE STORYCelebrating their 50th show, The John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport has mounted a truly exquisite production of the iconic Tony winning musical West Side Story. The tale, of course, centers on Maria and Tony in a modern day – 1957 modern day – Romeo and Juliet situation. Tony and his friends have formed The Jets, though when we meet Tony, he has since left the gang, while their arch enemies, The Sharks, is headed up by Maria’s brother, Bernardo portrayed by Nikko Kimzin. Maria and Tony meet at a school dance and fall in love – forbidden in their worlds.

The Broadway caliber cast is absolutely divine under the fantastic direction of Igor Goldin. Zach Trimmer wonderfully portrays Tony and Long Island native Samantha Williams is stunning as Maria. They’re a magnificent team and superbly sing the classic Leonard Bernstein (music)/Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) score. A heartbreaking number is their rendition of “Somewhere”

Also brilliant is Karli Dinardo as Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend. She and the girls did an astounding rendition “America” with energetic dancing choreographed by Jeffry Denman. Also a fantastic – and hilarious – performance is the guys’ “Gee, Officer Krupke”. They left the sold out audience in absolute stitches. Their altering impressions of Officer Krupke, facial expressions, and general pranks during the performance practically resulted in a standing ovation.

Another highlight is the set created by DT Willis. The large stage accommodates the site of the fights, Maria’s corner house with balcony, and the iconic “Dance at the Gym” beautifully. This is enhanced gorgeously by Zach Blane’s lighting design band Tristan Raines’ dazzling costumes complete with Maria’s fabulous purple dress. Additionally, it is always thrilling to have a live orchestra; this one strongly led by music Director James Olmstead.

To put it plainly, West Side Story is indeed another “must see” for the Engeman Theatre. Is it a cheerful story? No. Is this show done consistently? Sure. Nonetheless, created is a thrilling story for the ages and this incarnation is one that the creators would be incredibly proud of and should not be missed.

West Side Story is presented by the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through November 1st. Based on a conception of Jerome Robbins, Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Directed by Igor Goldin, Choreography by Jeffry Denman, Scenic Design by DT Willis, Costume Design by Tristan Raines, Lighting Design by Zach Blane, Sound Design by Laura Shubert, Hair & Wig Design by Leah Loukas, Prop Design by Eric Reynolds, Casting by Wojcik/Seay Casting, Stage Management by Sarah Hall, Music Direction by James Olmstead, Associate Choreographer Lauren Cannon, Assistant Director/Fight Choreography by Trey Compton. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Smithtown Matters: THEATER REVIEW – ‘West Side Story’

THEATER REVIEW – ‘West Side Story’

Produced by: John W. Engeman Theater, Northport

Reviewed by: Jeb Ladouceur

‘West Side Story’ is invariably described as an American musical suggested by Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ That is akin to stating that a ham sandwich is inspired by Easter. Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, and Jerome Robbins are all fortunate to have had expert press agents, but for them to invoke The Bard in this crotch-grabbing, expletive-riddled show, borders on literary sacrilege.

That said, the sometimes tedious story about young love sprouting in the unlikely atmosphere of Manhattan’s pre-Lincoln Center upper west side has been ambitiously produced, and executed with inexhaustible flair on by the Company.

Indeed, neither director Igor Goldin, nor choreographer Jeffry Denman, need drop William Shakespeare’s magic name to win accolades for the energetic undertaking that runs at the plush Engeman thru November 8th. At the conclusion of its opener on September 19th, the sold-out audience was on its feet cheering the principals, Zach Trimmer (Tony), Samantha Williams (Maria), and Karli Dinardo (Anita) in their leading roles.

‘West Side Story’ is known primarily for its memorable Bernstein tunes, secondarily for its Sondheim lyrics, and finally for its book by Arthur Laurents. Significantly, the Broadway musical neither won (nor was even nominated for) Tonys in any of those categories. The show (which was up against an endearing ‘Music Man’ in the bidding that year) did capture the coveted awards for choreography and scenic design in 1958, however.

Visit The Engeman in the next six weeks and you’ll see why.

In the current mounting of the story built on a race-based rivalry between two neighborhood gangs, The Sharks and The Jets, the shows dancers perform some of the most perfectly executed movements ever carried out on a Long Island stage … or any venue, for that matter. In sequence after sequence, we are treated to synchronization that is nothing short of eye-popping. From first routine to finale, every finger, every toe, and every swirling skirt produces the kind of symmetry we’ve come to expect only in the artificial milieu of motion pictures.

What unerringly coordinated dancers these young people are! Throughout the show-stopping dance number, ‘America,’ for instance, I literally held my breath as the indefatigable Tori Simeone, Karli Dinardo, Victoria Casillo, and Ashley Marinelli danced in perfect harmonization to James Olmstead’s nine-member orchestra. The effect was spellbinding.

This is not to imply that the current Engeman offering is purely a dance-fest. The romantic leads in this excellent ‘West Side Story’ bring remarkably well-trained voices to the production. One would never guess that Zach Trimmer’s pitch-perfect tenor or Samantha Williams’ sweet soprano are enhanced by veteran sound designer, Laura Shubert. In the ballads ‘Maria’ and ‘Tonight’ Trimmer and Williams provide ideal balance for the raucous, combative vocals of ‘Cool’ and ‘The Rumble’ hammered home by the warring neighborhood factions.

With each new musical that the team of Richard T. Dolce and Kevin J. O’Neill presents, it becomes increasingly obvious that there’s nothing The Engeman can’t produce … and produce well. Just when we thought that ‘The Music Man’– and ‘A Chorus Line’ couldn’t be topped … along comes director Goldin with this superbly sung and choreographed show. It’s a staging that’ll make you glad you came to Northport’s swanky Main Street playhouse for a look see.

Newsday Review: West Side Story’ review: A classic musical superbly done


September 21, 2015 8:04 PM

By STEVE PARKS steve.parks@newsday.com


Arguably the greatest American musical, “West Side Story” lost the 1958 Tony for best musical

to “The Music Man.” Igor Goldin, who previously directed “The Music Man” for the Engeman

Theater, now has directed both shows on the Northport stage.

A side-by-side comparison proves — again — that “West Side Story” was robbed. (Credit where

credit is due: book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim,

based on Jerome Robbins’ direction, choreography and concept.)

But a masterpiece that requires more than competent execution doesn’t often measure up to

its inspired source material. The Engeman’s “West Side Story” is a rare, not-to-be-missed

opportunity to truly appreciate an American theatrical treasure.

Oh, we could quibble about such anachronisms as slit-up-to-here mini-dresses on the girlfriends

of the Jets. Or that Anita may not “pass for” Puerto Rican. But alternative casting adds to the

rich fabric of this American-by-way-of-Shakespeare fable that feels so contemporary with

immigration, street gang and firearm issues upfront today.

From the opening notes of the Jets-vs.-Sharks prologue, we feel the tension of a neighborhood

transitioning from established immigrants to newcomers (Puerto Rican). Testosterone-fueled

punks led by Riff (chest-thumping Sam Wolf) and Bernardo (lightning-tempered Nikko Kimzin)

battle over turf.

Tony, the Jets’ erstwhile leader now working at a drugstore, wants no part of their shenanigans.

But after meeting a girl from the “other side,” Bernardo’s kid sister Maria, he falls instantly in

love and obeys her entreaties to stop a fight between the gangs. His intercession (spoiler alert)

leads to a “Romeo and Juliet” denouement, with an all-too-familiar modern twist.

Zach Trimmer as Tony and Samantha Williams as Maria are so appealing as a couple that their

“Tonight” duet thrillingly reminds us of the hormonal power of first-sight love, heartbreakingly

celebrated in “I Feel Pretty.”

As Anita, Karli Dinardo exudes defiance and vulnerability (“America,” “I Have a Love”). Ashley

Perez Flanagan delivers a dreamy “Somewhere” in the balletic ensemble number delicately

choreographed by Jeffry Denman on DT Willis’ abstract urban set (flawless accompaniment by

James Olmstead’s orchestra).

Each cast and crew member deserves plaudits. Sondheim, the sole surviving “West Side Story”

creator, would be proud, we believe.

WHAT “West Side Story”

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through

Nov. 8, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.

TICKETS $69-$74; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com

NY Theatre Guide Review: ‘West Side Story’ at John W. Engeman Theater

Theatre Review: ‘West Side Story’ at John W. Engeman Theater

Samantha Williams & Zach Trimmer. Photo by Michael Decristofaro.

Even if you have never seen West Side Story performed, you probably know something about it.  Classic shows have a way of infiltrating various other aspects of life, so much so in some cases, that without ever having seen a particular show you could even be referencing it unawares.  Whether it be a line, a quip, a great joke or a song, the classics are swirling all around us every day influencing even those who have yet to learn to appreciate them.  West Side Story is certainly no exception.  For anyone who has ever found themselves humming a strain of Bernstein’s bewitching music, or singing Sondheim’s memorable lyrics, they know this to be true.  It could be hearing “I Feel Pretty” playing in your mind as you look in the mirror, or the lyrics “…everything free in America, for a small fee in America”, running through your head at a particularly dissatisfying moment.  No matter your previous experience, be it great or small, familiar or new, the Engeman Theater’s wonderful production of West Side Story will send you home humming and definitely knowing why.

The entire cast of this performance is fabulous.

With a book by Arthur Laurents, and directed here by Igor Goldin, West Side Story may best be described as a 1957’s Romeo and Juliet.  The Upper West Side of Manhattan is in the middle of a turf war between two rival gangs: The Sharks, comprised of Puerto Rican immigrants, and The Jets, consisting of Polish-Americans.  When Maria, the sister of Lead Shark Bernardo, and Tony, the founder of the Jets meet and fall in love, the hate and prejudices of the opposing sides lead to inevitable heartbreak, but hopefully understanding for the future.  Along the way are fabulous songs, and energetic dance sequences, which will transport you back to a different time with a universal message.

The entire cast of this performance is fabulous.  Zach Trimmer plays Tony with a natural ease that is a pleasure to watch.  His fantastic voice harmonized beautifully with the crystal clear soprano of Samantha Williams as Maria.  Her charming portrayal highlights Maria’s youth, while the chemistry between she and Trimmer bring the romance to life.  Nikko Kimzin is a convincing Bernardo with wonderful dance skills, while Karli Dinardo as his fiery girlfriend Anita brings great attitude and believable emotion to her character.  Lead Jet Riff is played by Sam Wolf, whose triple-threat skill set proves him worthy of the role.  Leer Leahy is a perfect Doc, along with the talents of Mark T. Cahill as Shrank/Gladhand, and Rick Malone as Officer Krupke.  The large ensemble performs superbly.

Bolstering the performance is the terrific costuming by Tristan Raines, and the fun and enthusiastic choreography by Jeffry Denman.  Brilliant sound design by Laura Shubert enables the existence of both the quiet and lively moments, with the lyrics and music being equally discernible without one overpowering the other.  Completing the magic is the beautifully performed score by Music Director James Olmstead and the entire Band.  While not the happiest of stories it’s true, this classic is beloved by multiple generations.  Regardless of your familiarity with West Side Story, this production is worth seeing.

Running Time: Approximately 2 ½ hours including one 15 minute intermission.

Advisory: Sexual references and violence.

West Side Story is playing at the John W. Engeman Theater through November 8, 2015.  The theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport NY.  For tickets call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or click here.

NY Times Review: ‘The Cottage’ in Northport Is a Saucy Farce




“The Cottage,” a saucy farce about infidelity set in 1923 England, was written — contrary to any expectations that description might conjure — very recently by Sandy Rustin, a young American playwright who lives in Maplewood, N.J. Compounding its lack of British pedigree, the play was first produced at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in 2013 before spawning regional productions in Colorado, Massachusetts and Arizona. In 2014, the Astoria production enjoyed another run in the borough where it had its world premiere, this time at Queens Theater in the Park.

The play was “inspired by the works of Noël Coward,” according to the website of the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, where the comedy is now running, complete with onstage tea sipping and the frequent tossing around of words like “darling” and “fetching” in plummy BBC accents.
By all rights, “The Cottage” should have been a cutesy one-joke gimmick. But this laugh-out-loud bit of fluff manages to maintain a bubbly mood throughout increasingly absurd plot twists. Nearly all the elements, including mannered acting styles, are intentionally exaggerated. After all, it’s not easy sending up Coward classics like “Private Lives” and “Blithe Spirit,” which are themselves sendups of romantic comedies. B T McNicholl, the director, working with the associate director, Jennifer Werner, has done an impressive job of finely calibrating the production’s tongue-in-cheek tone so that it’s emphatic but not shrill.

As the play begins, Sylvia (a 1,000-watt Rachel Pickup), wearing a slinky negligee ensemble, is practicing alluring poses with which to greet the man with whom she has just spent the night. When Beau (Henry Clarke, more reserved) appears, they agree they’ve had “wild sex.” They’ve been doing it once a year for the past seven years, since both are married to others. This time, though, Sylvia wants to make it more permanent and has sent telegrams to his wife, Marjorie (a droll Christiane Noll), and her husband, Clarke (Jamie LaVerdiere), revealing their affair and their location.

The spouses show up, of course, and are joined later by two other characters, an effervescent younger woman named Dierdre (Lilly Tobin) and her former husband, Richard (Brian Sgambati). All the actors do justice to their roles.

To reveal more about the plot would be a disservice. The play’s humor relies heavily on surprises, which are comedic even when you see them coming. A pregnancy, a gun, a disguise and a prolonged episode of flatulence figure in the action. British upper-crust manners are also a target, as characters most likely in distress still politely comment on the “lovely cottage” and Beau’s “smart robe.” Strangely, the house in which they meet, designed by Jonathan Collins, is wood paneled and looks more like a lodge than a country cottage. However, Tristan Raines’s costumes and other design aspects are spot on.

Not that there is anything wrong with a play that is a bauble, but this one could benefit from a bit more serious underpinning, perhaps addressing more fully (but subtly) the Coward quotation printed in the program, which says that it is “discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”

The play’s mocking approach, by the way, owes as much to Oscar Wilde as to Noël Coward. (Indeed, hanging on a wall is a portrait that supposedly shows Beau’s deceased mother but is actually a somewhat altered photograph of Brian Bedford playing Lady Bracknell in Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” on Broadway.) Bringing the total running time to 90 minutes by omitting the intermission might be another improvement. But really, for an airy night out on a summer eve, “The Cottage” is fine as is.

“The Cottage” continues through Sept. 6 at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main Street. Information: engemantheater.com or 631-261-2900.

The Northport Daily News: Welcome to The Cottage: British romantic farce opens at the Engeman Theater

Cupid’s arrows go uproariously astray in Sandy Rustin’s “The Cottage,” a farcical comedy of romance, manners, and sex (but not necessarily in that order!),  which inaugurates the John W. Engeman Theater’s  2015-2016 season.

Set in the early 1920s, the action takes place in a cozy family hideaway nestled in the English countryside far from the madding crowd of London.

It’s morning and negligee-clad Sylvia (Rachel Pickup) and Beau (Henry Clarke) are basking in the afterglow of a night of love in this idyllic setting. Surprise of surprises,  the pair have been indulging in “unwifely” sex and the riskiest, friskiest variety at that.  Sylvia is actually married to Beau’s brother, Clarke. Oh dear!  The couple has been bucking convention for one night a year for seven years without detection.

But the bubble  is about to burst on their unwedded bliss.  Unbeknownst to Beau,  Sylvia has   decided to end  the marital charade by sending  telegrams to both Clarke and Beau’s wife, Marjorie,  filling them in on the history of infidelity so that she can have Beau for herself once and for all.

It’s enough to blow the rafters off the cottage.

Sylvia’s impetuous decision ignites a hilarious and sometimes surprising sequence of arrivals: Marjorie (Christiane Noll),  Clarke (Jamie Laverdiere), Dierdre (Lilly Tobin), and Richard ( Brian Sgambati). I won’t spoil the fun by telling you about the roles these last two characters play, but every time there’s a knock at the door, you will wonder who is showing up for tea and crumpets….. or scotch. In fact, one of the funniest scenes occurs when one of the stars literally drinks herself under the table.

Written in the tongue and cheek style of the famed Noël Coward, the rapid fire repartee takes off on a dizzying pace and you will almost need a scorecard to keep track of who’s been with whom.  I should also say that the British comedies sometimes indulge their audiences with some naughty humor and “The Cottage” is no exception.

Rachel Pickup, an actress experienced in Shakespearean theater who has enlivened many a London stage, is a delight as the fetching, free-spirited Sylvia.  Henry Clarke, who is also boasts an equally extensive Shakespearean resume, is her match as the debonair lover who would have preferred to maintain the status quo.

Jamie Laverdiere has appeared on Broadway in ‘The Producers’ and in the national tour of ‘Urinetown’ and ‘A Chorus Line,’ and Christiane Noll,  who boasts an extensive resume of Broadway credits and tours, perfectly complete the dysfunctional family picture.

Both Brian Sgambati and Lilly Tobin succeed in upping the ante with their hilarious antics and surprises.

A British comedy of this genre requires split-second timing, and the cast,  under the direction of BT McNicholl, delivers it.  Kudos to Wojcik/Seay Casting for their choices which were spot-on.

The ‘cottage’ designed by the incomparable Jonathan Collins– which theatergoers admired before the show even began– is a work of art. An abundance of burnished wood,  a muted color palette and distressed floor all attest to the fact that this is a structure that has stood the test of time. We glimpse some of the weathered exterior of the cottage at the edges of the interior.  Trelliswork laden with colorful flowers convey the beauty of the surrounding meadows. Kudos to props designer Eric Reynolds for upping the cottage’s charm with just the right assortment of knickknacks, flower pots and ferns peeking out hanging baskets.

I also have to compliment Tristan Raines for outstanding costumes which suited both the period and each character.

‘The Cottage’ runs through September 6.  The Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport Village. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

Times Beacon Record Review: Humor abounds as ‘The Cottage’ comes to Northport’s Engeman Arts & Entertainment

Humor abounds as ‘The Cottage’ comes to Northport’s Engeman

Henry Clarke & Rachel Pickup in a scene from “The Cottage.” Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Charles J. Morgan

Announcement to theatergoers everywhere — the English language is alive and well and ensconced on the boards of the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Standing like a rock in a sea of drivel, the theater’s latest play, “The Cottage” by Sandy Rustin, exhibits the nuances, the understatements, the acerbic humour, the articulate dialogue and even wisecracks to such a sophisticated, yet rapidly delivered, neatly interfaced lines that your scribe must confess he did not want the show to end.

From left, Henry Clarke, Christiane Noll and Jamie LaVerdiere in a scene from "The Cottage." Photo by Michael DeCristofaro
From left, Henry Clarke, Christiane Noll and Jamie LaVerdiere in a scene from “The Cottage.” Photo by Michael DeCristofaro








Rustin sculpted her work mindful of the spirit of that arch-sophisticated Noel Coward. A sample of his penetrating wit appeared epigrammatically on the Playbill:

“It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”

Directed by BT McNicholl, the play expresses the web of marital and unmarital involvement that it is interspersed with humour that comes at the audience like a spray from a Bren gun. Yes, it is high comedy delivered in a rare sense of hilarity. It was interesting to literally watch the audience slowly accommodate itself to the sophistication of it all. A graph of laughter would register from zero to 100, reaching a climactic 100.99 right down to the almost slapstick finale.

Since your scribe does not hold a critic’s duty to relate what a play is all about, suffice it to say that it involves two couples who have criss-crossed spouses. So if there is a denoument, these characters do their absolute best to untangle it. Rachel Pickup playes the lead, Sylvia Van Kipness. Tall, beautiful and statuesque, she appears in all of Act I in negligé and peignoir. Over and above it all she is a supreme actress with a stage presence that would make her outstanding if she wore a suit of armour.

Henry Clarke is Beau, her lover. He has all the masculine good looks of the Hollywood leading man, but he employs all his talents to remarkable effect. In one scene he daringly points a fireplace poker at a man aiming a rifle at him.

Christiane Noll & Lilly Tobin in a scene from "The Cottage." Photo by Michael DeCristofaro
Christiane Noll & Lilly Tobin in a scene from “The Cottage.” Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Sharply involved in the verbal interplay is Christiane Noll as Marjorie. Jamie LaVerdiere plays Clarke, Beau’s brother and husband to Marjorie who was once married to Beau. Then onstage comes Lilly Tobin, as Dierdre who is actually bounced all over the boards in Act II. Another spoiler is Brian Sgambati as Richard, the allegedly long-lost husband of Dierdre, but actually a deserter from the Royal Navy. Put them all together and you get a hilarious story that gets untangled … maybe.

The title reflects the set. It is the interior of an English cottage located 90 miles from London, possibly the Cotswolds. Set designer Jonathan Collins has outdone himself with this effort. It is tastefully decorated in what may be called English Rustic of 1923, the play’s time frame. Collins’ skills are outstanding.

The ribald essence of the show is an outcome of the vanished Victorian/Edwardian values that went up in smoke on the Somme, Gallipoli and Passchendaele. Hence the gaiety of the actors involved in marital disintegration. But let us not get somber over this. The show is humourous and not without a touch of satire.

If deadly serious matters can be put up for laughs, then prepare to split your sides … keeping in mind that the English language is alive and very well.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “The Cottage” through Sept. 6. Tickets are $59. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

BWW Reviews: Sandy Rustin’s Newest Play THE COTTAGE at The Engeman


July 29
5:11 PM2015

Attending the newest work from Sandy Rustin, The Cottage, a 2014 Reva Shiner Comedy Award finalist, you will feel inspired watching an original production being developed. This hilarious story, inspired by the works of Noel Coward, runs through September 6th at the gorgeous John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island.

Wonderfully directed by BT McNicholl, it seems difficult to tell you about the tale without giving away the entire story and/or diminishing the comedic value. It revolves around a family in addition to some crazy characters with several storylines and many hysterical twists filling this two-act play. You truly become engrossed in the conversations and hilarity as the production has clever, enthralling writing and unfolds at a quick pace. To speak generally, this story is about “sex, betrayal, and, oh yes, love” as per the Engeman’s playbill.

Naturally, Mr. McNicholl’s ensemble cast is top-notch. The six person cast consists of Henry Clarke as Beau, Jamie Laverdiere (Broadway: The Producers, Pirate Queen, et. al.) as Clarke, Tony nominee Christiane Noll (Broadway: Ragtime, Chaplin, et. al.) as Marjorie, Rachel Pickup as Sylvia, Brian Sgambati (Broadway: The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, et. al.) as Richard, and Lilly Tobin as Dierdre. They all work incredibly well together and superbly deliver the zany shenanigans much to the approval of the enthusiastic audience. You will see their chemistry and timing are first rate.

Another highlight is the incredibly stunning set created by Engeman vet Jonathan Collins with Eric Reynold’s coordinating the props. As suggested from the response of my fellow patrons first walking into the theatre, Mr. Collinsoutdid himself with the rustic yet homey ambiance of the family’s English countryside cottage. The addition of Mr. Reynolds’ beautiful props ideally exhibited the upper class lifestyle of the family. To complete the beautiful overall look of the stage, Tristan Raines‘ costumes and Driscoll Otto‘s lighting are exquisite.

And so, The Cottage is indeed another hit for the Engeman. An engaging, amusing story and a divine, Broadway caliber cast make for a delightful night of theatre.

The Cottage is presented through September 6th at the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island. BySandy Rustin, Directed by BT McNicholl, Scenic Design by Jonathan Collins, Costume Design by Tristan Raines, Lighting Design by Driscoll Otto, Sound Design by Laura Shubert, Hair & Wig Design by Leah Loukas, Props Design by Eric Reynolds, Casting by Wojcik/Seay Casting, Stage Management by Devin Day. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

NY Theatre Guide Review: ‘The Cottage’ at John W. Engeman Theater

The John W. Engeman Theater opened its 2015/2016 season last weekend with The Cottage.  Written by Sandy Rustin, The Cottage is an exceedingly funny new comedy sure to delight.  Taking place in the English countryside in 1923, this uproarious farce is full of secrets, sex and surprises.

The Cottage is a fun and ludicrous romp certain to entertain a variety of ages.

When Sylvia Van Kipness (Rachel Pickup) decides to come clean about her love affair, she does it spectacularly.  While spending a romantic evening with her paramour Beau (Henry Clarke) at his family’s cottage, she decides to inform both of their spouses about their relationship through a telegram.  When her husband Clarke (James Laverdiere) and Beau’s wife Marjorie (Christiane Noll) inevitably arrive, things become . . . awkward.  They, then, graduate to the hysterically ridiculous when the jilted spouses decide to divulge a secret of their own.  Just in case that wasn’t enough entertainment, another lover of Beau’s, Dierdre (Lilly Tobin), arrives on the scene soon to be followed by her potentially murderous ex-husband Richard (Brian Sgambati).  With witty banter, and hilarious situations, The Cottage takes you for an amusing ride through multiple layers of infidelity.

The cast and crew of this fast-paced show, have done an incredible job.  Comedic timing and speed of delivery are crucial in a play of this variety, and the execution is flawless all around.  The charming set by designer Jonathan Collins brings to mind a fairy-tale cottage, while the historical costumes by Tristan Raines add to the allure of a time gone by.  Directed by BT McNicholl, The Cottage is a fun and ludicrous romp certain to entertain a variety of ages.

Running Time: Approximately 1 ½ hrs. including one 15 minute intermission.

Advisory: Sexual themes and situations.

The Cottage is playing at The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport until September 6th, 2015.  The theater is located at 250 Main St. Northport NY.  For tickets call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or click here.

Newsday Review: Hilarious sex farce at Engeman Theater

‘The Cottage’ review: Hilarious sex farce at Engeman Theater

July 27, 2015 6:06 PM
By STEVE PARKS  steve.parks@newsday.com


The trouble with reviewing exponential sex farces such as “The Cottage” is that you can’t write anything about them without spoiling the fun.

Well, almost nothing. If you go to the Engeman Theater website, you’ll see a teaser about a “rollicking farce” that “unfolds when Sylvia Van Kipness decides to expose her love affair to her husband and her lover’s wife.” Among the few plot details I can add without alerting you, dear reader, to potential spoilers, is that Sylvia does so by telegram. No one’s heard of texting (or sexting) in this new play by Sandy Rustin, an American author inspired by Noel Coward’s romantic comedies. Set in Roaring ’20s England, it’s libido that roars loudest.

Sylvia and Beau have been trysting annually at his mother’s country cottage for as long as they’ve been married to other people — seven years. It’s not guilt that moves Sylvia to reveal their affair without first consulting her co-cheater. It’s lust. Sylvia thinks the truth will set her and Beau free from the anchors of their wrong-spouse marriages.

That her husband and his wife become key players in the ensuing complications seems obvious enough. So there’s little risk in revealing their subsequent arrival on the scene, a handsomely detailed set by Jonathan Collins, who turns the title abode into a virtual character. These are folks of means and taste — comfortable without being conspicuous — down to their fashion statements (personality-revealing costumes by Tristan Raines).

Other revelations about the married foursome would ruin one saucy zinger or another. So we’ll limit our comments to acting chops.

As Sylvia, Rachel Pickup is so beautifully blithe — also the other way around — that we see her “confession” as free-spirit spontaneity. Henry Clarke as Beau (not to be confused with Jamie Laverdiere as Sylvia’s husband, Clarke) evokes the easy humor of a gentleman who’s no gentleman, except for his manners. Aforementioned Laverdiere as cuckolded Clarke turns our expectations into a laugh-out-loud in-joke, while Christiane Noll as Beau’s wife, Marjorie, can’t conceal her sight gag, which makes it all the more delicious. Let’s just say that I’ve never found flatulence as funny as depicted here (Laura Shubert’s sound design). Lilly Tobin as Deirdre and Brian Sgambati as Richard/William multiply the unpredictable delirium, directed with impeccable timing by BT McNicholl.

Despite Sylvia’s dud final line, you may ache with laughter.

WHAT “The Cottage”

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Thursday, July 30, and Friday, July 31, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, through Sept. 6, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.

TICKETS $59-$64; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com


NY Times Review: Get-Rich Scheme Goes Comically Awry in ‘The Producers’

 The cast of “The Producers” at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport. CreditMichael DeCristofaro

A Max Bialystock who looks like Mel Brooks. A Leo Bloom who sings mellifluously and mewls comically. A curvy Ulla with a sweet smile and a mischievous twinkle. Confetti. What’s not to like about the bubbly, bodacious production of “The Producers” now at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport?

Nothing, really, and there is a lot to enjoy. Stuart Zagnit, who plays Max, is not trying to imitate Mr. Brooks, the creator of the hit 2001 musical (with book-writing help from Thomas Meehan) and of the classic 1968 movie on which it is based. Mr. Brooks, who turns 89 on Sunday, has never played Max, but it’s easy to imagine him in the role of the crazy producer who concocts a scheme to make a fortune by mounting a surefire Broadway flop. Mr. Zagnit resembles Mr. Brooks physically and possesses the bounding energy that the master comic has often displayed. That energy is central to the character of Max, who is able to persuade a timid accountant to take risks, and to romance dozens of “little old ladies” in order to get their cash for his show. Mr. Zagnit’s singing voice is, additionally, much better than Mr. Brooks’s (which was absolutely fine for the humorous songs he delivered in movies like “High Anxiety” and “To Be or Not to Be”).


Joel Newsome as Leo Bloom, left, and Stuart Zagnit as Max Bialystock. CreditMichael DeCristofaro

Igor Goldin, the director, has captured the fizzy showbiz joy that permeates the musical, even when things go desperately wrong for Bialystock and Bloom, the mousy accountant who becomes an eager partner in crime. As Leo Bloom, Joel Newsome, who performed in the Broadway cast and was an understudy for the role of the nervous accountant, has the kind of chemistry with Zagnit that is needed to make this opposites-attract, best-buddies play work. He is especially funny when Leo brings out the remnant of his baby blanket that he uses for comfort, complete with baby whimpers. He makes a charming leader for a fantasy soft-shoe number performed with other accountants to the song “I Wanna Be a Producer.”

As in the other big production numbers, the chorus members perform exceptionally well. The mostly young men and women of the ensemble pass credibly — or at least amusingly — as gray-haired women using walkers in “Along Came Bialy,” one of Mr. Brooks’s many inspired cockamamie concepts. Though Antoinette DiPietropolo’s witty choreography follows the templates of the Tony Award-winning dances by Susan Stroman (who also won a second Tony for directing the Broadway show), she has done an excellent job bringing in her own touches. Kurt Alger’s costumes and wigs brighten the show, as do Daniel Willis’s set, Driscoll Otto’s lighting and all the other design elements. The music director James Olmstead and his band do well by the music.

Mr. Brooks is famous for sparing no group with often-stereotypical humor, and this show is no exception. Sometimes, he satirizes by-the-numbers staging, as when he includes a pair of nuns, a policeman, a soldier and other folks in a street scene in the beginning of the play. That is when Max, a seasoned producer who has fallen on hard times, learns that his latest production, “Funny Boy,” has crashed on its opening night. (The play is a musical version of “Hamlet,” an idea the creators of the current “Something Rotten!” are using.)

The failure of “Funny Boy” leads Bialystock to an epiphany after Bloom casually mentions that a producer could make money by raising extra funds, as long as the show flops and he doesn’t have to pay back his investors. Soon, Bialystock and Bloom start their quest to find the world’s worst play and worst director.

Along the way, they meet Ulla, a Swedish actress who auditions for them with her own song, “When You Got It, Flaunt It.” As Ulla, Gina Milo has got it, including the ability to make Ulla’s over-the-top allure into a spoof of the use of blondes as sex objects, at the same time that she is being a blond sex object. In a different scene, the addition of a short, stocky woman as a laughingstock among a bevy of willowy chorus girls seems meanspirited.

And then there are the gay jokes and the biggest joke of all: The selection of the musical “Springtime for Hitler” as a surefire bomb. These come off without a quibble. While John Plumpis is not quite vivid enough as Franz Liebkind, the pro-Nazi playwright, he is both jovial and deeply sincere. Likewise, Ian Knauer is a tad too reserved as Roger DeBris, the gown-wearing director Max pursues, but he is totally amiable, endearing and droll, especially when he steps in to portray dear old Adolf. It’s a delight to rediscover the many clever turns of this fabulous comedy.

BWW Reviews: The Engeman ‘Produces’ a Sensational PRODUCERS

BWW Reviews: The Engeman 'Produces' a Sensational PRODUCERSThe magic of Theatre (or even Art as a whole) – I believe – lies within its awe-inspiring ability to transcend expectation and disintegrate our preconceived emotional, physical, spiritual, and artistic notions. Theatre exposes us to countless worlds of boundless imagination: from the eccentric sensationalism of what happens “behind-the-scenes” (a la THE PRODUCERS) to the minimalist existentialism of a Beckettian vision (a la…well…most plays by Samuel Beckett). Regional Theatre’s role in all of this proves perhaps even more diverse, especially when theatre companies like the John W. Engeman Theater has the distinct way of bringing together people of all skill (and union) levels in a way that makes even me question whether or not Broadway is necessarily where the best theatre lies.In its opening weekend, I attended the Engeman’s production of Mel Brooks’ comic masterpiece THE PRODUCERS: led by a collection of Broadway vets whom were more than at home on the Northport, NY stage. This cast & crew brought bombastic vocals, pleasantly disjointed (y’know, in an organized chaos kind of way), out-of-this-world costumes (Don’t worry, there’s a dress made out of sausages…or dare I say…bratwurst. #SoyGerman), comedic timing that would put Abbott & Costello to shame, and sets made for a king: more specifically, the “King of Broadway.”BWW Reviews: The Engeman 'Produces' a Sensational PRODUCERS

For those unfamiliar with the show: “THE PRODUCERS tells the story of a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, and a nerdy, young accountant, Leo Bloom, who concoct a scheme to raise thousands of dollars from backers and then put on a flop of a show. With all the money that will be left over, the pair will be rich! Only one thing goes wrong: the show is a gigantic hit! With a truly hysterical book co-written byMel Brooks and Thomas Meehan(ANNIE), and music & lyrics by Brooks, THE PRODUCERS skewers Broadway traditions and takes no prisoners as it proudly proclaims itself an ‘equal opportunity offender’!”

I want to express the deepest gratitude to the director, Igor Goldin, for not directing his actors into a corner with this show. Each and every person onstage had a story to tell, and not just some façade to put on: a worry I typically have when viewing a comedic musical. Even each member of the ensemble had fantastic individuality and characterization that it makes one wonder whether an ensemble needs to necessarily “blend together” – which, in fact, is quite difficultnot to do when the show decks out its actors in outrageous costumes that make Betsy Johnson and Alexander McQueen look (I won’t be forgetting you, anytime soon, Bratwurst Dress…). Though, it’s the joint effort between the lead players and supporting players that create magic on that stage, and this cast did just that.

BWW Reviews: The Engeman 'Produces' a Sensational PRODUCERS

Stuart Zagnit (NEWSIES, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, SEUSSICAL, THE WILD PARTY) took a naturalistic approach to the brash Max Bialystock. Of course, elements of his choices were outrageous as to go along with the outrageous dialogue, but besides that, Zagnit’s performance gives an understatedly grandiose performance. Meanwhile, Joel Newsome (THE PRODUCERS, 42ND STREET) came in as a perfect foil for Zagnit: anxious, inexperienced, wide-eyed, the works. Newsome was quite at home in the role of Leo Bloom, since he just happened to understudy the role on Broadway, not too long ago. Though I thoroughly appreciated Mr. Newsome’s immature physical choices and pleasantly irritating moments of vocal trill, I felt that the performance lacked the adolescent-esque ambition that Bloom should be feeling in several key moments in the show, rather than moments of childlike frustration and dismissal.

BWW Reviews: The Engeman 'Produces' a Sensational PRODUCERS

The moments I felt Newsome was most appropriately wide-eyed were those in the presence of Gina Milo‘s (LES MISERABLES) Ulla: the Swedish goddess who arrives in the midst of a debate between the two leading men, in search of an audition (affectionately pronounced ow-diss-ee-oon). Milo arrived on that stage with the comedic presence in the same vein as Lucille Ball or evenSofia Vergara: unknowingly nuanced and subjectively (maybe objectively?) batsh*t weird. These three actors held the near-perfect comedic rhythm of this show in the palm of their hands, which they just so happened to have us eating out of, by the end of the show.

BWW Reviews: The Engeman 'Produces' a Sensational PRODUCERS

Other brilliant performances of (much deserved) note derive from the show-stealing duo of Ian Knauer (MAMMA MIA!, STATE FAIR, BY JEEVES) as Roger Debris, the infamous flamboyant “Worst Director in the World,” and Christopher Sloan (ALL SHOOK UP, FRIENDS AND RELATIONS, CABARET) as Carmen Ghia, the snippy, shady, and black-clad assistant to the director (So, would that make him the “Worst Assistant in the World” or…?). Between Knauers eccentric outbursts when inspiration struck his character, and the hilariously drawn-out, piercing stares of Sloan’s, there was no way to dismiss the amount this dynamic duo (corny phrase, I know) brought to the “producers'” table.

THE PRODUCERS will play the following performance schedule: Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00. Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $69 and may be purchasd by calling (631) 261-2900, going online at EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Stree, Northport, NY. Visa, Mastercard, Discover, andAmerican Express accepted.

THE PRODUCERS is produced by Richard T. Dolce, the Engeman Theater’s Producing Artistic Director. It is directed by Igor Goldin, with Choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo, and Musical Direction by James Olmstead. The Design Team is Daniel Willis (Scenic Design), Kurt Alger (Wig & Costume Design), Driscoll Otto (Lighting Design), Laura Shubert (Sound Design), Bryan Prywes (Props Design), Wojcik/Seay Casting, LLC (Casting Director), and Trey Compton (Assistant Director).

The cast of THE PRODUCERS features: Stuart Zagnit, Joel Newsome, Gina Milo, John Plumpis, Ian Knauer,Christopher Sloan, Pim Van Amerongen, Emily Blake Anderson, Abby Bartish, Molly Jean Blodgett, Mary Callahan, Michael J. Farina, Carl DeForest Hendin, Jeffrey Johnson II, Larry A. Lozier Jr., Suzanne Mason, Laura Otremba, Caleb Schaaf, Erica Wilpon.

NEWSDAY Review: ‘The Producers’ at Engeman review

Updated June 4, 2015 6:22 PM
By STEVE PARKS steve.parks@newsday.com

Two priceless scenes from Mel Brooks’ 1968 movie are missing from “The Producers” Broadway juggernaut. One is Gene Wilder’s manic “25,000 percent!” — the other, Zero Mostel’s attempted bribe of a critic. The latter relates to people who do what I do, while the former relates to accountants who do your taxes. OK, so we’re not candidates for prom king or queen. “The Producers,” in its unapologetically stereotypical way, nails any and all of us — Jews, goys, gays, straights, blacks, blondes, ladies of a certain age, Nazis. You can hardly imagine a more politically (and inclusively) incorrect comedy.

If you get past all that, you’re in for a musical treat in Engeman Theater’s season finale.
“The Producers,” which set a record for Tony Awards (12) in 2001, should no longer require a warning label for people who’d be appalled by mining the Holocaust for humor, though we respect those for whom that remains too much.

Theater reviews
It’s a by-now-familiar tale, probably attempted for real on Broadway: Make a killing out of a show that dies overnight. The trick is to sell 100 (or 25,000) percent in potential profit to each of 1,000 or more gullible investors. In “The Producers,” the scheme comes about when Leo Bloom, a meek accountant, examines the books after a Broadway producer’s latest flop: Max slightly overcharged his investors. What if he collected $2 million for a show that closed at intermission? Inspired by Leo, Max solicits little old ladies of means, led by spry, well-short-of-senior-citizenship Suzanne Mason.

Stuart Zagnit, who bears a resemblance to a younger Mel Brooks (88), revels in his character’s moral unambiguity. (“Imagine you’re a dishonest man,” Bloom suggests. “Imagine away,” Max responds.) Joel Newsome, who appeared in the Broadway production and understudied the Leo Bloom role, is at once mousy and Machiavellian as the little accountant who could, with a criminal co-conspirator, at last think big. Into their sham they enlist va-zoom Ulla (a well-pitched Gina Milo), Franz (antic John Plumpis), author of “Springtime for Hitler” and Roger De Bris (Ian Knauer), the gayest director in town and his significant assistant Carmen Ghia (Christopher Sloan), both playing it gayer than springtime, realized in gloriously kitsch costumes (Kurt Alger) and set (Daniel Willis).

As directed by Igor Goldin and choreographed by Antoinette DiPietropolo to James Olmstead’s orchestra, “The Producers” goes all out to stretch our PC boundaries. As it should.

WHAT “The Producers”

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through July 12, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.

Coming soon: Newsday’s Entertainment newsletter, for the latest on celebs, TV, more.

TICKETS $69; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com

Times Beacon Record Review: ‘The Producers’ hits the boards at Northport’s Engeman

Stuart Zagnit as Max Bialystock in a scene from ‘The Producers,’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Charles J. Morgan     

The musical “The Producers” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport last week and did not disappoint. Adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brooks’ 1968 film of the same name, it tells the story of a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer, Max Bialystock.

Once nicknamed the “King of Broadway,” Bialystock has recently produced a series of turkeys (“…the critics left at intermission”); so he must produce a hit or go broke. His easily swayed, near psychotic auditor Leopold Bloom shows him how to make millions by producing a flop! Both rummage through a pile of manuscripts until they find one entitled “Springtime for Hitler,” extolling the virtues of the Nazi party. Putting this one on had to be a failure! Off they go in search of the author and to find an “angel.”

Stuart Zagnit and Joel Newsome played the hilarious plotters as Max and Leo, respectively. They were so contrasted as the Machiavellian hard-as-nails fixer to the trembling, quivering weaker partner who still carries a piece of his infant security blanket. Both have lively tenor voices — Zagnit the mighty organ,  Newsome the exquisite violin.

Gina Milo, as Ulla the voluptuary, had all the right (and left) moves, topping this panoply of pleasure with a powerful soprano. Her “If You Got It, Flaunt It” number expressed it all.

The two plotters find their author in Franz Liebkind played by John Plumpis — a wacko Nazi in Luftwaffe steel helmet, imitation jackboots and a stick — he is all over the boards intoning a somewhat mangled German accent but coming on quite strong in Act II’s “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” and in Act II’s “Haben Sie  Gehört Das Deutsche Band?”

The gay community is well represented with Roger DeBris, handled smoothly by Ian Knauer, and Carmen Ghia, played languidly by Christopher Sloan. Knauer is well over the two-yard mark, leading one to believe that height was a requisite. Why? Because the height of the lissome female ensemble only added to their beauty, referring to Emily Blake Anderson, Molly Jean Blodgett, Mary Callahan and Laura Otremba. A marvelous performance, especially those kicks.

Choreography was by the ubiquitous and deeply talented Antoniette DiPietropolo with direction by Igor Goldin. DiPietropolo had a massive job on her hands. The cast was large and the ensemble equally so. Yet, as usual, she brought out a clear terpsichorean reality, including one done in walkers. Goldin was similarly charged with clear individualization and interpretation of characters. He succeeded handily.

At this juncture your scribe must reveal his impressions of the show’s music. James Olmstead leads a six-piece outfit featuring the incomparable Joe Boardman on trumpet, the trombones of Brent Chiarello and Frank Hall, Russ Brown on bass, Mark Katz on reeds and Josh Endlich on percussion driving it along.

Boardman has a tone redolent of Charlie Shavers with a whiff of Dizzy Gillespie. The sound of gunshots in Act II was actually rimshots by Endlich. Talk about accurate cuing. In fact, after final curtain this group did a little jamming. Your scribe was loath to leave his seat so much was he enjoying a trip down 52nd Street in the late forties.

This was a beautifully mounted production — something the Engeman is quite good at.

The John W. Engeman Theater will present “The Producers” through July 12. Tickets are $69. For more information, please call the box office at 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

The Village Tattler Review: The Producers Packs House On Opening Night at The Engeman

By Claudia D. Wheeler, on June 5th, 2015

Joel Newsome & Stuart Zagnit as the producers. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The Producers packed the house on opening night at The John W. Engeman Theater and is sure to continue its success through its run that ends on July 12, 2015. Where else can you be thoroughly entertained with the original and wacky humor of Mel Brooks, performed by an extraordinary cast with many Broadway credits, and not have to leave the North Shore of Long Island? The Producers is a wild, fun, entertaining night at the theater, complete with hilarious accents and lots of show business jokes .

The original Broadway production opened at the St. James Theatre in 2001, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, and won 12 Tony Awards.

Adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan (Annie) from Brooks’ 1968 movie starring Gene Wilder, with lyrics written by Brooks and music composed by Brooks, The Producers tells the story of the “King of Old Broadway” producer, Max Bialystock, and his nerdy, compulsive accountant, Leo Bloom, who join together to raise thousands of dollars from backers (mostly little old ladies). The scheme is to put on a flop of a show. With all the money that will be left over, the pair expects to be rich. But something goes wrong—the show they produce,Springtime for Hitler, is a huge hit.

The laughs in The Producers are at everyone’s expense—Nazis, little old ladies, compulsive disorders, homosexuals, the prudish—there’s humor here directed at almost everyone. The show within the show is “guaranteed to offend everyone, of every race,” notes Max Bialystock played by Stuart Zagnit, whose credits include Broadway: Newsies, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Seussical, The Wild Party, The People In The Picture, and Off-Broadway: Little Shop of Horrors, All In the Timing, Lucky Stiff, Kuni-Leml and The Grand Tour. The two schemers come up with a plan for success, which completely and wildly fails.

Director Igor Goldin who directed the amazing Engeman productions of Evita, The Music Man, and Twelve Angry Men, is joined by the equally talented choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo (Engeman: A Christmas Story, Hairspray, and Nunsense). They bring The Producers to life along with Musical Director James Olmstead (recently musical director at Engeman for A Chorus Line andEvita).

The cast of The Producers is perfect. In addition to Zagnit who is magnificent as the King of Old Broadway and sets the mood in the opening number, there is Joel Newsome playing the accountant-turned-producer Leo Bloom. Newsome appeared in The Producers on Broadway and in its second national tour in the same role as Bloom. Other credits include 42nd Street on Broadway and the National Tour of Billy Elliot.

Gina Milo is back at the Engeman as the curvaceous Ulla from Sweden after notable roles as Mother in A Christmas Story, Muriel in Plaza Suite, and Penny inHairspray, among others. She is so funny as Ulla and lends her beautiful voice to many of this show’s musical numbers.

Stuart Zagnit, Gina Milo, Joel Newsome. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

John Plumpis plays the eccentric Nazi Franz Liebkind, who wrote the playSpringtime in Hitler. His German accent and dancing are memorable. His credits include National Tours: The Lion King, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Barrymore starring Christopher Plummer and the 2011 film; NYC:  Playwrights Horizons, Roundabout, The Mint, company member TACT.

Also memorable are the enormously entertaining performances of Ian Knauer as Roger Debris and Christopher Sloan as Carmen Ghia. Credits include Broadway:Mamma Mia!, State Fair, By Jeeves (Rev. Pinker);  Off-Broadway: York Theatre, NYMF, NY City Opera, Carnegie Hall, six shows at Encores! National/International; Tours: The Wizard of Oz, Bugle Boy, Doctor Dolittle, Sunset Blvd., 42nd Street; and UK: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (West End), The Sound of Music, Chicago, Steel Pier.

Sloan’s credits include NYC/Off-Broadway: All Shook UpFriends and RelationsJoy and Richard Rodgers’ Broadway; Regional: Cabaret starring Debbie Gibson,HairsprayHow to SucceedSpamalot and The Wizard of Oz; National Tours: Cabaret and The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber starring Petula Clark, and TV: The Knick, Guiding LightAs The World Turns and Night of Too Many Stars on Comedy Central


Impressively funny (and equally offensive) numbers include “Der Gluten Tag Hop Clop,” “Keep it Gay,” “When You Got It, Flaunt It,” “Along Came Bialy (in Little Old Lady Land),” and “Where Did We Go Right?”

Kudos to the design team for an amazing set: DANIEL WILLIS (Scenic Design),KURT ALGER (Wig & Costume Design), DRISCOLL OTTO (Lighting Design),LAURA SHUBERT (Sound Design), BRYAN PRYWES (Props Design)WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING, LLC (Casting Director) and TREY COMPTON(Assistant Director).

The Producers runs through July 12, at The Engeman Theater located at 250 Main St., Northport. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

Performances are Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00. Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $69.

The Long Islander Review: The Producers Demands A Standing Ovation

By Phil Caycedo


Joel Newsome and Stuart Zagnit star as Leo Bloom and Max Bialystock in Engeman Theater’s “The Producers.” (Photo by Michael DeCristofaro)


With a packed house on their feet as the curtain closed on the farewell number “Goodbye,” the resounding applause begged to stay for more. Having seen the original Broadway production of “The Producers,” a record-breaking 12-time Tony Award-winning smash hit, I knew the ride I was in for.

What I didn’t expect, as a first-time John W. Engeman Theater at Northport audience member, was the caliber of the cast and overall production to be on par with the likes of the Great White Way.

This classic Mel Brooks comedic romp is a musical adapted from the 1968 film of the same name. “The Producers” tells the story of an unlikely partnership between Max Bialystock, a schemer and down-on-his-luck Broadway producer, and Leo Bloom, a dreamer and a nerdy neurotic accountant, disenchanted with his job and station in life.

On a routine audit of Max’s books, it occurs to the pair that “under the right circumstances, a producer could actually make more money with a flop than he can with a hit.” Max proposes the ultimate scheme:

Step 1: Find the worst play ever written – “Springtime for Hitler”

Step 2: Hire the worst director in town

Step 3: Raise two million dollars.

Step 4: Hire the worst actors in New York and open on Broadway

Step 5: Close on Broadway, take our two million, and go to Rio.

Only one thing goes wrong: The show is a gigantic hit.

With a truly hilarious book co-written by Brooks and Thomas Meehan (“Annie”) and music and lyrics by Brooks, “The Producers” skewers Broadway tradition and takes no prisoners as it proudly proclaims itself an “equal opportunity offender.” Ian Knauer and Christopher Sloan are a hilarious duo as Roger DeBris and Carman Ghia. (Photo by Michael DeCristofaro)


My hat goes off to the production team. I know firsthand how challenging it can be to adapt for the “small stage.” With limited space for such a large-scale production, Director Igor Goldin and Scenic Designer Daniel Willis pull off an exceptional flow to the show as the well-cast actors and seasoned dancers moved seamlessly through the vibrant, high-quality, multifunctional set pieces, accented with just the right amount of light. Choreographer Antoinette Dipietropolo impressively nailed signature numbers like “I Wanna Be A Producer” and “Along Came Bialy.” Rounding out the design team with distinctly detailed, fabulously eye-popping costumes is Kurt Alger who took the cake with “Springtime for Hitler.”

The principal roles are played by Broadway performer Stuart Zagnit as Max Bialystock and Joel Newsome as Leo Bloom – a role he played on the Broadway and the National tours. In roles originally played by Tony winners Nathan Lane and Mathew Broderick, Zagnit and Newsome are able to find a nice balance between the originals and their own interpretation of the characters. Their awkward chemistry and unlikely friendship ultimately ground the show, with great voices to boot.

Outstanding supporting roles took each scene to the next level as the crescendo of laughter continued to build through until the very end. Standout performances I must mention are: Engeman veteran Gina Milo, playing Ulla, a love interest for Bloom, was the epitome of a Swedish bombshell and can belt with the best of them. John Plumpis as Franz Liebkind brought the Nazi German flare the show could not have done without. And last but certainly not least, the hilarious show-stopping, far-from-ambiguously gay, duo of Roger DeBris played by Ian Knauer and Carman Ghia played by Christopher Sloan milked the laughter until the utter was bone dry. If there was ever going to be a spin off they would get it.

Congratulations to the cast and crew on producing a must see! A number of season ticket holders after the show said this is one of the best Engeman has ever done.

Catch “The Producers” through July 12. The theater is located at 250 Main St. in Northport. Tickets are $69 and can be purchased at engemantheater.com.

The Northport Daily News: “The Producers” triumphs at the Engeman Theater: Prepare for an uproariously good time

‘The Producers’– which might very well be the most over-the-top and lavish musical ever mounted at the John W. Engeman Theater– is bowling audiences over big time.   Laughter and applause prevailed throughout the performance of the zany comedy that I attended, with the actors receiving a resounding and well-deserved standing ovation.

Based on the book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, with music and lyrics by Mr. Brooks, the plot follows the wacky antics of Max Bialystock, a floundering former King of Broadway and his meek accountant, Leo Bloom.

As the show opens, Max has missed the mark yet again. Critics have deemed his latest production, ‘Funny Boy,’ the worst show on the Great White Way. Hamlet, perhaps Shakespeare’s most melancholy and conflicted character, would seem a most unlikely candidate for a comedic musical. Oy vey!

When Leo arrives, and is asked by Max to do some ‘creative’ accounting, the nerdish accountant examines the books, and spouts an epiphany that’s a game-changer.  It seems that under the right circumstances, a producer stands to make more money with a flop than with a hit. Bells go off in Max’s head: all he has to do is orchestrate the right combination of the worst of all theatrical worlds in terms of a play, director and cast so the show closes immediately and he and Leo can each abscond to Rio with a million dollar profit. But fearful Leo, who has been brow-beaten by his boss and has been coloring within the lines for so long, is having none of it.

For me, the show really heats up when Leo returns to the offices of Whitehall and Marks to toil beneath the shadows of towering file cabinets.  In the fantasy sequence, “I Wanna Be A Producer,” glamorous showgirls emerge from those file cabinets and Bloom dances his way into our hearts, singing about his secret desire to make it big on Broadway.

The odd couple of Max and Leo begin their collaboration, poring through piles of bad manuscripts. They find the musical that they are looking for in “Springtime for Hitler.” Written by neo-Nazi Franz Liebkind, who believes that history did Hitler wrong, the script is so crass, and offensive that Max doubts it could even make it to intermission. What Max and Leo have to endure to get Franz to sign a contract is hilarious. You could say that they had me at “Der Guten Tag Hop Clop.”  Franz (played by John Plumpis) is terrific.

Next the quest is on for the worst directorial team, whom they find in persnickety Roger Debris (Ian Knauer) and his ‘common-law’ assistant Carmen Ghia (Christopher Sloan), both of whom bring seasoned expertise to their performances and keep the audience in stitches.

The outlandishness reaches its pinnacle with the staging of ‘Springtime for Hitler,’ the riotous and absurd romp through Hitler’s Deutschland.  Kudos to Costume and Hair Designer Kurt Alger for intertwining both the glamorous and outrageous (consider a chorus girl wearing a full length sequined gown sporting a huge sausage on her head). Even now thoughts of that costume bring a smile to my face.

The polar opposites, Max (Stuart Zagnit) and Leo (Joel Newsome) are perfectly cast and play off each other beautifully and boy, can they dance and sing. Ulla, the blonde Swedish bombshell who whets both their appetites, is played by Gina Milo, whom many may remember from her roles in  Engeman’s “A Christmas Story” and “Plaza Suite.” She humorously shows off her considerable assets when she auditions for Max and Leo in  “When You Got It, Flaunt It.” She is absolutely superb.

The musical, which won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards in 2001,  continues to disarm  audiences. According to Director Igor Goldin, once again at the helm of one of Engeman’s finest productions,  Mel Brooks has a gift for giving “us permission, as a culture, to enjoy, without guilt, irreverent and politically incorrect humor.”  The show, dubbed the ‘equal opportunity offender,’ pokes fun at all kinds of stereotypes, challenging “us to laugh at what is taboo.”

“Within the context of the show, in the darkness of theater, we gladly agree. It feels wonderfully mischievous,” said Mr. Goldin, noting that, at the same time, Brooks enlightens us by defusing stereotypes.

Laughter can be very healing and cathartic and “can make us into a better and more understanding race,” Mr. Goldin concludes.

Mr. Goldin also loves how the play is structured.

“You start with our two unlikely protagonists: anti-heroes. You invest time with them, start to find these two losers of life funny and lovable.  Then you follow them on a journey as they meet one hysterical character after another, each more hilarious and outlandish than the previous.”

Choreography by the very talented Antoinette DiPietropolo, and music direction by James Olmstead—two of my favorites, and Daniel Willis’ terrific set– complete the perfect theatrical experience.

When asked what he hopes that theatergoers will come away with after seeing ‘The Producers,’ Mr. Goldin had this to say: “Exhaustion from having laughed so much. Hearing an audience laugh is one of my favorite things on earth.”

Does the production of ‘Springtime for Hitler’ sink or swim? You’ll have to see the musical to find out.

‘The Producers’ runs through July 12 but don’t delay. This show might very well sell out. The Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport Village. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

The Northport Daily News Review: ‘The Producers’ have arrived at the Engeman Theater: Be prepared for great entertainment!

In ‘The Producers,’ the former ‘King of Broadway’ Max Bialystock and his accountant Leo Bloom cook up a  get rich scheme of defrauding investors by coming up with a guaranteed of  flop of a show. But their best laid plans go horribly astray when ‘Springtime for Hitler’ unexpectedly wins over audiences big time.

‘The Producers,’ the Broadway blockbuster hit musical about a ‘show within a show’ opened at the John W. Engeman Theater this week and tickets are literally flying out of the box office and with good reason. The theater has pulled out all the stops in mounting the production which resonates with the off-beat humor of Mel Brooks. Director Igor Goldin was previously at the helm for outstanding Engeman productions including ‘Evita,’ ‘The Music Man,’ ‘Twelve Angry Men’ and ‘South Pacific.’   The very talented Antoinette DiPietropolo, who previously choreographed two of my all-time favorites, ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Nunsense’ will be working her magic. James Olmstead, who served as  musical director for ‘A Chorus Line,’  as well as  ‘Evita’ and ‘South Pacific’ will be doing what he loves and does best: directing the  band and playing the keyboard/piano.

The cast is also sensational. Stuart Zagnit, who plays Max Bialystock, boasts many Broadway credits, including “Newsies,” and is the veteran of many National Tours. He has appeared on television in 3D Rock and Law & Order.  Leo Bloom is played by Neil Newsome, who appeared in ‘The Producers’ on Broadway and in the musical’s second national tour. Many may remember the very versatile Gina Milo, who stars as the blonde bombshell Ulla, from her performances in “A Christmas Story” and “Plaza Suite.”

The Producers runs through July 12. The Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport Village. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

Smithtown Matters Review: “The Producers”

SUNDAY, MAY 31, 2015 AT 6:52 PM

THEATER REVIEW – The Producers – Produced by: The John W. Engeman Theater – Reviewed by: Jeb Ladouceur

Stuart Zagnit, ‘Encore’ winner Gina Milo, and Joel Newsome – photo by Michael DeCristofaroAn inside joke is a gag whose humor is understandable primarily for members of anin group, that is, people who are part of a particular social set, profession, or other community of shared interest. In a sense, it’s an obscure witticism that is humorous mostly to those in the know about the circumstances behind it.

With that in mind, The Producers has to be considered one of the most daring, yet successful risks ever undertaken on the Broadway stage. The show succeeds (indeed excels!) because the magical Mel Brooks has made a slew of inside jokes very funny to any number of observers who never have, and never will, share the interests of those groups he addresses with his quips.

And there was another element of risk in the first staging of The Producers, it seems to me. Though well-received Broadway shows frequently are converted to motion pictures with a modicum of success, the reverse is seldom the case. The Great White Way is littered with torn-up scripts and discarded playbills that were inspired by triumphant movies…and consigned to the trash heap after opening night. Those involved in adapting The Producers for the stage had to be aware of the potential hazards involved in attempting to fill Hollywood’s big, glitzy shoes.

However, the genius of Mel Brooks was rewarded, as we all now know, when The Producers made history by winning a dozen Tony Awards, even surpassing the nearly four-decades-long record held then by Hello Dolly. That Carol Channing hit garnered eleven Tony nominations, winning ten. Furthermore The Producers demonstrated its staying power by running for more than (count ‘em) 2500 performances!

But how did Brooks manage to amuse so many different factions with material designed, it seems, to tickle the funny bones specifically of Gays, or Show Biz habitués, or even Nazi insiders? The answer, of course…he utilized the outrageous and the irreverent a la Imus, Stern, Limbaugh, Alan King et al. By so doing, Brooks appealed to our universal tendency to laugh at off-limits situations when they’re presented in the intimacy and privacy of the theater…scenarios that might not regale us in any other setting. Perhaps there should be a “No Prudes Allowed” sign over the Engeman door for the next six weeks.

Anyway…fasten your seat belts, folks…you’re off on a non-stop…rip-roaring ride at The Engeman Theater from now thru July 12. One caveat: find something else to entertain the 12-and-under crowd for the three hours you’ll be laughing yourself silly.

Your madcap driver on this careening theatrical roller coaster is Stuart Zagnit who plays the screwball ‘Max Bialystock’ (created on Broadway by Nathan Lane) and Joel Newsome is our zany tour guide ‘Leo Bloom’ (originated at the St. James Theater by Matthew Broderick). Both of the well-traveled leads at The Engeman take up where their megastar predecessors left off…with perfectly timed, comedic characterizations that are top-notch. And Gina Milo is a red-hot riot as the delectable ‘Ulla- – voluptuous ‘secretary-slash-receptionist’ (yeahsure!) for the whacky producer team.

Igor Goldin, who directed the Engeman’s Encore Award-winning Music Man in 2013, is at the helm for The Producers, and the cast couldn’t be in better hands. Goldin has his mile-a-minute machine perfectly tuned—it purrs like a kitten when appropriate, and roars like a lion when suitable.

Antoinette Dipietropolo’s choreography is predictably well-ordered and delightfully inventive, and the Musical Director, James Olmstead, with whom Dipietropolo frequently teams up, never fails to add his wealth of professionalism to any Richard Dolce produced show.

But this classic production is not dependent on elaborate Set, Lighting, Sound, Costumes, and the like, though they’re all superb in the ultra-lavish show. What really makes The Producers a slam-bang, cheeky, waggishly shocking hit is the assortment of inside jokes that Mel Brooks (the self-proclaimed ‘equal opportunity offender’) throws around like so many hand grenades…while taking absolutely no prisoners.

NY Theatre Guide Review: ‘The Producers’ at John W. Engeman Theater

Posted By: Kristen Weyer on: June 01, 2015
Stuart Zagnit and the company of The Producers. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Stuart Zagnit and the company of The Producers. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The Producers, this ribald comedy has been entertaining audiences of the stage and screen since 1968. Perhaps I ought to say, mature audiences, for this show certainly lives up to its claim of being an “equal opportunity offender.” No one, and nothing is safe from the satirical attack of these over-the-top stereotypical characters. Little old ladies, Hitler, sex, flamboyancy, compulsions, nothing is left unscathed. What is the result of such blatant stepping in social potholes? A hysterically funny, albeit slightly awkward, good time.

. . . a crazy, sidesplitting musical.

The John W. Engeman Theater has once again delivered a wonderful show. The spectacular band directed by James Olmstead, is bolstered with sound design by Laura Shubert. The incredible cast was given fantastic costumes by Kurt Alger, and great choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo. All of this together with a superb set by Daniel Willis, and lighting design by Driscoll Otto has made The Producers a must see. The Producers was written by Mel Brooks and originally produced as a film starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Brooks, with Thomas Meehan, adapted the film for Broadway which opened in 2001 starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick (who also went on to star in the 2005 movie version).

Max Bialystock (Stuart Zagnit) is a down on his luck Broadway producer who is desperate for a hit. When mousey accountant Leo Bloom (Joel Newsome) arrives to do the books, he innocently surmises that one could make more money with a flop than with a hit. That’s all Max needs to hear, and soon the two have hatched a plan to produce the worst play they can find. It’s a plan that can’t possibly fail, could it? They find the worst play, the worst director and a terrible cast, it’s a sure fire flop, until it’s a hit!

Stuart Zagnit’s characterization of Max is marvelous. He embodies the desperate producer, delivering a blend of dishonesty and determination. His mannerisms and attitude combined with an excellent sense of comedic timing, make for an impressive performance. Joel Newsome is perfect as the nervous Leo. His hilarious portrayal of the character’s ticks cause pause for laughter at numerous points, and his remarkable voice is quite pleasing. Both Ian Knauer as Roger Debris, and Christopher Sloan as Carmen Ghia will leave you crying with laughter at their fabulous performances. These two make some of the best scenes in the show. Beautiful Gina Milo is the well-endowed Ulla. Her lovely voice rings out through the theater with impressive power. John Plumpis plays the Hitler-loving playwright Franz Liebkind. He gives a spectacularly comical performance as the crazy fanatic. The rest of this talented cast includes: Pim Van Amerongen, Emily Blake Anderson, Abby Bartish, Molly Jean Blodgett, Mary Callahan, Michael J. Farina, Carl DeForest Hendin, Jeffrey Johnson II, Larry A. Lozier Jr., Suzanne Mason, Laura Otremba, Caleb Schaaf and Erica Wilpon.

Directed by Igor Goldin, The Producers is a crazy, sidesplitting musical. The real gift of this show is making the ridiculous seem necessary. With songs like “When You Got It, Flaunt It”, “Keep it Gay” and “Springtime for Hitler” there is never a dull moment.

Advisory: Sexual themes, and cursing.

Running Time: Approximately 2 1/2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.

The Producers is running at The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport through July 12, 2015. The theater is located at 250 Main Street, Northport NY. For tickets call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or click here.

Times Beacon Record Review: A classic fairy tale waltzes into the Engeman

A classic fairy tale waltzes into the Engeman

by Heidi SuttonApril 7, 2015

Michael Verre tries to squeeze a shoe on Kate Keating as Alyson Clancy and Maryellen Molfetta look on during a scene from ‘Cinderella’ at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport was a sea of blue princess dresses last Saturday morning at the theater’s opening of the classic fairy tale, “Cinderella.” Directed by Jennifer Collester Tully, the story follows the original plot closely with lots of fun and laughter. The inclusion of a few younger actors is a nice addition, making this show the perfect choice to introduce children to the magic of live theater.

Allie Eibler and Michael Verre fall in love in a scene from ‘Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully
Allie Eibler and Michael Verre fall in love in a scene from ‘Cinderella’ at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

Allie Eibler stars as the sweet and innocent Ella, a young girl whose father dies, leaving her at the mercy of her evil stepmother and mean stepsisters. Forced to do all the chores and sleep in the kitchen by the fireplace, she is nicknamed Cinderella. Her miserable plight attracts the attention of her fairy godmother, played wonderfully with a warm Southern accent by Suzanne Mason, who is determined to rescue her. Aided by her helpers, energetic 13-year-olds Ryan J. McInnes and Meaghan Maher (both last seen in “A Christmas Story”), the fairy godmother arranges for Cinderella to attend the royal ball, where she steals the heart of the young prince, played by the handsome Michael Verre, and, after the shoe fits, lives happily ever after.

The talented Maryellen Molfetta plays the role of the stepmother with just enough selfishness and greediness, and Alyson Clancy as Henrietta and Kate Keating as Gertrude are hilarious as the jealous stepsisters.

Maryellen Molfetta, Alyson Clancy, Kate Keating and Allie Eibler star in 'Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully
Maryellen Molfetta, Alyson Clancy, Kate Keating and Allie Eibler star in ‘Cinderella’ at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

It is the incomparable Kevin Burns, however (seen most recently as the Cowardly Lion in the “Wizard of Oz” and as Frosty in “Frosty the Snowman”), in the role of the king, who steals the show.  Blind as a bat, he fumbles around the set, always headed in the wrong direction, mistaking a topiary for a guard, and almost falls off the stage at one point, drawing the most laughs.

There is a lot of audience interaction in this show — something the kids just love. The actors walk up and down the aisles during scene changes, serving as a nice distraction. The king even wanders up and down the aisles with Cinderella’s glass slipper, asking little girls to try it on as the prince stands by with eager anticipation. Even the youngest guests won’t have time to grow restless as they participate in “The Sneeze Polka” dance and are asked questions by the cast.

Suzanne Mason bewitches the audience in a scene from 'Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully
Suzanne Mason bewitches the audience in a scene from ‘Cinderella’ at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

Designed by Laurén Paragallo, the colorful costumes, ranging from the stepsister’s hilarious outfits to Cinderella’s breathtaking ball gown, to the royal garbs for the king and prince, are spot on. Choreography by Marquez Catherine Stewart is terrific, especially evident during the “The Sneeze Polka.”

Meet the cast after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located in the back of the program. The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Cinderella” on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through May 10. Tickets are $15 each.

For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

BWW Reviews: The Engeman’s Sensational A CHORUS LINE

BWW Reviews: The Engeman’s Sensational A CHORUS LINE

BWW Reviews: The Engeman's Sensational A CHORUS LINEThough A Chorus Line may be produced consistently, it is always refreshing to see a good quality, professional, local production. This is exactly what you’ll get when you see the Tony Award winning musical running through May 10th at Long Island’s stunning John W. Engeman Theatre in Northport.

The large Broadway caliber cast is wonderfully directed by Engeman vet Drew Humphrey with Dena DiGiacintooverseeing the choreography. The tale, as we know, written by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, follows several actors going through the audition process to be cast in an upcoming musical. This is set to the iconic Marvin Hamlisch/Edward Kieban score that includes favorite songs “One” and “Sing!” among others. What’s beautiful about this piece is that each member of the ensemble cast gets to shine. They truly make you feel their tension and the stressfulness of the entertainment industry.

As the auditions for the fictional musical progress, Zach, the show’s director portrayed by James Ludwig, proceeds to ask each person about themselves. The stories vary and some will bring you to tears. Among the highlights is an emotional story from Cassie, portrayed by Jessica Lee Goldyn, who then interprets her angst into a stunning and inspired dance performance. Everyone in this cast is really brilliant.

Additionally, special kudos to Cory Pattak for the excellent lighting design bringing the bare stage alive. The “auditions” take place in an undecorated/unfurnished room with only a ceiling-high mirror upstage. It takes a one-of-a-kind cast to keep an audience’s attention with minimal sets and props and the sold out crowd responded well. And, naturally, it is always delightful to see a live orchestra this one superbly conducted by Music Director James Olmstead.

And so, A Chorus Line is certainly another hit for the John W. Engeman Theatre. A marvelous cast, a great story, beautiful music, and a top notch creative team make for a thrilling night of theatre.

A Chorus Line is presented by the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through May 10th. Book byJames Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, Music by Marvin Hamlisch, Lyrics by Edward Kieban, Directed by Dew Humphrey, Scenic Design by Jonathan Collins, Costume Design by Tristan Raines, Lighting by Cory Pattak, Sound Design by Laura Shubert, Casting by Scott Wojcik & Gayle Seay, Stage Management by Bethany Sortman, Music Direction by James Olmstead, Choreography by Dena DiGiacinto. For more information and to purchase tickets please call (631) 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

NY Times: ‘A Chorus Line’ Revival at the John W. Engeman Theater

The cast of “A Chorus Line” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. CreditMichael DeCristofaro

“Everything was beautiful at the ballet” is one of the most recognizable song lyrics from “A Chorus Line.” A similar line, “Everything is beautiful at the theater,” could be the overall theme of the 1975 musical, which won nine Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize in 1976. For the characters in this show about show business, no matter the ups and often painful downs of auditioning, they are never sure they will get a job or, if they do, how long it will last.

That brave outlook, and many other issues that “A Chorus Line” tackles, have not changed much over the last 40 years, which helps to keep this paean to musical theater and a dancer’s life feeling fresh and contemporary.

A big part of the charm of the high-energy production at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is that its youthful cast members seem to be expressing their own joys and tribulations through the songs they sing, as a chorus and individually. Nearly the only way to tell that decades have passed since the original production, which was based on real stories from some of the participants, is that when the dancers give their birth dates, they reveal that they were born in the 1940s or early 1950s. Most of those original cast members and contributors of the tales that were woven into the musical’s fabric by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, the book writers, are now eligible for Social Security.


Maria Cristina Slye plays Diana Morales. CreditMichael DeCristofaro

Thanks to Drew Humphrey’s sharp direction and Dena DiGiacinto’s snappy choreography, the stories and emotions that unfold — some of them more than a little sentimental — carry an urgency similar to the original’s. Scott Wojcik and Gayle Seay did an excellent job casting the show with spunky performers, many of them just starting their careers.

Among the standouts is Stephanie Israelson, who delivers a mischievous“Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” the comic song in which her character, Val, sings about how silicone and surgery helped her get roles. The fun she’s having with Edward Kleban’s clever lyrics and Marvin Hamlisch’s music, robust here but often lyrical in other songs, is infectious.

Kelly Sheehan’s Sheila, the sardonic, nearly 30-year-old dancer who has the guts to refer to herself as a woman, not a “girl,” strikes just the right poses and attitude. Because she wears a costume similar to the leotard and tights worn by Kelly Bishop, who won a Tony during the original production, she sometimes looks as though she is portraying Ms. Bishop. But her performance is her own.


Danny Wilfred, center, plays Richie Walters. CreditMichael DeCristofaro

In many ways, the staging here, including the set by Jonathan Collins, the lighting by Cory Pattak and the costumes by Tristan Raines, follows the template created by Michael Bennett, who is credited with conceiving, directing and choreographing the original. It truly was, to borrow another lyric, “one singular sensation,” both in form and content, and the revivals I have seen have not strayed far.

The trick is to make the elements appear organic rather than a copy, and the Engeman team has achieved that. The band, under James Olmstead’s direction, provides solid musical support.

The play’s main trouble spot. as it has always been — is the premise that Zach, the strict director conducting the audition, insists on turning it into a therapy session. He demands that the dancers impart their darkest secrets, supposedly because they might be asked to say a few lines on stage. Testing their acting abilities would make more sense. Furthermore, he then stresses that when they dance, they have to blend together, with no one sticking out. James Ludwig skillfully does not make Zach the sadistic monster he could be. (Interesting local connection: Robert LuPone, the original Zach, grew up in Northport, as did his sister Patti.)

The Engeman is also fortunate to have a strong Cassie, a dancer who was on her way to stardom but is now begging Zach, her former lover, for a spot back on the chorus line.

Jessica Lee Goldyn, who played Val and Cassie during the show’s 2006-08Broadway revival, shows off an elegant line and virtuosic twirls during her solo, “The Music and the Mirror.” More importantly, she conveys Cassie’s anguish and hard-earned maturity in coming to the realization that she is not meant to be a star and is satisfied — even proud — to dance “like everybody else” and be part of a chorus line.

Newsday: ‘A Chorus Line’ kicks up its heels at Engeman

Truth be told, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing “A Chorus Line” for the who’s-counting?th time.
Besides the refuse-to-quit winter, I was ruminating about what could possibly make “A Chorus
Line” fresh again.
Well, start by knocking it out of the park. The metaphor is apt. When reminded of how fragile a
dancer’s future is, one of the hoofers remarks, “We’re like athletes.” Careers fade with youth or
flame out with injury.
At the start, 21 dancers are auditioning for a Broadway musical in 1975. After the director
(James Ludwig as compassionate control-freak Zach) drills them through the opening “I Hope I
Get It” number, four are eliminated. The remaining 17 are informed that there are just eight
openings — four boys, four girls. But first, Zach wants to know something about their lives
Mike (an eager Eric Greengold) leads off with a confession: He got into dance by tagging along
with Sis and showing her “I Can Do That.” Others chime in, especially Andrew Metzgar as Misfit
Gay Son of Sports-Worshipping Dad. Sheila (Kelly Sheehan with cocky chips on each slender
shoulder), Bebe (Courtney Moran) and Maggie (Abby Church) relate variations of family
dysfunction in relating why they were only happy “At the Ballet.”
Rachel Marie Bell and DJ Petrosino, as married auditioneers, charmingly finish each other’s
phrases. Paul, played by Omar Garibay with a please-don’t-call-on-me cringe, gets a private
audience with Zach, who, in turn, demands one with Cassie, his ex-girlfriend who he believes is
overqualified. Jessica Lee Goldyn, in this more mature role, shows why she earned praise as
Val in the 2006 Broadway revival. She dances for her life in a brave solo that, ironically, may
prove Zach’s point. Although she says her character can’t act, Goldyn, indeed, can.
As Val, who flaunts her cosmetic enhancement, Stephanie Israelson evens the score in “Dance:
Ten; Looks: Three.” Maria Cristina Slye as Diana, felt “Nothing” in acting class before turning to
“What I Did for Love.”
Dance is what they all did it for, lovingly choreographed by Dena DiGiacinto, who was featured
in the Broadway revival, and directed by Drew Humphrey to James Olmstead’s orchestra, doing
honor to the late Marvin Hamlisch’s energetic, emotive score.
Collectively, they have us caring about what happens to each one individually, beyond who gets
hired and who doesn’t.
I almost didn’t mind driving home in an unrelenting spring snowstorm.
WHAT “A Chorus Line”
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through
May 10, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.

NY Theatre Guide: Theatre Review: ‘A Chorus Line’ at John W. Engeman Theater

The Cast of A Chorus Line-Patrick Ball, Rachel Marie Bell, Sissy Bell, Nic Casaula, Abby Church, Hayden Clifton, Matthew Couvillon, Courtney Fekete, Omar Garibay, Jessica Lee Goldyn, Francesca Granell, Eric Greengold, Stephanie Israelson, James Ludwig, Andrew Metzgar, Courtney Moran, PJ Palmer, DJ Petrosino, Alexzandra Sarmiento, Kelly Sheehan, Maria Cristina Slye, Michael Warrell, Sari Weinerman and Danny Wilfred. Photo by Genevieve Rafter-Keddy.

A Chorus Line, this classic musical with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kieban and a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, first opened in 1975.  It received immediate acclaim, and has won nine Tony awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, seven Drama Desk awards, the New York Critics’ Circle award and the Olivier Award.  It became the longest running show in Broadway history, until 1997 when it was exceeded by Cats.  With drama and humor, poignant emotion and dazzling dance numbers, there is something for everyone, keeping generations of audiences coming back for more.

This production of A Chorus Line is the perfect storm of vision, ability and creativity.

When? 1975.  Where? An empty Broadway stage.  Who? Seventeen hopeful dancers at an audition. Why? ‘Cause God they really need this job.  But as it turns out, ‘How’, is the real question.  How did they all come to be here?  How did they begin dancing in the first place?  How did this become their life?  Through the grueling physical and emotional audition process, we are given glimpses into these dancers’ pasts and how they became who they are.

Directed by Drew Humphrey, the Engeman’s production of A Chorus Line is superb.  The cast is amazing, the crew is on point, and the talent of the direction is obvious.  Stunning choreography by Dena DiGiacinto was performed with seemingly effortless execution from start to finish.  The stage was simply, yet perfectly styled by Scenic Designer Jonathan Collins, while accurate Costume Design by Tristan Raines seamlessly reflected each character’s personality.  Beautiful lighting effects by designer Cory Pattak, and wonderful sound design by Laura Shubert brought depth and emotion to many scenes.  As always, the orchestra under direction of James Olmstead was fabulous.

Every single person in this large cast deserves commendation on their performances.  Loaded with triple threats, the accuracy, ability and pure talent of these performers will blow you away.  Beautiful voices, incredible dancing and true believable emotion come from every angle.  The characters run the personality gambit from the snooty Sheila (Kelly Sheehan) to the adorable Judy (Sissy Bell), the young Mark (PJ Palmer) and the short but feisty Connie (Alexzandra Sarmiento).  Some of the most memorable moments include the incredible dance solo called “The Music and the Mirror” by Jessica Lee Goldyn as Cassie, the lovely singing of Abby Church as Maggie, and the humorous duet of “Sing!” with Rachel Marie Bell and DJ Petrosino as Kristine and Al.  The rest of this impressive cast consists of: Frank (Patrick Ball), Roy (Nic Casaula), Greg (Hayden Clifton), Larry (Matthew Couvillon), Vicki (Courtney Fekete), Paul (Omar Garibay), Tricia (Francesca Granell), Mike (Eric Greengold), Valerie (Stephanie Israelson), Zach (James Ludwig), Bobby (Andrew Metzgar), Bebe (Courtney Moran), Diana (Maria Cristina Slye), Don (Michael Warrell), Lois (Sari Weinerman) and Richie (Danny Wilfred).

This production of A Chorus Line is the perfect storm of vision, ability and creativity.  All of the necessary factors interweave to affect the quality of the final marvelous creation. Thoroughly enjoyable from the opening scene down to the spectacular final number.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.

Advisory: Mature audiences – Cursing and many sexual references.

A Chorus Line will be running at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, until May 10th, 2015.  The theater is located at 250 Main St. Northport, NY.  For tickets call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or click here.

Times Beacon Record: Go see ‘A Chorus Line’ before it’s too late


by TBR StaffApril 1, 2015

Jessica Lee Goldyn in a scene from ‘A Chorus Line’ at the Engeman. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Charles J. Morgan

“A Chorus Line” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport last weekend and was a top-notch terpsichorean treat! If your scribe could marshal more alliterative allusions evoking the theatrical theophany that burst forth last Saturday, he would be demeaning the meaning of accurate critical acumen. But enough of Roccoco doggerel! The show, directed by Drew Humphrey was, well, a smash hit.

Since it was all about dance and nothing but dance, a word about the choreography is in order. Dena DiGiacinto was in charge, and her fully charged crew put out a potpourri of evolutions and contortions in every genre including tango, tap, ballet and culminating in an all-hands-on-stage finale entitled “One,” which brought out a standing ovation rife with shouts of “Bravo!” DiGiacinto is immensely talented, having played a role in it on Broadway. However, she is the one who managed the unbelievable precision, coordination and aesthetic unitive finality that was a tribute to the totality of the show.

Since dance requires music, there was James Olmstead leading his magnificent crew with associate Bob Kelly and featuring Joe Boardman on trumpet, Brent Chiarello on trombone, Russ Brown on bass, Mark Gatz on reeds and Josh Enflich on percussion. In your scribe’s opinion previously expressed about this band, they could easily supplant a Broadway pit outfit including its string section.

The main lead is Zach, the choreographer charged with getting a chorus line in shape for a forthcoming performance. He is played by James Ludwig who reveals not only talent in dancing but a genuine stage presence as an actor. He even appears as a dancer in that knockout finale.

Then we have Jessica Lee Goldyn as Cassie who gives an empty-stage dance  solo in “The Music and the Mirror” as well as an emotional dialog with Zach that can only be described as riveting.

Stephanie Israelson is Valerie. She has two breakaway numbers. In Act I with Andrew Matzger and Sissy Bell called “And…” in which her dancing skills are obvious and in Act II a solo on “”Dance: 10; Looks: 3” in which those skills are more ubiquitous. DJ Petrosino as Al and Rachel Marie Bell as Kristine are hilarious in a number called “Sing.”

In another number entitled “At the Ballet” Kelly Sheehan, Abby Church and Courtney Moran manifested evident skill. Patent progress was also evident in Danny Wilfred’s performance as  Richie.

It should be remembered that every single person on the boards is a dancer. There are no walk-ons, no characters who have only dialog — it is dance and music all the way. Lighting was effected by Cory Pattak who handled the fast-paced action with consummate skill.

There was no set. Even the back wall upstage was seen; after all it was rehearsal and audition time. Laura Shubert on sound design made her  ability to balance, increase/decrease, volume shine through. Your scribe even picked up a brief solo by Josh Endlich played on sizzling high-hats. The beats of all the numbers was so complete that your scribe’s slightly arthritic knee grew tired from his left foot tapping. He actually had to switch to his right.

All in all, the entire performance is sharply and professionally performed, something that the Engeman has consistently presented to theater audiences.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “A Chorus Line” through May 10. Tickets are $69. For more information, call 261-2900 or visit www.engemean theater.com.

Smithtown Matters: Theater Review – “A Chorus Line”


“A Chorus Line”

Produced by: The John W. Engeman Theater – Northport

Reviewed by: Jeb Ladouceur

“A Chorus Line” opened at New York’s Shubert Theatre in the summer of 1975 and, after logging more than six thousand performances, it became for a time the longest-running musical in Broadway history. The show, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, finally closed in the spring of 1990. It had garnered a dozen Tony nominations … winning nine! As if that were not achievement enough, “A Chorus Line” also nabbed the 1976 Pulitzer for Drama, and the Marvin Hamlisch triumph is still The Great White Way’s sixth most durable show ever.

The story (whose all-important book was written by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante) delves into the aspirations, fears, and confessions, of seventeen dancers auditioning for some ‘forthcoming New York musical.’ Since all the action takes place on a bare stage in a Broadway theater, the easiest job for anyone on the production team is that assigned to Set Designer, Jon Collins, an artist who has proven time and again that he can handle anything requested of him.

The Choreographer’s task (undertaken and achieved masterfully by Dena Digiacinto) is much more demanding, however. Indeed, the dancing synchronization required in this play is a challenge, as they say, ‘for the ages!’

As for Costume Design: “A Chorus Line” is an inherently flamboyant affair that shows us exactly how an assortment of young people might plausibly be dressed as they present themselves for evaluation by a big-time musical producer. Accordingly, stylist Tristan Raines uses the show’s colorfully clad dancers to create an ever-shifting, constantly pleasing, pastel mosaic. What results is sheer magic … especially since the dazzling troupe is so expertly illuminated by Cory Pattak’s ingenious lighting. Veteran director Drew Humphrey could not have asked for a more adept team to assist him.

“A Chorus Line” attendees shouldn’t conclude early on that what they’re in for in this Engeman production is merely a group of eager young hoofers doing their thing in vibrant terpsichorean rehearsal togs. Actually, that would have been enough to make for a superb theatrical experience. But as we watch, the musical builds beyond our wildest expectations … until ultimately it becomes an unforgettable production that is lavish in every sense of the word. Credit costumer Raines, who dresses the dancers perfectly, first in appropriate tryout gear, and ultimately in the lush, matching outfits that mark the musical’s vivid climax. The resulting contrast is breathtaking.

It’s a radiant New York show through and through, this ‘Chorus Line’ phenomenon that’s currently mounted at Northport’s comfortable Engeman Theater. What, after all could be more representative of ‘The Big Apple’ a few miles west of us, than a diverse group of stage-struck performers seeking nothing more than an opportunity to strut their stuff before the world’s most sophisticated theater audience?

I cannot assign superlatives to any of the performers who’ll dance their way into your hearts between now and May 10th. To attempt such a thing would be unfair, even if it were possible. Nor can this critic point to a weak link in The Engeman’s “Chorus Line” … there simply isn’t one. Let it be said only that if anyone from the original cast of this groundbreaking musical were mystically to find themselves viewing the show presently being resurrected in Northport, they would likely turn to the person in the next seat and proudly say, “I was part of that award-winning ensemble in the 70’s … and these young men and women have it down cold.”

The Northport Daily News: Perchance to Dance: A Chorus Line opens at the Engeman Theater

‘A Chorus Line’– one of Broadway’s longest running extravaganzas—just opened at the John W. Engeman Theater.  Directed with finesse by Drew Humphrey, the show explores the elusive field of dreams of dancers competing for spots in a theatrical musical.   Featuring music by the incomparable Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kieban, and the book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, ‘A Chorus Line’ is a unique backstage look at a Broadway production. It is no surprise that the show has garnered a plethora of awards:  Tonys, Drama Desk Awards, and even the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The plot focuses on the 17 hopeful (and desperate) young dancers who survive the first cut.   Against the backdrop of an empty stage, they strut their best moves under the critical eye of the formidable director Zach (James Ludwig).  The chosen ones (and there are only eight spots) must demonstrate that they can perform seamlessly in unison. Although we see Zach from time to time, for the most part he’s heard from afar, giving him an omnipotent presence. And lo and behold, resumes and publicity photos are not enough for Zach. Perhaps, driven by his own inner demons (and it will turn out that he indeed has some), he wants each dancer’s backstory.  These self-revelatory monologues offer an intoxicating entrée into the hearts and the minds of the young dancers.  For some, like self-possessed Mike (Eric Greengold) and Sheila (Kelly Sheehan), the poised and svelte veteran of many theatrical productions, disclosure comes easy; for others, it is a psychological striptease which peels away the exterior, exposing insecurities and the life experiences that led them to dance.

The musical is full of energetic showstoppers and you’ll be hard-pressed to choose a favorite.  “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three,” sung by Valerie (Stephanie Israelson) is a humorous tribute to the positive impact that medical enhancement of her feminine attributes has had   on her career.

In contrast, “The Music and the Mirror” is a dreamy interlude echoed in the floor-to-ceiling mirror in Jonathan Collins’s set.  Cassie (Jessica Lee Goldyn who starred in the show on Broadway) is a former dancer who has failed at acting.  Now 37 years old, she  is not above begging  Zach, who turns out is her former lover, for a spot in the chorus.  Clad in a clingy red dress which hugs every curve, she auditions in private for Zach.  Losing herself in the moment and her love of the art, it was almost as if she is dancing with her  reflection, a figurative personification of her  previously successful self.   Goldyn’s execution and its impact are stunning.

‘One’ is indeed a singular sensation.  I was particularly impressed by Cory Pattak’s lighting, which at one point bathed the dancers in multi-colors, obliterating their individuality and giving the impression that the ensemble was one big dancing machine. And bravo to Dena DiGiacinto for the outstanding choreography.

“What I did for Love,’ sung by Diana (Maria Cristina Slye) and Company is a salute to the devotion to dance or any art form, cause, avocation, or occupation which is not about personal aggrandizement, fame, or fortune, but being part of a team and doing what you enjoy most.

I have long admired the work of James Olmstead, who has done double duty as the conductor and on the keyboard in the past.  He is once again at the helm and his band’s performance is flawless.

Prepare to be wowed by a non-traditional curtain call which pulls out all the stops in terms of showmanship and glittery costumes.  Kudos to Tristan Raines for this sheer delight. It was then that I was reminded that ‘A Chorus Line’ is a “show within a show” in the very real sense that the actors we applauded vied for their parts and made the cut.

“A Chorus Line” runs through May 10.  The Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport Village. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

1 / 3

The Huntingtonian: Review of A Chorus Line at Engeman Theater

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment,Local News |

Chorus Line

A group of performers dance their hearts out for a chance of a lifetime to be cast in a new Broadway musical. As the play opens the audience is immediately captivated in sorting out what is happening before them. A Chorus Line is one of the longest running shows in New York theater history, breaking records, winning nine Tony Awards, seven Drama Desk awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It is considered one of the most successful shows on Broadway ever.

DianaWhile watching the performance of A Chorus Line at The John Engemen Theater in Northport, audiences are reminded why this show is so memorable and timeless. It offers everything one could expect in a performance including drama, comedy, catchy music and dancing. A Chorus Line’s fame has led to many successful productions worldwide. The performance currently running at the Engeman Theater can be counted among those successes. This rendition lives up the high expectation that one would expect from A Chorus Line. This can be attributed to a well cast production with strong talent across the board. Each member gives a solid performance of dancing, singing and acting. While the entire cast was talented and well suited for their roles, there are some terrific performances that stand out and are worth noting.

A highlight was the excellent performance of “What I Did for Love” performed by Maria Cristina Slye who played Diana. One of the dancers named Paul falls and injures his leg and is forced to leave the auditions. Zach, the director, played by James Ludwig, asks the remaining dancers what they will do if they are not selected for this performance or if they can no longer dance. The consensus is they will never have regrets for choosing this lifestyle. At this moment, Maria Cristina Slye performs the show stopper and does a great job with it. Performing “What I Did For Love” as compared to the original is no easy task but Slye pulls it off. Maria Cristina Slye gave a strong performance as the feisty Diana throughout the entire show.

CassieAnother standout was Cassie, performed by Jessica Lee Goldyn who gave a moving performance and a superbly performed solo dance number. We learn that Cassie was romantically involved with the director before she left town. After not finding success, she is back and desperate to be chosen. Goldyn successfully captures the desperation of Cassie and we find ourselves rooting for her to be one of the 8 selected for the show.

Omar Garibay who played Paul had a moving performance as well. He reluctantly relays his heart-wrenching life story. Zach calls Paul on stage, and he emotionally relives his childhood and high school experience, his early career in a drag act, coming to terms with his homosexuality and his parents’ ultimate reaction to finding out about his lifestyle. Garibay does a great job with the character of Paul and his talent stands out.

PaulWhat makes the show so moving is that the audience gets to know the hearts and minds of the individual characters rather than having them remain as anonymous performers. We come to understand why dancing is so important to them individually as we learn about the events that shaped their lives. Caring about these characters brings watching the dance numbers to a whole new level beyond mere entertainment.

The finale of “One” meets the high expectation we’ve come to expect from this number. The number begins with an individual bow for each of the characters, and the audience immediately rejoices in their accomplishment. What makes the finale so enjoyable is the strong performances given by the entire cast. After sharing in the painful parts of their lives it is especially rewarding to share this joyous moment with them. It reminds us that life can be joyous as well as sad.  The finale is everything it should be and was very well performed. It leaves the audience feeling happy and satisfied.

Treat yourself to this well done rendition of A Chorus Line performed at Engeman Theater and you will find yourself thinking about the characters and singing the tunes long after having seen it.

A Chorus Line is currently showing at John W. Engeman Theater located at 250 Main Street, Northport. The show is running now through May 10, 2015. For tickets call the theater’s box office at (631) 261-2900 or visit their website at engemantheater.com

Covid-19 Policy Update

As a result of Governor Hochul's December 10th executive order, we are immediately updating our COVID policy as follows:

ROCK OF AGES: All ticket holders aged 5 and up must provide confirmation of vaccination prior to entering the theater. Anyone under the age of 5 will not be permitted to attend WHITE CHRISTMAS. Masks are strongly recommended to be worn at all times other than when actively eating or drinking.

DISNEY'S FROZEN JR.: We will continue the current policy that all ticket holders aged 12 and up must provide confirmation of vaccination. However, ALL ticket holders must wear a mask at all times, regardless of vaccination status, unless actively eating or drinking.

This executive order has been put in place through January 15, 2022 We will update our policy if this order is revoked at that time.

Thank you for your continued support.
Connect With Engeman
Send this to a friend