Newsday Review

‘Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ review: It’ll slay you

Danny Gardner, left, and Sean Yves Lessard star in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the John W. Engeman Theater. Photo Credit: Michael DeCristofaro

March 19, 2019
By: Barbara Schuler

You have to have a lot of faith in a show to start it off with a song that suggests the audience, at least those “faint of heart,” might want to leave. “Blood may spill … so if you’re smart, before we start, you’d best depart,” the cast sings in the opening moments of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.

No worries. Everyone at the performance I attended stayed in their seats and survived the delightful romp of a show by Robert L. Freedman (book) and Steven Lutvak (music), winner of the Tony Award for best musical in 2014. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for all the characters, any number of whom get bumped off in the course of the show after the impoverished Monty Navarro (Sean Yves Lessard, as adorable a serial killer as you’re likely to meet) learns from a family friend that he’s a member of the prominent D’Ysquith family and ninth in line to become Earl of Highhurst.

Murder and mayhem result as Monty embarks on a campaign to do away with everyone ahead of him in the line of succession — all remarkably played by the talented and hardworking Danny Gardner, last seen at Engeman as Don Lockwood in “Singin’ in the Rain.” Gardner puts all he ever learned in acting class to work as he plays the entire D’Ysquith family, among them the doddering priest, the stodgy banker, the country bumpkin, the aging actress, all coming to their doom (skating accidents, slippery roofs, Monty is quite creative) in a flurry of witty if not especially memorable songs that meet somewhere between operetta and British music hall.

The love part of the title is represented by two young women who have their sights set on Monty — the social climbing Sibella and distant cousin Phoebe played, respectively, by big-voiced Broadway veterans Kate Loprest and Katherine McLaughlin. The triangle comes to a head in the amusing, farcical “I’ve Decided to Marry You” with Monty an absolute riot as he only barely manages to fend off the two ladies.

Director Trey Compton and choreographer Vincent Ortega maintain a brisk pace. The cast (especially Gardner) makes quick changes that are often visible in the background of Nate Bertone’s clever set, bordered by portraits of the D’Ysquith clan that get X’d out as they do. It’s all great fun, which is something you can’t often say about a play with multiple murders. Certainly, who did them is no mystery.

 

Read online
Buy Tickets

The Theatre Guide Review

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – John W. Engeman Theater

Katherine McLaughlin, Sean Yves Lessard and Kate Loprest. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

March 19, 2019
By Kristen Weyer.

Who couldn’t use an escape now and then? Come travel back in time and away from reality and reason with A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, now playing at the John W. Engeman Theater. Mischief, mayhem and murder run rampart in this outrageous musical with book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman, and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak. Their combined genius is on full display the entire production with dizzying displays of immensely clever dialogue and lyrics.  It is easy to see why this show won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical.

With very “British” humor along the lines of Monty Python and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, it’s a little bit slap-stick, fairly dirty, and very irreverent of its subject – mainly murder.  The cast does warn the audience of this in their very first number aptly entitled “A Warning to the Audience” (and then hilariously seem quite perplexed why we didn’t all get up to leave).  It is by no means gruesome, but rather filled with campy death sequences and some exaggerated stage gore. If this is not your cup of tea however, then consider yourself forewarned.

It is London, in the early 1900s. The plot follows the young, handsome, and poor, Monty Navarro (fabulously played by Sean Yves Lessard).  When he learns that his recently deceased mother was really a disinherited member of the noble D’Ysquith Family, he reaches out to them hoping for a job and to be accepted back into the family.  However, after being cruelly rejected he resolves to enact revenge for his poor mother, and what better way than to take his relatives’ place and become the next Earl in their stead. One small problem: there are eight people ahead of him in the succession. Deciding to, shall we say, help them along their way he embarks upon a number of madcap schemes to whittle down his family tree and seize the Earldom for himself.  Throw in a score of zany characters, entertaining songs and a good dose of love and romance and you have the recipe for a fabulously fun night of theater!

This set design is also fun, and the off kilter lines of the stage mimic the crazy line of the story; Scenic and Prop Designer Nate Bertone did very well with that parallel. Wonderful sound effects by designer Laura Shubert bring multiple scenes to life and enhance the production.  Gorgeous historical costuming by designer Matthew Solomon set the time period and the characters.  The talent of the orchestra, under direction from James Olmstead, is on continual display; they performed impressively.

Danny Gardner and Sean Yves Lessard. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Lessard plays Monty with a killer combination of easy charm, dashing good looks and incredible vocals.  He switches with apparent ease from gorgeous held notes, to fast paced, tongue-twisting lyrics without losing tonality or clarity.  Monty’s polar opposite love interests are both portrayed with superb talent and brilliant acumen.  The sultry and coquettish Sibella is beautifully played by Kate Loprest, while Katherine McLaughlin charmingly portrays the demure and honest, Phoebe.  Both women bring charm, vivacity and humor to their characters while also treating the audience to their lovely vocals. Taylor Galvin gives some very funny moments as Lady Eugenia, and Matthew Patrick Quinn impresses with his low baritone.

While it is true that the entire cast did a wonderful job, including every member of the ensemble, the star of this production is Danny Gardner who plays the D’Ysquith Family.  Now you might be thinking, “Wait a minute, did she just say family? As in all 8 members of the previously mentioned succession?!” Yes. And actually it’s 8+ because there are a few others who pop up as well along the way.  There is, unfortunately, not room here to do the genius of Danny Gardner justice, I can only hope that the following will suffice.  He is brilliant.  He has personified and brought to life each character in a unique and specific way, no two are quite alike.  He changes his voice, his gait, his tonality and inflection, and he’s not just talking, oh no, he’s singing and dancing, gesticulating and tapping. There was not a large display of his tap dancing prowess in this show which was unfortunate, because he’s good (anyone lucky enough to have seen him as Don Lockwood in the Engeman’s production of Singin’ in the Rain will know just how good). His vocals are an absolute pleasure to hear, his characterizations are hysterical, and his comedic timing is spot-on. It is so impressive and beyond entertaining to watch him do these roles. Simply put, Danny Gardner started out as a triple threat and then left that in the dust.

Danny Gardner. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is many things.  It is clever and different, it is obvious and then surprising, it is strange, dirty, and macabre, and then hysterically funny, touching, and romantic. Director Trey Compton and choreographer Vincent Ortega have delivered a brilliantly executed production. It is fabulous fun, and I promise you won’t be bored.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

The Long Islander Review

Audiences ‘Rave On’ For Engeman’s Buddy Holly

January 25, 2019
By Janee Law

It’s no surprise that the John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “Buddy–The Buddy Holly Story” received a standing ovation from the audience during its Jan. 19 showing, as cast members kept the crowd moving and singing to the songs from start to finish.

Audience member Teresa Oliver, of Huntington, said this is a production that can’t be missed.

“Everything was excellent,” she said. “It got everybody moving, everybody dancing, and everybody was getting involved. I loved it”

The audience journeys back to 1957 to witness the true story of American musician Buddy Holly (Michael Perrie Jr.) and his historical raise to fame until his tragic death less than two years later. Instead of leaving the crowd with the sadness over the singer’s sudden death, the production focuses on pulling the audience in to celebrate his life and musical brilliance. Throughout the production, the ensemble also brings the crowd to act as a live audience for Buddy’s concerts and performances.

Audience member Frank Carino Jr., of Huntington, said the cast’s interaction with the crowd was awesome and everyone from his group “lost their voices during the show.”

“It was definitely an entertaining evening for all age groups,” Carino said. “It was honestly better than some of the Broadway shows I’ve seen, hands down.”

Engeman’s production is directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, with musical direction by Angela C. Howell. The ensemble had the audience grooving and rocking to more than 20 of Buddy Holly’s greatest hits, including “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Everyday,” “Oh Boy,” “Not Fade Away,” “Rave On” and “Raining In My Heart.”

In act one, Buddy Holly & the Crickets’ performance of “Oh Boy” will have the crowd saying “oh boy” as cast members energetically strum the chords and use their instruments as a bass—no pun intended—for entertaining stunts.

During the productions electrifying finale, which features Buddy’s “Johnny B. Goode,” Ritchie Valens’ (Diego Guevara) “La Bamba” and The Big Bopper’s (Jayson Elliot) “Chantilly Lace,” the energy from the audience was in full force, singing, clapping and dancing to each number.

Leading the stamina on stage is Michael Perrie Jr., who portrays the corky and ambitious Buddy Holly. Perrie brilliantly embodies Buddy’s musical talents and unwavering drive to follow his dream.

After Saturday’s show, Perrie said having the opportunity to play Buddy has always been a dream for him.

“I love playing Buddy Holly because he was a genius and he was a great inspiration for me,” Perrie said. “This was the first show I ever saw as a kid that got me into theater and so it’s very full circle for me to come back and do it.”

He added that every show brings a new discovery in his role as Buddy. “This production and this cast are phenomenal. They make me feel like there’s a new Buddy in there that I’m finding every time. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Other leading cast members include Sam Sherwood as Joe Maudlin, Armando Gutierrez as Jerry Allison and Eric Scott Anthony as Norman Petty.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

Broadway World Review

BWW Review: BUDDY – THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY at the Engeman

January 24, 2019
By Melissa Giordano

BWW Review: BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY at the Engeman

Northport’s exquisite John W. Engeman Theatre does it again with a boffo incarnation of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story. Running through March 3rd at the Long Island venue, the musical is strongly directed by Keith Andrews and boasts an absolutely stellar cast many of whom have been in previous productions of this show. While we know Buddy (along with a few of his friends) died young and tragically in a plane crash, Alan Janes has certainly created a joyous celebration of Buddy’s life.

The award-winning show has had a very extensive life originating in the West End in 1989 running there until 2008. It was on Broadway from 1990 to 1991 and has toured and been done locally, regionally, and worldwide ever since. In the Engeman’s production, Michael Perrie, Jr. excellently stars as the rock and roll pioneer. You will find he is a natural in the role as he belts out some of Buddy’s biggest hits including “Peggy Sue”, “That’ll Be The Day”, and “Maybe Baby” among many others.

The show is well thought out having the first act (and a little of the second act) set over several years telling the story about how Buddy started with his band, The Crickets, and the pressures of the music industry as he and the band wanted to move from country to rock-and-roll. It also shows him meeting his wife, Maria Elena portrayed adorably by Lauren Cosio, and the band recording. Then most of the second act shows their final performance at Surf Ballroom in Iowa. It is truly one big party as we also see performances by The Big Bopper, portrayed by the delightfully charismatic Jayson Elliot, and Ritchie Valens, portrayed charmingly by Diego Guevara.

The whole company is truly brilliant as is the clever creative team. Jordan Janota’s set is smartly stationary with some rolling pieces that make for flawless scene changes. This is enhanced beautifully by Doug Harry‘s atmospheric lighting and Dustin Cross‘ great costume choices as we are in the late 1950s. It is also thrilling to see that the enthusiastic audience was also into the participation aspect.

And so, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, is indeed another hit for the Engeman. I am certain that, even if you are not overly familiar with Buddy Holly‘s music, you will have a wonderful time. And his fans I am sure are elated this production honors him so beautifully. Being an old soul myself, I think it is safe to say you will be happy to have seen this must-see production this season.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

‘Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story’ hits all the right notes at the Engeman

January 23, 2019
By Heidi Sutton

 

February 3rd of this year will mark the 60th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s true pioneers who, in his short career, had a major influence on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Elton John.

Holly’s wonderful music, his lasting legacy to the world, is celebrated in Alan Janes’ “Buddy —The Buddy Holly Story.” The jukebox musical debuted in London in 1989 and arrived a year later on Broadway. The show opened at the John W. Engeman Theater last week and runs through March 3.

Directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, the show recounts the last three years of Holly’s life and rise to fame, from 1956 to 1959.

We first meet him as a strong-willed 19-year-old country singer (played by Michael Perrie Jr.) from Lubbock, Texas, and follow his journey with his band, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, as they venture into rock ‘n’ roll with hits like “That’ll Be the Day,” “Rock Around with Ollie Vee” and “Everyday.”

The impressive sets by Jordan Janota and props by Emily Wright beautifully evolve with each scene while the stage features a permanent arch of gramophone records that light up individually as each hit is performed.

Touring the country in 1957, Holly and his band head to the Apollo Theater in Harlem where the audience is treated to a show-stopping rendition of the Isley Brothers’s “Shout” by Apollo performers Marlena (Kim Onah) and Tyrone (Troy Valjean Rucker) before enjoying “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy!” and “Not Fade Away.”

We are witness to when Holly meets his future wife Maria Elena Santiago (Lauren Cosio) for the first time and when he leaves a pregnant Maria in 1959 to go on the Winter Dance Party tour by bus to play 24 Midwestern cities in as many days after promising her he won’t get on an airplane.

The final scene is also one of the show’s finest as Holly’s last performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, with J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (Jayson Elliott) and Ritchie Valens (Diego Guevara) is recreated in a poignant tribute. The audience is transported back in time and become concertgoers enjoyingoutstanding performances of “Chantilly Lace,” “La Bamba” and “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

The stage suddenly goes dark and a radio announces that all three singers were killed in a plane crash shortly after the concert. Richardson was 28, Holly was 22 and Valens was only 17. The tragedy was later referred to as “The Day the Music Died.” The lights come back on and the concert continues, bringing the packed house at last Friday’s show to their feet in a long-standing ovation.

By the end of the night, more than 20 of Holly’s greatest hits have been played live by the incredibly talented actors on stage, a fitting tribute to the Texan who got to play music his way.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

Newsday Review

‘The Buddy Holly Story’ review: A ’50s legend brought back to life

Armando Gutierrez, left, Skye Scott, Michael Perrie Jr. as Buddy Holly and Sam Sherwood star in “Buddy –The Buddy Holly Story” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Photo Credit: Michael DeCristofaro

January 23, 2019
By Barbara Schuler

 

It’s a blast from the past. “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is a rollicking celebration of the iconic singer, who consistently fought the system to make music his way.

The show, one of the earliest jukebox musicals, is mostly a late-’50s hit parade with the concert interrupted every so often to detail Holly’s meteoric rise and tragic end. Watching Michael Perrie Jr. in the title role is as close as many of us will ever come to seeing the legend live, no surprise since he’s been performing the show off and on since 2016. Rarely offstage, Perrie is perpetual motion from the moment he launches into the early hit “That’ll Be the Day.”

Director-choreographer Keith Andrews has assembled quite the backup bunch, starting with the other two members of Holly’s band — drummer Jerry Allison (Armando Gutierrez) and Joe Maudlin (Sam Sherwood), the bass player whose aerobic routine on the massive instrument brings down the house. (Note the actors in this show are the band, with pretty much everyone playing something.)

Other notable performances include Jayson Elliott as J.P. Richardson Jr., known as the Big Bopper, Diego Guevara as the hip-shaking Richie Valens and Eric Scott Anthony as Norman Petty, the producer whose tough love helped Holly reach the top. Costumer Dustin Cross does everyone up in ’50s finery — lots of crinolines and cardigans — and Jordan Janoda’s colorful set evokes the era.

The biographical part of the show highlights major Holly moments, starting in a Lubbock, Texas, roller rink (a little odd, though, that the band members outnumbered the skaters), on to a not-so-successful stint at the Nashville studios of Decca, then New York, where a booking at the Apollo caused quite the ruckus because the audience expected Holly to be black.

The show ends with a replication of the Feb. 3, 1959, concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, with Holly performing along with the Big Bopper, who gets the audience going with “Chantilly Lace,” and Valens, upping the decibels with “La Bamba”  (yes, you get to sing along). A string of Holly hits goes dark mid-“Rave On,” as a somber radio voice announces all three men were killed in the crash of their chartered plane. It could have been quite the buzzkill, but the interlude was brief and respectful, then the rock and roll resumed full volume, ending with the classic “Oh, Boy!” Most everyone leaves singing, but you can’t help wonder what might have been had Holly listened to his wife and never gotten on that plane.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

The Theatre Guide Review

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story – John W. Engeman Theater

Michael Perrie Jr. (Buddy Holly) and the cast of BUDDY – THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

January 21, 2019
By Jessica Kennedy

 

Buddy- The Buddy Holly Story premiered as the mainstage performance at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport this past weekend to packed houses! These enthusiastic theater goers were ready to celebrate the life and work of an artist who was taken from us way too soon.  Masterfully directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, and developed beautifully by Music Director Angela C. Howell, this show promises big names, big songs, and a big night of entertainment- and it delivers!

This story, presented through special arrangement with Buddy Worldwide Ltd., showcases the whirlwind musical career of Buddy Holly from January 1956 to February 1959.  We meet Buddy (played inspiringly by Michael Perrie Jr.), as he and the Crickets (played by the effortlessly talented Sam Sherwood and Armando Gutierrez), try to stir up the music scene with a bait and switch rock and roll performance on live radio.  Although many seem skeptical, local DJ Hipockets Duncan (the endearing and paternal Rik Walter) takes a chance and helps the struggling group land a recording contract with Decca Records. It is short-lived, however, as Buddy simply refuses to acquiesce to please his bosses at the price of his unique sound.  An introduction to Norman Petty and his wife Vi- played by the stern but endearing Eric Scott Anthony, and the comedic and affable Franca Vercelloni- is all it takes to skyrocket the Crickets into stardom. There’s trouble in paradise, however, as the Crickets part ways, and Buddy strikes out on his own, forming bonds with other unique artists, such as The Big Bopper (the charismatic and enthusiastic Jayson Elliott) and Ritchie Valens (the vibrant and gifted Diego Guevara).  The play acknowledges the tragic loss of these aforementioned stars, but chooses to focus more on the beauty and memory they left behind- ending in a spellbinding explosion of music and flair!

Armando Gutierrez (Jerry Allison), Skye Scott (Tommy), Michael Perrie Jr. (Budy Holly) and Sam Sherwood (Joe Maudlin). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

This show is indeed a celebration of a man who left his mark on the music industry, as well as in the hearts and minds of those who hear his voice.  Although Buddy Holly’s career only lasted a short while, he left the world with masterpieces of expression which truly transcend time. Not only do audience members have the pleasure of hearing Holly’s songs come alive on stage, but we are privy to the more intimate moments of his young life- the adaptation of his song “Cindy Lou” to “Peggy Sue” in order to rekindle a relationship between drummer Jerry Allison and his future wife after a brief breakup; or the fairy tale moment when Buddy sidles up to a beautiful young receptionist, Maria Elena (the captivating Lauren Cosio), and professes “I’m going to marry you”- and does!

This show is full of light, love, excitement, and celebration!  Act II itself becomes a concert in its final scene, and audience members rise to their feet for a standing ovation after truly astounding musical performances of “Shout,” “Chantilly Lace,” “La Bamba,” and “Johnny B. Goode,” only to have the show go on with a reprise of “Oh Boy” as we are on our feet- cementing that concert feel and offering a final moment to enjoy the celebration that this play is offering.  This show is all you hope it will be- and much more! The songs and lifelike performances will leave your head swimming and your heart full. Full of respect for a dynamo who left his mark on us all with a treasure trove of music which will continue to entertain and inspire for generations to come!

Read online Buy Tickets

The Long Islander Review

You Gotta Love ‘Elf, The Musical’

November 29, 2018
By: Sophia Ricco

It’s certainly true that “the best way to spread holiday cheer, is to sing it loud for all to hear”, which is exactly what the cast of Elf: The Musical did.

The beloved holiday film hit the stage of the John W. Engeman Theater to the delight of kids of all ages. With catchy original songs, intricate choreography and many famous quotes from the movie, the musical could put anybody in the holiday spirit, including audience member, Michele Donaldson who came all the way from Connecticut for the performance.

“It was amazing,” Donaldson said. “I thought it was definitely full of Christmas cheer, something we all need nowadays.”

Based on the 2003 holiday hit movie, Elf starring Will Ferrell, the 2010 musical found major success on Broadway. It tells the story of Buddy the Elf, a human orphan boy who crawls into Santa’s bag and is taken back to the North Pole, where he is raised by the elves.

In search of his father, Buddy travels to New York City where he encounters a world without holiday cheer and a father who never knew he was born. His adventures in the city are comical and accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack. No one could deny there was something magical happening on stage during “Sparklejollytwinklejingley,” “A Christmas Song” and “The Story of Buddy the Elf.”

“It was very good, I liked it,” audience member Peter Bono, of Northport, said. “They’re very talented people. It started off a little slow, but then as you got to know the cast it was great.”

This holiday production is directed by Matt Kunkel and choreographed by Mara Newbery Greer. The skilled cast didn’t miss a beat and performed sophiscated choreography that involved lifts, tap dancing and even ice skating. During the song, “Nobody Cares About Santa,” Santas of all kinds find camaraderie on Christmas Eve in a tap dancing number that makes you want to get out of your seat and dance along.

“I thought it was right on target. It was super fun and full of talent,” Donaldson said.

Buddy the Elf is played by Erik Gratton, the perfect fit for the jolly elf with a huge heart and little common sense. His rendition of Buddy, a character so many know and love from the original movie, is spot on.

There is no shortage of laughs during the production as Buddy makes his way around the city, bumbling around with a smile on his face the whole time.

“My favorite part was the whimsical nature of the show,” Donaldson said. “Just how nieve and happy Buddy was, I think we should all be that way.”

The rest of the cast were also sensational, and each had their moment in the spotlight.

Buddy’s love interest Jovie, played by Caitlin Gallogly, stole the show with her vocals in “Never Fall in Love”. The rest of Buddy’s family, Walter Hobbs, performed by Joe Gately, Emily Hobbs by Christianne Tisdale, and Michael Hobbs, by Zachary Podiar, each have their heartwarming moments that gave the show a touch of humanity.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

Kidsday Review

Enchanted by ‘Elf the Musical’ on LI

Erik Gratton, in light green, as Buddy the elf, with the cast of “Elf the Musical” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, where the show runs through Dec. 30. Photo Credit: Michael DeCristofaro

November 24, 2018
By: Zumra Demiroglu, Charlie Henning, Esther Loring and Ian Loring

We saw the show “Elf the Musical” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. It was fantastic. This adaptation of “Elf” was written by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, but it is based on the film written by David Berenbaum. This show is running right in our hometown!

The atmosphere was ready for the holiday season with trees decorated with gleaming lights outside the theater. Before we arrived at our seats, we were treated to a delicious hot chocolate covered with either peppermint or extra chocolate. The stage design had beautiful, gigantic snowflakes along with a New York City skyline, which really got us in the mood for what was coming. As the curtain opened Santa was on his chair yelling at the television and cracking jokes.

“Elf the Musical” is about a boy named Buddy who thinks he is an elf. When he was a baby, he accidentally crawled into Santa’s sack and got carriedto the North Pole. As he grows up, he realizes that he isn’t like the other elves, so he goes to Santa for help. Santa tells him his story and gives him directions to find his father, who doesn’t know he exists, in New York City. The rest of this show is Buddy’s adventure finding his father and love, and adapting to society.

Throughout the play, Buddy, with Santa’s blessing, explores New York City in the search for his father. He finds his father working at the Empire State Building. Buddy and his father create a relationship and also find the true meaning of Christmas.

All the actors and their performances in this production were superb. We especially liked the actors who played Buddy (Erik Gratton) and Jovie, his girlfriend (Caitlin Gallogly) because we felt like they told the story well through their emotions and enthusiasm. We also loved how the lighting designer made the lights move and complement the show. We thought the scenery was beautiful.

We thoroughly enjoyed this production and would definitely recommend it. Although it is a Christmas story, we think it is still entertaining and good for all people. Even though there were some jokes and references intended for adults, it was still an engaging and appropriate story for little kids. We rate this show a perfect 5.

The musical is running through Dec.. For information visit engemantheater.com

 

Read online Buy Tickets

The Observer Review

Santa’s Elf Buddy on Northport stage

November 22, 2018
By: David Ambro

Gather up the children and get them to the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport.

The Engeman just opened its holiday show, Elf the Musical, which runs through December 30, and it is terrific.

Erik Gratton, as Buddy, provides a delightfully uplifting rendition of the Elf we have come to love from the movie starring Will Ferrell, right down to a big sip of maple syrup right out of the bottle after a big squeeze onto the pasta he’s eating for breakfast. Mr. Gratton can sing and he can dance, but he also brings heart to Buddy at the Engeman, delivering punch lines and facial expressions that evoke uproarious laughter.

Elf at the Engeman, set in a snow globe, accompanied by a live orchestra, narrated by Gordon Gray, as Santa Claus, a familiar role for him, is a fun-filled journey from the magical Christmastown in the North Pole to the busy streets of New York City, where buddy finds his father Walter Hobbs, played by Joe Gately, an executive at a book publishing company where he has lost his spirit for the holidays and for his family, which has him on Santa’s “naughty list.”

It works.

Mr. Gratton is surrounded by a talented cast of characters. Buddy’s brother Michael, played by 12-year-old Zachary Podair, already a veteran on the Engeman stage, and his mother Emily, played by Christianne Tisdale, are a wonderful supporting cast. Their duets, “I’ll Believe in You” in Act I and “There is a Santa Claus” in Act II, are highlights of a show that just keeps getting better and better with each scene.

Walter Hobbs doesn’t believe Buddy is his son, and has him thrown out of his office in the Empire State Building, landing him in the Santa photo display at the world famous Macy’s Department Store. There, Buddy comes in contact and then in conflict with the store manager, played perfectly in the movie image by Randy Donaldson.

It is also at Macy’s where Buddy meets the girl of his dreams, Jovie, played by Caitlin Gallogly. Although a bit off for an Elf, the relationship evolves typically, a simple boy-meets-girl, a first date, a kiss, etc. But, when Jovie is stood up by Buddy at Tavern on the Green in Central Park, Ms. Gallogly’s star shines in “Never Fall in Love with an Elf,” a voice of beauty that accents the Engeman mantra of bringing Broadway to Main Street.

Elf at the Engeman draws out the Christmas spirit in everyone, enough so that by the end, Santa’s sleigh flies off into the night sky. It is a wonderful holiday production not to be missed.

Tickets may be purchased by calling the theater at 631-261-2900, online at engemantheater.com, or at the theater box office, 250 Main Street in Northport Village.

Elf the Musical is produced by Richard Dolce, the Engeman Theater’s Producing Artistic Director. “We always try to tell our stories so people care about the characters,” Mr. Dolce said during an interview after the press night opening of Elf Saturday, November 17. “We want audiences to care about the journey, no matter what it is, whether it’s Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, whether it’s Jack Kelly in Newsies, or whether it’s Buddy the Elf, we just try to tell the story so that you care about it. So, that by the end of the play you care about who they are and what they’ve gone through. Hopefully we’ve pulled it off again.

Mr. Dolce said Jovie’s number “Never Fall in Love with an Elf” is one of his favorites. “What I love about her is that she is this tiny little person and then she comes out in that number and has this amazing voice,” he said.

Other favorites are “Sparklejollytwinklejingley,” although he didn’t say it exactly right, by Buddy and the company, “because it is the first big production number.” He also said one of his favorites is “Nobody Cares about Santa Claus,” “because it is a good tap number and a great way to start Act II.

Mr. Dolce said staging Elf has been challenging, especially because it is a blockbuster that has become so popular as a result of the Will Ferrell rendition in the movie.

“It’s difficult. I don’t envy the writers when they are tasked with taking a beloved movie and turning it into a musical. It’s difficult. But, I think they did a great job. I think this works really well, and I think the director, the choreographer and the musical director did a fantastic job with our production,” Mr. Dolce said. “It’s always tough because people come in knowing the movie. It’s the same with A Christmas Story. People know the movie so well. We don’t write it, so we have to work with the material that the Broadway playwrights came up with. So the intention is to try to give as much of the sentiment of the movie as possible.”

With Will Ferrell unavailable to play Buddy at the Engeman, Mr. Dolce said Mr. Gratton is great for the part. “He brings his own honesty and goofiness to it. And we try to make people feel and remember what they knew from the movie with the musical, so that is the challenge every time,” he said.

“This is one of the first holiday shows that we have done that is modern. We have done Miracle on 34th Street, we have done It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas Carol and even A Christmas Story is a little bit older. So, this is one of the first ones that we have been able to do that is a little more modern,” Mr. Dolce said. “It’s a different sensibility. I think it definitely hits my generation – the 40s to 60s who grew up with the Will Ferrell movie Elf. So it is nice to be able to do a holiday show that hits the people who grew up with that movie, as opposed to It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, which were a while ago.”

 

Newsday Review

Santa’s little helper spreads plenty of Christmas cheer

Erik Gratton stars as Buddy "Elf the Musical"
Erik Gratton stars as Buddy “Elf the Musical” at John W. Engeman Theater in Northport through Dec. 30. Photo Credit: Michael DeCristofaro

November 20, 2018
By Barbara Schuler

WHAT “Elf the Musical”

WHEN | WHERE Through Dec. 30, John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport

INFO $73 ($78 Saturday evenings); 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com

BOTTOM LINE Corny but fun holiday romp based on the hit film.

Precipitation is falling at the John W. Engeman Theater again, only instead of the impressive deluge of May’s “Singin’ in the Rain,” we get a paper-shredder blizzard in the happy holiday romp “Elf the Musical.”

The Northport theater welcomes the season with this family-friendly adaptation by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin of the hit 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell. Here the lovable, galumphing elf Buddy is played by Erik Gratton, who couldn’t be more comfortable in the role, having done it last year at Madison Square Garden. Buddy towers over the other elves and his toymaking skills are woefully lacking — no surprise since he’s really a human orphan who climbed into Santa’s sack one Christmas and ended up being raised at the North Pole.

Santa (the delightfully jolly Gordon Gray, who also serves as narrator) spills the beans, revealing to Buddy that his publishing executive father, unaware he had a child, is on the naughty list because he’s lost the Christmas spirit. Needless to say, Buddy sets off to New York to do what elves do — fix things.

It’s a corny, predictable story with a first act that could stand tightening, but the infectious performances win out under the direction of Matt Kunkel. Gratton is perfect as Buddy, an adorable klutz who mixes childlike wonder with worldly wisdom. Wandering the city, he ends up at Macy’s, where he meets his future wife, Jovie (Caitlin Gallogly), before finally connecting with his family — dad Walter Hobbs (Joe Gately), a stressed-out workaholic with little time for his wife, Emily (Christianne Tisdale), and son Michael (Zachary Podair).

The ensemble gets quite a workout in the show, especially when, as elves, they are required to perform Mara Newbery Greer’s lighthearted choreography on their knees. Ouch! But the best number was the tap-dancing chorus line of fake Santas, in an eclectic mix of red outfits (love the Santa camouflage) by costume designer Leon Dobkowski. The charming set by Nate Bertone adds to the merriment.

In general, the music by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin is generic and not especially memorable, though Gallogly manages to turn “Never Fall in Love (With an Elf)” into a sizzling torch song, and the Macy’s staff’s “Sparklejollytwinklejingley ” is a lot more fun than beleaguered seasonal workers normally display. Needless to say, holiday spirit is restored in time for the finale — as Buddy brings his family together, the cast joyfully proclaims the best way to spread Christmas cheer is “singing loud for all to hear.”

 

Read online Buy Tickets

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

‘Elf’ at the Engeman is full of laughs and Christmas cheer

The cast of ‘Elf’

November 20, 2018
By Melissa Arnold

 

Whether you’ve been playing carols for weeks or are just now contemplating putting up the tree, the end of Thanksgiving signals the official arrival of the holiday season. If this is the most wonderful time of the year in your house, there’s no better way to enjoy it than by catching “Elf`The Musical” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.

Based on the beloved 2003 film starring Will Ferrell, “Elf” tells the story of a little boy who crawls into Santa’s gift bag and ends up at the North Pole. Raised as an elf, the ever-growing Buddy has no idea he’s really human, even though he’s a terrible toymaker. When Buddy learns the truth about his identity, he sets out on a journey to New York City to reconnect with his roots and find his family.

Insulated by the always cheery atmosphere of Christmastown, it’s an understatement to say Buddy faces culture shock upon arriving in the Big Apple. But it will take a lot to keep Buddy from spreading Christmas cheer, especially to the person that needs it most: his Scrooge-y father.

“Elf” made its Broadway debut in 2010 with book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan and music by Michael Sklar and Chad Beguelin. Devoted fans of the film will appreciate the show’s faithfulness to the original script, including Buddy’s classic one-liners that make it so iconic. The musical numbers aren’t especially memorable and feel unnecessary at points, but they do open up the opportunity for some great dance routines.

The production begins with Santa (Gordon Gray) inviting the audience to join him as he reads the story of Buddy the Elf. There’s something so fun about these moments that allow actors to interact with the crowd and draw viewers in. And the little details in Santa’s scenes (his oversized chair with a bag of Doritos and the remote control stuffed in the cushion) feel genuine and cozy. Gray’s portrayal of Santa is effortless, funny and truly believable — his belly laughs will make you wonder if he’s the real deal.

Erik Gratton is no stranger to the role of Buddy. He also starred in the national tour of “Elf” and last year’s Madison Square Garden production. While it’s hard to shake off the image of Will Ferrell in that famous green hat, Gratton leaves it all on the stage with tons of energy and all the zany enthusiasm Buddy deserves. His first experience and subsequent obsession with a paper shredder will have you in stitches. It’s also worth noting that he approaches the show’s rare emotional moments with surprising tenderness. Gratton will break your heart at the end of the first act during “World’s Greatest Dad (Reprise).”

After fantasizing endlessly about what life with his dad will be like, Buddy meets his overworked, agitated publisher father, Walter Hobbs (Joe Gately). Tension rolls off Gately in waves, and when Hobbs loses his temper, Gately fills the theater with powerful, roaring tirades. He’s a wonderful foil to Christianne Tisdale and Zachary Podair, who play Hobbs’s wife Emily and young son Michael. Tisdale and Podair have great chemistry as mother and son, and their duets in “I’ll Believe in You” and “There Is a Santa Claus” were personal favorites.

Of course, Buddy’s life is further turned upside down when he finds himself smitten with a beautiful, yet world-weary Macy’s employee, Jovie (Caitlin Gallogly). Gallogly is delightfully edgy and jaded for the majority of the show, making her character’s eventual thawing that much more enjoyable. She also has one of the strongest voices in the cast, and her vocals in “A Christmas Song” and “Never Fall in Love With an Elf” are a treat for the ears.

The ensemble in “Elf” has several different roles to play, from elves in Santa’s workshop to retail employees and bitter mall Santas. They deserve major props for their elf scenes — since elves are tiny, the actors perform on their knees. It’s no small feat to sing and dance to “Christmastown” from that position!

Choreographer Mara Newbery Greer and associate choreographer Tiger Brown are to be applauded for their hard work with the cast. The intense tap dancing in “Nobody Cares About Santa” is another impressive surprise.

Set designer Nate Bertone creates a whimsical backdrop for the show, grounded by huge arches covered in snowflakes. The giant logos for Macy’s and Greenway Press are eye-catching, as are the creative use of props and background silhouettes to show scene changes in real time. While musical director Charlie Reuter and the small orchestra are tucked out of sight in the pit, they provide the perfect, almost cartoonish, accompaniment to this silly show.

All told, director Matt Kunkel has led the Engeman’s cast of “Elf” in a production that’s loads of fun for the whole family — a perfect fit for the holiday season.

A note on content: “Elf” does contain some brief mild language and lighthearted innuendo that most children won’t notice. The show is generally appropriate for all ages.

If you have some extra money to spare, consider making a donation after the show to the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry, which supports more than 150 local families each week. Cast members will collect donations as you leave. For more information, call 631- 261-4357.

 

Read Online Buy Tickets

Broadway World Review

ELF THE MUSICAL at The John W. Engeman Theater At Northport

November 19, 2018
By Anthony Hazzard & Scott Stolzenberg

 

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, we’re telling you why, Buddy the Elf is coming to town! In fact, he just opened an effervescent production of “Elf The Musical” at the John Engeman Theater in Northport.

Based on the charming and popular film starring Will Ferrell, “Elf the Musical” has become the new holiday staple first staged on Broadway, then the Theater at Madison Square Garden, and now popping up everywhere. With swift direction by Matt Kunkel and fizzy choreography by Mara Newbery Greer, the Engeman’s “Elf” is spreading holiday joy and warming every heart.

The experienced Erik Gratton plays Buddy, the elf who accidentally went home with Santa one Christmas Eve and grew up at the North Pole until one day, he sets out for New York City to meet his birth father. Along his journey, he meets many interesting characters, some nicer than others, and just wants to make people happy. So the quirky elf puts syrup on spaghetti and is enthralled with the paper shredder that makes unlimited snow! He means no harm and only wants to be a platinum member of his human family.

Mr. Gratton’s fantastic Buddy takes us along his magical journey with pizazz. Each production number is a spectacle and Mr. Gratton relishes in the Christmas spirit right up to next Christmas. His father Walter Hobbs, played by the great Joe Gately, is definitely a softer soul than James Caan in the movie. Walter learns to love Buddy and reconnect with his distant family.

Broadway veteran Christianne Tisdale is a loving and endearing Emily Hobbs, wife of Walter, stepmother to Buddy, and mother to Michael played by the excellent Zachary Podair. Master Podair has an outstanding singing voice and gives us reason to believe that everything will turn out alright in the end.

Buddy’s love interest Jovie is played by the sweet Caitlin Gallogly who not only supports Buddy but proudly in act two ties up all loose ends. Standout performances include Nicole Hale as the wisecracking secretary, Richard B. Watson as scrooge Mr. Greenway, and Randy Donaldson as the energetic store manager. Other scene stealers include the magnificent Jacob Melssen and Matthew Varvar who appear in various roles throughout the production.

Finally, Gordon Gray is a perfect Santa Claus. How could we give Santa a bad review? He serves as the storyteller and we wish him the same merriment he presented to all of us. All the stellar cast members are fun and fabulous including Lauren Gobes, Trevor Michael Schmidt, Danielle Nigro, AJ Lockhart, Andrew Aaron Berlin, Sophia Deery, Kieran Brown, Tiger Brown, and Halle Mastroberadino. As the holiday season approaches, “Elf The Musical” reminds all of us that family is most important and makes us wish that Buddy the “sparklejollytwinklejingley” Elf was a part of our family!

 

Read Online Buy Tickets

The Theatre Guide Review

Elf the Musical – John W. Engeman Theater

The Cast of Elf. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

November 19, 2018
By Kristen Weyer

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear”. The John W. Engeman Theater does just this with their holiday production of Elf the Musical.  Based upon the popular film starring Will Ferrell, this musical has a book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, with music and lyrics by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin.  Running until December 30th, and directed by Matt Kunkel, Elf is exactly what you hope it will be: campy, cute and Christmassy.

Featuring the plot and your favorite lines from the movie (with slight tweaks), the play will be familiar to many.  Buddy the Elf (superbly played by Erik Gratton), discovers that he is in fact human (gasp!), and sets off to meet his father who doesn’t even know Buddy exists. Horror-of-horrors his father, Walter Hobbs (the brilliantly blustery Joe Gately) is on…the naughty list.  A workaholic with no time for his wife and the son he is aware of, Walter is shall we say less than thrilled to have a fully grown Elf show up claiming to be his son.  However, with his signature indefatigable cheer and unflagging optimism, Buddy sets off to instill the Christmas spirit within his newly found family and all he meets. Who knows? He might just make a Christmas miracle.

Christianne Tisdale (Emily Hobbs), Joe Gately (Walter Hobbs) and Erik Gratton (Buddy the Elf). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

With a fun set by Nate Bertone, great costumes from Leon Dobkowski, and entertaining choreography from Mara Newbery Greer, the humorous story of Elf is brought to life on the Engeman’s stage. Excellent sound design by Laura Shubert bolsters the entire performance, especially during an amusing rendition of “Carol of the Bells”.

From the “little?” elves, all the way up to the big man himself, Santa Claus, this cast gives wonderfully merry performances.  Gordon Gray is one of the best Santa Claus’ I’ve seen, with a perfect storytelling cadence, and the most believable laugh you’ve heard in a while.  Erik Gratton’s fabulous grin and guileless expressions, combined with great comedic timing, make him perfect for Buddy.  The lonely and jaded Jovie is drolly played by Caitlin Gallogly with a lovely singing voice. Christianne Tisdale and Zachary Podair are touching as mother and son, Emily and Michael Hobbs.  While all of the cast gave fabulous performances, Nicole Hale as Deb stole every scene she was in with hilarious antics and killer timing.

Fun and silly, charming and heartwarming, Elf the Musical is a delightful start to the holiday season.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

Huntington Now Review

‘The Impossible Dream’ a Beautiful Reality at Engeman Theater

September 28, 2018
By Mary Beth Casper

“The Impossible Dream” is back at the John W. Engeman Theater.  For the second time in ten years, the Northport playhouse is presenting “Man of La Mancha.”   Once again, it’s directed by Peter Flynn.

Note to all skeptics planning on catching a performance of this beloved classic:  Please check your cynicism at the door.

If you don’t,  you’ve been forewarned:  You can kiss your negativity  goodbye (at least for the duration of the show ), thanks to the beautiful performances of a well-directed cast, as well as the inspirational script and songs that may move  you closer to fighting for your own impossible dreams, ”No matter how hopeless.  No matter how far.”

This production is that good.

“Man of La Mancha, originally opened on Broadway in 1965 and was the recipient of five Tony Awards. Since then it has continued to dazzle theater-goers, both nationally and abroad.  Written by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, the script was adapted for the stage from the non-musical teleplay, “I Don Quixote, which was inspired by the writings of Miguel de Cervantes.

For those unfamiliar with the storyline, “Man of La Mancha,” is a play within a play.  It focuses upon Cervantes and his man servant, Sancho, having just been arrested and placed in a dungeon along-side murderers and thieves, as they wait their appearance before the Spanish Inquisition.  Their crime?  Foreclosing on a local Monastery.

Their fellow prisoners taunt Cervantes when they learn he is a writer. Once they discover his treasured manuscript, a play about Don Quixote, they take it from him.  In order to get it back, he challenges the prisoners to take on the roles and act the story out with him.

Richard Todd Adams mesmerized the audience in his roles as Cervantes and Don Quixote, the madman whose goal is to be knighted and return the age of chivalry to late 16th Century Spain.  Of course, he is considered “insane” for his beliefs, but the opinions of others don’t faze Quixote (the Man of La Mancha) one bit.  He blithely goes about his goals:  Fighting windmills and aiding damsels in distress.

Mr. Adams is charmingly believable in both roles and his magnificent baritone voice rose magnificently to the heavens during each and every song he sang.

It is the scullery maid and lady of the night, Aldonza, whom Quixote believes to be his special Lady, who may be his biggest challenge, though.   He changes her name to Dulcinea (which means sweetness) and begins the work of convincing her how special she is.  Not an easy task.  This Dulcinea has led a life of such hardship that try as he does, it’s nearly impossible to convince her of her beauty and self-worth.

This reviewer saw a production in which understudy Morgan Anita Wood filled in as Dulcinea, for the ailing Janet Dacal, who reportedly is coming back to the role.  Understandably, Ms. Wood seemed nervous at the beginning of the performance.  Quite frankly, she did not step up to the task, either acting-wise, or vocally.  However, shortly into her performance, she relaxed and embraced the role with pure gusto.  She deserves praise for her acting and singing ability.  Her rendition of “What Does He Want of Me?”– in which she questions what Quixote could possibly see in her, was both touching and beautiful.   Her angry, heartbreaking rendition of “Aldonza,” was also beautifully sung and was relayed with heart-wrenching emotion.

The highest point of the evening was Mr. Adam’s resounding rendition of “The Impossible Dream” at the end of Act One.  He had the audience in the palm of his capable hands.  And, during ensuing reprisals of that song in Act Two, it was clear how much the audience appreciated his performance, as well as the presentations of the others who joined him in song.

The ensemble cast moved from dungeon prisoners to participants in Cervantes’ play effortlessly.  One of the stand-outs of the evening was Garfield Hammonds (Padre), whose stage presence and charm-filled performance deserves a special nod.

Besides superb acting and singing by the entire cast, this production was well-served by the amazing scenic design of Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, as well as the effective lighting design of Alan C. Edwards and the  costuming of Kurt Alger.

“Man of La Mancha” runs through Oct.28.

 

Read Online Buy Tickets

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Theater Review: A dream-worthy ‘Man of La Mancha’ opens at the Engeman

The cast of ‘Man of La Mancha’

September 23, 2018
By Rita J. Egan

The cast and crew of John W. Engeman Theater’s “Man of La Mancha” have set off on a quest resulting in a production worthy of Broadway. The musical opened at the theater Sept. 13, and on the night of the press opening, Sept. 15, theatergoers filled the venue looking forward to the reincarnation of the perennial favorite.

“Man of La Mancha” debuted off-Broadway in 1965 and went on to win five Tony Awards. Written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, the Northport version is masterfully directed by Peter Flynn.

Taking its cue from literature, the musical takes the story of “Don Quixote” written by Miguel de Cervantes and sets it to music. In the play, which takes place during the Spanish Inquisition at the end of the 16th century, Cervantes is in prison waiting for his trial. Upon his arrival, his fellow prisoners try to take his belongings, including the manuscript of the story he is writing.

Richard Todd Adams (Don Quixote) and Carlos Lopez (Sancho Panza) in a scene from ‘Man of La Mancha’

Following the tradition of prisoners putting newcomers on trial, Cervantes is charged with being an idealist, and a mock trial begins. The writer, in an attempt to defend himself, has his fellow prisoners play the characters in “Don Quixote.” Through their re-creations, audience members meet Alonso Quijano, the aging man who believes he’s a knight-errant and calls himself Don Quixote. Quijano and his squire Sancho Panza embark on a journey where they meet an array of characters including Aldonza the bitter serving woman and prostitute at an inn who Quixote envisions as a virtuous lady.

Michael Bottari and Ronald Case have gone above and beyond with the detailed set design of a dungeon on the Engeman stage, and Kurt Alger has done an excellent job with costumes, especially with the Knight of Mirrors’ gear in the second act. Choreographed by Devanand Janki, the musical contains high-energy dance numbers that complement the stellar production. The actors and the orchestra, under the musical direction of Julianne Merrill, are in top form during every number.

Richard Todd Adams as Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote is charismatic as the main character who takes his fellow prisoners on a fictional journey. His deep, rich vocals are perfect on every song. When he sings “Dulcinea,” upon meeting Aldonza and sees her as a pure, good woman, his voice has the potential to make many swoon. He also stops the show with his delivery of “The Impossible Dream.”

Janet Dacal plays Aldonza with the right amount of sullenness but yet perfectly portrays the character’s softening later in the musical. Her singing, especially her solos, “What Does He Want of Me?” and “Aldonza” are filled with power and emotion.

Carlos Lopez is a delightful and charming Sancho Panza and lends a good amount of comedic relief including during his solos “I Really Like Him” and “A Little Gossip.”

Janet Dacal (Aldonza) and Carlos Lopez (Sancho Panza)

All of the ensemble members do a fantastic job, and each has time to shine in the spotlight. Morgan Anita Wood, Garfield Hammonds and Phyllis March are wonderful during “I’m Only Thinking of Him.” Deven Kolluri does a great job as the cynical Duke and Dr. Carrasco. In the prison scenes where he plays Duke, he portrays the character’s disdain for Cervantes perfectly. His vocals are strong when he joins Wood, Hammonds and March on “We’re Only Thinking of Him.”

Joshua Wayne Oxyer, Cody Mowrey, Juan Luis Espinal, Enrique Cruz DeJesus and Diego Gonzalez as the Muleteers sound fantastic together on the number “Little Bird, Little Bird.” Bruce Winant easily goes back and forth from the tough governor to the kind innkeeper, and Mowrey garners some laughs as the barber who tries to understand Quixote’s delusions.

The story of “Don Quixote” and “Man of La Mancha” is more than a tale of a man gone mad battling a windmill he thinks is a giant. It’s about seeing the good in people and the world even when strife seems to prevail. Cervantes and Don Quixote look to escape the realities of life by searching for the good in all things and people, and their attitudes are contagious. It’s obvious the cast gets this message as they seamlessly go from conveying doubtfulness over their new dungeon mate to showing hope in the impossible dream by the end. For theater lovers on a quest for a musical that has it all, the Engeman’s “Man of La Mancha” is a dream.

Read online Buy tickets

The Village Tattler Review

A Dream of A Musical at Engeman Theater in Northport

Richard Todd Adams as Don Quixote and Carlos Lopez as Sancho Panza in Engeman’s Man of La Mancha. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

September 23, 2018
By Claudia Wheeler

This impossibly entertaining musical, from the first strum of the guitar to the moving finale, brings the classic Cervantes masterpiece set in 16th century Spain to life on the stage. Man of La Mancha will run through October 28, 2018, at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater. It is a dream of a musical complete with moving songs such as “The Impossible Dream,” and “Dulcinea,” and it will especially please lovers of history and romance. Considered one of the world’s most popular musicals, Engeman’s Man of La Mancha exceeds its aim to entertain through the telling of the adventures of a delusional Spanish Knight who is on a quest to restore chivalry to the world and claim his lady love Dulcinea.

Engeman’s version is emotionally stirring, particularly led by such a talented group of actors. Richard Todd Adams is mesmerizing as Don Quixote (Engeman Theater: Jekyll & Hyde (2007); Broadway: The Woman in White, The Pirate Queen, CATS; National Tours: Les Miserables – Jean Valjean, Javert, The Phantom of the Opera – The Phantom, Raoul). His leading lady Janet Dacal is perfectly cast as Aldonza. She is beyond enthralling with a voice that is truly beautiful as well as powerful. Dacal’s credits include: Broadway, In the Heights – Nina, Carla; Wonderland – Alice; Regional: The Sting at Paper Mill Playhouse. The fabulous sidekick, Sancho Panza, is brilliantly acted by Carlos Lopez who hits the comedic lines perfectly and is a familiar face from many TV and film appearances in “The Sopranos,” “Law and Order,” “Guiding Light,” “All Fired Up,” “What Would You Do?” “Brooklyn Sonnet,” “Stepford Wives,” “Death Wishes,” and “Late Phases.” Lopez also appeared as the Barber on Broadway’s Man of La Mancha. His other Broadway credits include: Grease – Sonny, Annie Get Your Gun – Tommy Keeler, Wonderful Town – Speedy, A Chorus Line – Mike and Paul.

Man of La Mancha is produced by RICHARD DOLCE the Engeman Theater’s Producing Artistic Director and directed by PETER FLYNN (Engeman Theater: Man of La Mancha (2008); NY Theater: Curvy Widow at Westside Arts Theatre, Born Yesterday at Maltz-Jupiter Theatre; Regional: Ragtime and 1776 at Ford’s Theatre, Chess with Josh Groban & Julia Murney, Andrea Martin: Final Days Everything Must Go). The choreographer is DEVANAND JANKI (Engeman Theater: Man of La Mancha (2008); Off-Broadway: Zanna, Don’t!, Junie B. Jones, Henry and Mudge, The Yellow Brick Road, Skippyjon Jones, This One Girl’s Story, Cupid and Psyche, Love & Real Estate, Romantic Poetry; Lincoln Center: Amahl and the Night Visitors, Babes in Toyland). The Musical Director is JULIANNE B. MERRILL (NY Theater: A Man of No Importance, Parade; Regional: Smokey Joe’s Café, Matilda; International: Into the Woods).

The cast of Man of La Mancha at Northport’s Engeman Theater. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The cast also includes: ENRIQUE CRUZ DEJESUS, JUAN LUIS ESPINAL, DIEGO GONZALEZ, GARFIELD HAMMONDS, DEVEN KOLLURI, STEVEN LIBERTO, PHYLLIS L. MARCH, NORA MOUTRANE, CODY MOWREY, JOSHUA WAYNE OXYER, NANDITA SHENOY, BRUCE WINANT, and MORGAN ANITA WOOD.

 

Read online Buy tickets

Broadway World Review

MAN OF LA MANCHA at the John W. Engeman Theatre lead by Janet Dacal, Richard Todd Adams, and Carlos Lopez

September 19, 2018
By Melissa Giordano

BWW Review: MAN OF LA MANCHA at the John W. Engeman Theatre lead by Janet Dacal, Richard Todd Adams, and Carlos Lopez

Northport’s gorgeous John W. Engeman Theatre does it again with a stellar showing of theatre staple Man Of La Mancha, the second show of their dazzling 12th Season. This incarnation of the Tony winner, running through October 28th, is excellently directed by Peter Flynn and boasts an extraordinary cast. Long Island is certainly lucky to have this production lead by Broadway vets Janet DacalRichard Todd Adams, and Carlos Lopez.

The tale follows Cervantes as he puts on “plays” – starring as crazy, old knight Don Quixote – as he and fellow prisoners await their hearings with the Spanish Inquisition. Fellow literary lovers will recognize the musical’s loose adaptation from Dale Wasserman‘s 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote of which was inspired by Miguel de Cervantesand his 17th-century novel Don Quixote. And you will also see that it is a very busy show, so it is best to stay as focused as possible as they flip back and forth between reality and fantasy (the “play”).

Mr. Adams makes a wonderful Cervantes/Don Quixote. The complexity and Mr. Adams‘ delivery of role really draws the audience in. Ms. Dacal masterfully portrays Aldonza (or Dulcinea in the fantasy). Indeed an audience favorite is her emotional performance of “What Does He Want Of Me” in act one and in the reprise of “Dulcinea” in act two. Mr. Lopez is also a standout as Sancho, Cervantes trusty assistant (and Squire in the “play” sequences), providing many “laugh out loud” moments. Overall, the large company is truly brilliant with pretty much everyone taking on multiple roles between the dungeon scenes and the “play”.

On Mr. Flynn’s creative team, Michael Bottari & Ronald Case design the superb set for the Long Island venue. An elevated, large stair case majestically falls to the prisoners below with the rest of the gloomy stage filled with a cinder block look. This is chillingly enhanced with Kurt Alger‘s clever costumes and Don Hanna’s sound design. Special kudos also to Alan C. Edwards for the top-notch lighting design especially for the “Knight of the Mirrors” number featuring the most amazing Knight costume. And, of course, it is always a treat to see a live orchestra. Headed up by Julianne B. Merrill, the band is flawless as they perform the iconic score.

And so, Man Of La Mancha is certainly another hit for Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theatre. An outstanding cast and the stunning John W. Engeman Theatre make for a magnificent night of theatre.

 

Read online Buy tickets

Newsday Review

‘Man of La Mancha’ review: An impossible dream come true

Richard Todd Adams, left, is Don Quixote and Carlos Lopez is Sancho Panza in “Man of La Mancha” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Photo Credit: Michael DeCristofaro

 

“Man of La Mancha” is one of those musicals you’d think audiences would be sick of seeing. Not so, says Richard Dolce, producing artistic director of the John W. Engeman Theater. In fact, he says the 1966 Tony-winning best musical is one of the shows they’re most frequently asked to bring back.

So 10 years after its first run at the Northport theater, the musical inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ classic 17th century novel “Don Quixote” is getting a return engagement, with a beautifully crafted, emotional production celebrating the enduring story of an idealist who holds fast to his dreams.

If you’ve forgotten the story, here’s a quick brush up: Awaiting trial before the Spanish Inquisition, Cervantes and his manservant, charged with foreclosing on a monastery, are thrown into a dungeon with an unsavory bunch of thieves and murderers. Threatened, Cervantes devises a fantasy about a mad knight in search of lost chivalry, distracting his fellow prisoners by awarding them roles in his bit of make believe.

Directed by Peter Flynn, who also helmed Engeman’s 2008 production, the show rests — as it always does — on the actor playing Cervantes, and Richard Todd Adams delivers. He portrays the madman with just enough duplicity to let you know he’s making it all up. And with his rich baritone, he captures the soul of the familiar score — and not just in the covered-by-everyone-under-the-sun hit “The Impossible Dream.”

Janet Dacal is gripping as Aldonza, the wild, lusty wench who in Quixote’s vision is a fine lady he calls Dulcinea (though in early scenes, her hair and makeup could use a little roughing up). Other fine performances come from Carlos Lopez as the devoted servant who becomes Sancho Panza, the squire always ready with a sarcastic quip; Bruce Winant, playing the innkeeper in the fantasy with sardonic wit, and Morgan Anita Wood and Phyllis L. March, as Quixote’s niece and housekeeper, respectively, who give the tongue-in-cheek “I’m Only Thinking of Him” a wry edge.

This is a striking production, with the grim stone dungeon well rendered by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case — the actors dragging themselves in and out of the orchestra pit is an interesting touch. Adding to the overall effect are Kurt Alger’s appropriately ragged costumes and dramatic lighting by Alan C. Edwards — except for the occasional projections, which seem distracting and unnecessary.

None of that really matters though. Judging from the audience reaction when Adams closed the first act with a moving “The Impossible Dream,” it’s almost certain the show will be back in another 10 years — if not sooner.

Read online Buy tickets

The Theatre Guide Review

Man of La Mancha – John W. Engeman Theater

Cast of Man Of La Mancha. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.
September 17, 2018
By Jessica Kennedy

Northport’s Engeman Theater opened its doors for the fall season with a beloved classic and winner of 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Man of La Mancha. Produced by Richard Dolce and directed by Peter Flynn, this iconic play based on Cervantes’ magnum opus, Don Quixote, enthralled its audience with a star- studded cast and a wonderfully whimsical rendering of the literary classic.

The play opens as Miguel de Cervantes, played by the charismatic Richard Todd Adams, finds himself locked up with his loyal manservant, (the comical Carlos Lopez), and awaiting questioning by the Spanish Inquisition for foreclosing on a monastery. They are not welcomed warmly, as their fellow prisoners seek to put Cervantes on trial themselves in a thinly veiled mascarade to plunder his meager belongings.  When the leader of the ragtag group dubbed the “Governor” (the endearing Bruce Winant) sets his eyes on destroying an unfinished manuscript, Cervantes wheedles his way into casting the squalid and miry lot into performing the manuscript with him- aiding him in his defense, and helping them all keep their mind off the threat looming just over their heads. What follows- the story of a bewildered, yet beloved Don Quixote (Adams), and his loyal friend and servant, Sancho Panza (Lopez), as they seek to fight the evil forces of the Great Enchanter and win the favor of the spirited and beautiful Aldonza, or should I say, Dulcinea (the dynamic Janet Dacal), makes for a layered and enchanting theatrical experience.

Richard Todd Adams (Don Quixote). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Upon entering the theater you first notice the beautiful piano bar and lounge area, where you may order a drink conceived for the show, such as a “Dulcinea” (Stoli Apple Vodka, Caramel Syrup, & Apple Cider, anyone?) and sip it leisurely as the theater pipes a Spanish melody through the lobby and lounge. Once a gentle chime announces the timely start of the show, you will make your way into the stadium- style seating theater and find that no matter where you are seated, you are exactly positioned for a great viewing experience. From the time the full orchestra pit strikes that first note, you know you are in for a polished and professional performance. The sound is even, and the volume is just right (credit to the Musical Director, Julianne B. Merrill and the Sound Design team led by Don Hanna). Additionally, the scenic design (Michael Bottari & Ronald Case) adds depth and reality to the scenes, with both trapdoors and ladders, and a functional drawbridge which ominously lurches up and down, jarring the prisoners (and the audience) from the storytelling of this frame narrative, reminding us of the danger awaiting our storyteller/hero.

This play is sharply cast and the production staff’s talent shines brightly in the lighting (Alan C. Edwards), the set, and the sound. For a total package theater experience, head to the Engeman Theater and you will not be disappointed. Although tragic in its undertones, the cast brings beauty and humor to this story- you will leave uplifted and unable to get Don Quixote’s timeless lyrics of “The Impossible Dream” out of your head and calling all your loved ones “Dulcinea” (or maybe that’s just me)!

One last note- while the content of this show is overall very suitable for a wide audience, it does contain one scene in particular which is mature in nature. Parents should be advised that there is sexual innuendo and implied sexual violence, so leave the little ones at home and come get swept away in the story of Don Quixote as he seeks “to reach the unreachable star” in a quest full of pluck and valor!

 

Read online Buy Tickets

Smithtown Matters Review

Theater Review – ‘Man of LaMancha’

 

September 16, 2018
By Jeb Ladouceur

Don Quixote – by Pablo Picasso

 

 

When I heard recently that Senator John McCain had decided to suspend the medical treatments that were keeping him alive … and that he had already planned every detail of his incipient funeral, including the music that he felt would best eulogize him … my first thought centered on ‘The Impossible Dream,’ from Man of La Mancha. That’s how iconic the anthem to perseverance has become for me.

As things turned out, we all now know, McCain chose to be extolled with a recorded Frank Sinatra rendition of ‘My Way,’ the stirring ballad of autobiographical praise written by Paul Anka. I remember wondering as Sinatra’s voice filled the church during the Arizona Senator’s memorial service, how much more enobling the affair might have been had the classic La Mancha ode to courage been McCain’s choice.

But there is an ancient Roman expression (“de mortuis nil nisi bonum”) which literally translated means “Let nothing be said of the dead but what is good.” Fair enough. It was, after all, John’s funeral, and if he was comfortable with the ringing tributes of ‘My Way’ and somewhat curiously, ‘Danny Boy,’ so be it.

Still, as I attended the opening of ‘Man of La Mancha’ at Northport’s lush Engeman Theatre last Saturday, and ‘The Impossible Dream’ was performed (magnificently, I must say) my mind wandered back to the Capitol Rotunda and the National Cathedral, where a courageous John McCain’s flag-draped coffin had been attended so honorably by members of the military. For those sad hours, I concluded internally that ‘The Impossible Dream’ was indeed John’s song.

But putting sentiment aside, it should be noted that musically … musically, mind you … Man of La Mancha is a sort of one-trick-pony. When the play’s unforgettable anthem isn’t being belted out by the production’s star, Richard Todd Adams, the other numbers frankly pale to near-insignificance by comparison. This is not as fatal as the observation might lead one to believe, however. For it’s during these musical lulls that Miguel de Cervantes’ immortal Don Quixote story line takes over and makes the adaption the memorable piece of theater it has become.

When it was introduced on the Broadway stage in 1965, not surprisingly, the heart-warming tale of a knight who sets out to restore gallantry to mankind, won Tony Awards for both Best Musical and Best Musical Score. The production moved to a number of playhouses on the Great White Way before making its final 2,328th performance at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1971.

An interesting aside involves the iconic Rex Harrison who, having earned innumerable plaudits starring in My Fair Lady, was seriously considered for the Don Quixote role when Man of La Mancha was testing the theatrical waters in Connecticut. Unfortunately for Harrison, the musical demands of the score proved too much for poor Henry Higgins’ vocal range … and Richard Kiley wound up in the difficult role.

Performing in Northport with leading man Richard Adams are Broadway veterans Janet Dacal (she plays a peppery Aldonza) and Carlos Lopez (as the Don’s little sidekick, Sancho Panza). Both stars bring memorable performances worthy of Northport’s renowned theater … no small accomplishment when one considers the height at which Engeman invariably sets the bar for its featured artists. For example, the great Phyllis March plays the strong, opinionated Housekeeper to absolute perfection. She delivers her somewhat lesser role so artfully that we can’t take our eyes off of her. Aspiring actors would do well to study Ms. March’s technique.

This dream of a show runs thru Sunday, October 28. If I were a school teacher, I’d give extra credit to any student who brought me a Man of La Mancha ticket stub … and of course, an apple.

 

Read online Buy tickets

The Long Islander Review

‘Newsies’ – A Tale For The Times At Engeman Theater

August 2, 2018
By Janee Law

Engeman Theater’s newest production, “Newsies,” is filled with passion, inspiration and energy.

Last Thursday night at the Northport Village theater, Woodmere resident Tina Millman was among an audience that was captivated from start to finish. “I think they did a nice job with the scenery, everyone had a terrific voice and the dancing was great.”

The production takes the audience to lower Manhattan and back in time to the newsboys’ strike of 1899. The story follows charismatic newsboy Jack Kelly (portrayed by Dan Tracy), the strong and courageous leader of a ragged band of teenaged ‘newsies.’

“Newsies” is based on a 1992 Disney film of the same name that was written by Bob Tzudliker and Noni White.

Engeman’s production is directed by Igor Goldin and choreographed by Sandalio Alvarez. It features a score by eight-time Academy Award-winner Alan Menken and Jack Feldman that includes powerful numbers like “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “King of New York” and “Santa Fe.”

Last week’s performance had many in the audience grinning ear-to-ear from the start. “Carrying the Banner” sets the tone early on in the show’s runtime, delivering a number that’s action-packed and lively, and that gives the audience a taste of the high-energy performances to come.

Engeman’s ensemble takes things up a notch with exciting dance number “Seize the Day,” to which the crowd couldn’t help but clap along to.

Unlike the film, the musical takes a different approach to the role of the reporter by casting a woman, Whitney Winfield, who portrays Katherine. Winfield’s portrayal of the character is mesmerizing. She delivers a strong and empowering message regarding a woman’s drive to break into a male-dominated field in “Watch What Happens.”

Her journey parallels that of male lead, Jack Kelly, as both characters take a stand against an unjust society and fight for their dreams.
Audience member Alice Tibbert, of Queens, said after the show the two characters were her favorite, praising their chemistry and love story.

Tibbert also noted her satisfaction with the production, adding, “It was full of action, had fantastic dancing, and the songs were great.”
Tracy said after the show that Jack Kelly’s journey is inspirational.

“Jack is the leader, but I don’t think he sees himself as that, he’s like the glue,” Tracy said. “I think the cool part about the show is the journey he takes from a kid who doesn’t know how important he is to a man who understands that he has a voice and can make an impact in the world.”
Tracy added that “Santa Fe” is his favorite number to perform, but also enjoys “The World Will Know” and “Seize the Day,” during which the cast comes together and unites as a powerful front.

“That type of stuff with all the boys is so fun, and I think that a lot of the kids in this ensemble are going to be on Broadway very soon,” he said. “This cast is worth seeing.”

 

Read Online Buy Tickets

Broadway World Review

NEWSIES Reigns ‘King of New York’ at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport

July 27, 2018
By Jaime Zahl

The second act of Disney’s “Newsies” opens with a show-stopping number titled “King of New York,” in which the Newsies celebrate their newfound celebrity in the press. The cast and production team of the John W. Engeman Theater’s stunning production have equal reason to celebrate. Bringing to life a spectacle of pure entertainment, they earn the title of “King of New York” – or Long Island, rather.

The musical began as a venture at The Papermill Playhouse, featuring emerging talents such as Jeremy JordanBen Fankhauser and Kara Lindsay. When the Broadway run was announced, Mr. Fankhauser – who originated the role of Davey- recalled in an interview that it was meant to be a limited run of approximately 100 performances. No one anticipated the cult following that would emerge, with self-proclaimed “Fansies” making their pilgrimage to New York City to see the musical adaptation of the live-action Disney musical film that captured their imaginations in 1992 and the years to follow.

It’s fitting that the musical has now become a regional theatre favorite, giving those “Fansies” the opportunity to see the show in their own towns. Engeman’s production may be the first of “Newsies” on Long Island, but it certainly won’t be the last.

The remarkable magic of Engeman’s production is that it cleverly combines the lively expanded and revised score and new book of the Broadway production with the delightful campiness of the 1992 film while also tossing in a few original strokes of creativity.

Set in 1899, the musical – based on actual events – tells the story of Manhattan newsboys facing off against newspaper giant Joseph Pulitzer after he raises the cost of selling “papes.”

BWW Review: NEWSIES Reigns 'King of New York' at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport
Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly

Leading the charge is Dan Tracy as the charismatic Jack Kelly. While many fans will find it hard to put Jeremy Jordan‘s tour de force in the Broadway incarnation out of their minds, Mr. Tracy shapes his own interpretation of the character with a balance of wise cracking charm and fighting spirit. Although it is clear his talents as an actor outshine his vocal abilities, Mr. Tracy still gives each number his all – especially in the conclusion of Act II with the powerful “Santa Fe.”

By his side is newcomer and brains of the newsboy strike Davey (Mike Cefalo), Davey’s young brother Les (Zachary Podair), and the tragically innocent handicap Crutchie (Nick Martinez.)

Mike Cefalo plays Davey with true vitality and provides some of the strongest vocals in the show, highlighted in the crowd pleasing “Seize the Day.”

While Mr. Podair’s Les certainly has pep and shows his promise as a performer, the character is written with such an overindulgence of cute that his presence becomes more of a hindrance than an asset.

BWW Review: NEWSIES Reigns 'King of New York' at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport
Nick Martinez as Crutchie

Meanwhile, Mr. Martinez comes close to stealing the show with his palpable vulnerability and wide-eyed hopefulness. His song “Letter From the Refuge,” written for the national tour and cemented in regional and community productions, is truly heartwrenching.

Fans of the film may not remember the character of Katherine Plumber, the plucky reporter covering the strike for The New York Sun. A hybrid of reporter Bill Pullman and Davey’s sister from the film, she provides a voice for the newsies in the headlines while also serving as a love interest for Jack. Whitney Winfield is perfectly suited for the role, shining brightly in “Watch What Happens,” a reporter’s anthem for writer’s block.

BWW Review: NEWSIES Reigns 'King of New York' at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport
Whitney Winfield as Katherine Plumber

Rounding out the cast is none other than Mr. Joseph Pulitzer himself, played menacingly by Tom Lucca in a brilliant, timely display of power thirsting authority. The musical also features the impressive Allyson Kaye Daniel as vaudeville songstress turned motherly mentor for the newsies.

However, audiences will likely remember the production for the sheer athleticism and skill exhibited by the chorus of newsboys. Although one could argue there are one too many choreographed reprises of the opening song “Carrying the Banner,” each and every leap, turn and backflip is awe-inspiring.

This is especially true in “King of New York.” Although originally presented as a tap number, choreographer Sandalio Alvarez breathes new life into the scene with dance breaks featuring Stomp-like moves with spoons and pots and pans.

The entire creative team is top-notch with both beautiful and movement-friendly period costumes by Kurt Alger and the impressive technical execution of Zach Blane‘s lighting design and Laura Shubert‘s sound design.

Additionally, scenic designer DT Willis has created a jungle-gym of rooftops and fire escapes to bring turn-of-the-century Manhattan to life on stage, bringing Igor Goldin‘s vision to life and complimenting his staging.

While Newsies may not be a profound experience for the high-brow set looking for the next “The Band’s Visit,” it is certainly a romping good time. Engeman’s production will surely ignite a repeat of opening night’s thunderous standing ovation for its entire run.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

The Observer Review

Newsies is a smash at the Engeman Theater

July 26, 2018
By David Ambro

For years people have been telling me to raise the price of The Observer from 75 cents to a dollar, and as I sat watching Newsies at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport on press night Saturday, July 21, it made me think twice.

When Jack Kelly and Katherine Plumjber rallied the child labor of New York City to a strike that brought management to its knees though, I walked out knowing 75 cents it will be.

When I go to the John W. Engeman Theater to review a show, it is always with an eye toward finding the things I like and highlighting that. There is nothing I didn’t like about Newsies. It was terrific.

The Engeman Theater is running a streak of consecutive shows that have had to be extended due to popular demand. Well, this should be the fourth in a row. If you haven’t purchased a ticket yet, hurry to the box office because this is the Engeman at its best.

Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly, Whitney Winfield as Katherine Plumber, Nick Martinez, a veteran on the Engeman stage, as Crutchie, Allyson Kaye Daniel as Medda Larkin, Tom Lucca as Joseph Pulitzer, Mike Cefalo as Davey and young Zachary Podair as his 10-year-old brother Les bring a deep cast of wonderful singing talent to this Broadway classic. Add to that the acrobatic and athletic Newsies dancers and this is among the best shows the Engeman has ever staged.

Mr. Tracy as Jack Kelly and Ms. Winfield as Ms. Plumber are shining stars, while Ms. Daniel as Ms. Larkin in her one solo song “That’s Rich,” is a hit, and Mr. Martinez, as Crutchie is wonderful. And, when they all join voices with a chorus that numbers more than 25 people at times, this is an Engeman show that lives up to that more than decade long mantra of bringing Broadway to Main Street.

What is also tremendous about this show is that it delivers a spirited happy ending to a dramatization of a real-life event with a powerful social message – the strength and importance of unionized labor. Based on the Disney Film written by Bob Tzudliker and Noni White originally produced on Broadway by Disney Theatrical Productions, Newsies is based on the true story about the newsboy strike of July 20, 1899.

When newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise the price newsies have to pay for the papers they sell – from 50 to 60 cents per 100 in the show – the newsboys organize and strike, led by Louis Ballatt, the inspiration for Jack Kelly, and David Simons, the inspiration for Davey. When Pulitzer and Hearst refuse to concede to the newsies’ demands, a rally is held by child workers at historic Irving Hall, a 130-year-old theater built in 1888 at 15th Street and Irving Place near Union Square in Manhattan. More than 2,000 young workers fill the theater and 3,000 more gather outside, which compels Pulitzer and Hearst to relent.

There were some special moments of this show for me, ones that added to the enchantment. After my daughter, Sophie, saw Newsies on Broadway with a few of her friends when they were kids, she would walk around singing the lyrics to “Seize the Day.” It does that to you: “Open the gate and seize the day. Don’t be afraid and don’t delay. Nothing can break us. No one can make us give our rights away. Arise and seize the day.”

So when the cast of the Engeman, led by Tracy, Cefalo and the Newsies chorus, broke into Seize the Day in Act I and again in the reprise in Act II, it sent a chill down my spine, flashbacks to Sophie at the kitchen table as a little kid belting it out. I loved that. So did the audience at the Engeman, who responded with uproarious applause.

“King of New York” featuring Cefalo, Podair, Winfield and the Newsies chorus and Martinez as Crutchie in “Letter from the Refuge” were also among my favorites, Broadway-quality performances on the Northport stage. In the Engeman production of In the Heights, Martinez was Sonny. He is an endearing character in Newsies, offering a voice of social commentary.

Mr. Lucca, who is an especially good Pulitzer when he is interacting with Jack Kelly, is also an Engeman veteran, having performed as Utterson in Jekyll & Hyde and John Hancock in 1776. Ms. Winfield makes her debut at the Engeman in Newsies but she is a veteran to the show, having performed Katherine last year at Tuacahn in Utah, where she also played Fiona in Shrek.

While his older brother Davey is key to the story, and Cefalo is a star of the show, Zachary Podair as 10-year-old Les is another endearing Newsies character, in one of the deepest and most abundant collections of talent ever assembled on the Engeman stage. This is Zach’s Engeman debut and it is the highlight of his acting resume, but a role that he performs on par with the talent of the stars around him.

 

Buy Tickets

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Engeman Theater champions the little guy with ‘Newsies’

July 24, 2018
By Melissa Arnold

This summer, the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is transporting audiences to a New York City of long ago in its production of “Newsies.” This feel good, family-friendly show, which opened last Thursday, is thoroughly entertaining and will have you rooting for the cast from start to finish.

The cast of ‘Newsies’

“Newsies”’ journey to the stage is an interesting one — the show is based on the 1992 Disney movie of the same name, and made its Broadway debut in 2012, where it won two Tony Awards. The book was written by Harvey Fierstein, with music by Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin”) and lyrics by Jack Feldman.

Both the film and musical are loosely inspired by the real-life events of the Newsboys Strike of 1899. The newspaper business was booming in 1898 while the United States was involved in the Spanish-American War. But when the war ended in September of 1898, so did the clamor for news. And this is where “Newsies” begins.

In the summer of 1899, a ragtag group of Lower Manhattan paperboys are lamenting the slow news climate, and famed publisher Joseph Pulitzer is brainstorming ways to boost his profits. At that time, newsies purchased their own papers from the publishers to sell on the street. Pulitzer decides to hike the prices the newsies pay, and since most of the kids are poor, homeless or trying to support their families, the backlash is immediate.

Whitney Winfield as Katherine Plumber in a scene from ‘Newsies’

Led by the charismatic and scrappy 17-year-old Jack Kelly, the kids form a union and declare a strike. The show chronicles the uphill battle Jack and his friends face to be taken seriously and shines a light on unfair child labor practices of the era. At the core of “Newsies” is the power of resilience, community and standing up for a cause — and that spirit is as relevant today as it was then.

Under the direction of Igor Goldin, this production’s cast features a number of actors making their Engeman debut. Among them are Dan Tracy, whose confidence and comfort on stage give his portrayal of Jack Kelly a lovable swagger. Tracy does a great job balancing Jack’s tough guy exterior with a more hidden tender side, which shines through in songs such as “Santa Fe” and “Something to Believe In.”

Mike Cefalo and Zachary Podair, who play the rookie paperboy Davey and his kid brother Les, are also new to the Engeman. The pair have a natural chemistry and strong voices — listen for Cefalo in “The World Will Know” and Podair in “Watch What Happens.” As the youngest member of the cast, Podair is charming and funny, and he’s sure to have a bright future ahead in acting.

Whitney Winfield, in the role of Katherine Plumber, certainly holds her own with a big voice in “King of New York” and “Something to Believe In.” Her character is loosely based off of reporter Nellie Bly, who was a trailblazer for working women and female journalists. Winfield plays the role with a contagious positive spirit and moxie.

Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly in a scene from ‘Newsies’

The ensemble is every bit as enjoyable as the main cast. Worth noting is their incredible talent for dance — choreographer Sandalio Alvarez and dance captain Claire Avakian are to be applauded for their hard work. “Newsies” is full of pirouettes, backflips, cartwheels, jumps and more tricks that will blow you away. Even the curtain call is an impressive showcase for their skill, where you can tell the cast is enjoying the show as much as we are.

The double-decker set designed by DT Willis depicts a Manhattan street, with metal staircases, a fire escape and a cityscape background. The set is multifunctional, transforming easily from a rooftop to the city square, a deli, theater and office with some quick work from the cast, who also functions as stage crew.

With every show at the Engeman, it’s the little touches at the theater that make the experience extra special. Show up early to enjoy one of several “Newsies”-themed cocktails, listen to ragtime or put yourself on the front page with their crafty wooden newspaper prop. Feel free to ask the staff to take a photo — they’re easy to find in old-time flat caps and suspenders. Be sure to check out the playbill for some fascinating information on the show’s historical background.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

Newsday Review

‘Newsies’: Dancing that’s above the fold

July 24, 2018
By Barbara Schuler

In this age of screen-to-stage musicals, “Newsies” is remarkable because the movie it was based on was an out-and-out flop.

But thanks to video, the 1992 film starring Christian Bale developed a cult following, leading Disney to create a musical that ran for two years after its 2012 Broadway debut, winning Tonys for Alan Menken’s score and Christopher Gattelli’s choreography.

Now making its Long Island debut at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport,  the musical is a rough retelling of the newsboys strike of 1899, a David-and-Goliath struggle pitting a ragtag bunch of tenement urchins against Joseph Pulitzer, the powerful publisher of the New York World. Facing declining circulation, he forces his young hawkers to pay more for their “papes” (period lingo), sparking a rebellion that ultimately led to revisions in the city’s child labor laws.

The Engeman cast, under the fast-paced direction of Igor Goldin, will win you over with its inexhaustible energy and unbridled exuberance, managing to make you forget the flaws, some of which have been with the show all along. The closest thing to a memorable song is the celebratory “King of New York,” and perhaps the amusing “Watch What Happens,” in which Katherine, a character modeled on famed journalist Nellie Bly, sings of her writer’s block. Much of the other music feels repetitious, not helped by a few too many reprises, and while Dan Tracy has more than enough charisma to sell his role as the newsboys’ crusading leader Jack Kelly, vocally he struggles at times.

That can also be said for most of the men in the cast, clearly chosen primarily for their dance skill, which is considerable — a good thing since they rarely get a break from the relentlessly athletic (and again, repetitive) routines thrown at them by choreographer Sandalio Alvarez. Especially impressive is Nick Martinez as Crutchie, who has some cool moves despite having to manage them while maneuvering a crutch. Other highlights in the show (along with DT Willis’ set and Kurt Alger’s costumes) include Mike Cefalo, as the boy with the brains, Zachary Podair as his scene-stealing younger brother, and Whitney Winfield, in lovely voice as the spirited Katherine.

Of course, the most frightening man in “Newsies” is Pulitzer, played by Tom Lucca with enough menace to make me shudder just a bit (full disclosure: I used to work for his grandson). But he was a brilliant editor, and this musical could have used one.

 

Buy Tickets

The Theatre Guide Review

Newsies – John W. Engeman Theater

July 24, 2018
By Kristen Weyer

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Disney’s Newsies is now playing at the John W. Engeman Theater. Get ready for a magical, and inspiring trip back in time to the turn of the 20th century.  This entertaining and uplifting musical boasts music from Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein. Based on the actual events of the Newsboys Strike of 1899, this wonderful show will capture your imagination with its intricacies, and tug at your heart strings with its brilliant score. Directed here by Igor Goldin, Newsies is a must see for the whole family.

As the lights rise so too does the mist of a faraway morning on the roofs of New York City.  Poor, young, orphaned and homeless are the boys sleeping on the skyline.  With each other for family, they eek out their meager existence selling newspapers to any and all who will buy, earning them their name: the Newsies. The leader of this rag-tag pack is the clever and persuasive Jack Kelly (superbly played by Dan Tracy). When the newspapers of New York, led by Joseph Pulitzer (Tom Lucca) raise their wholesale prices on the Newsies the struggling boys have had enough.  Jack, together with newcomer Davey (Mike Cefalo) inspire the Newsies to form a union, go on strike and fight for the rights of the children workers of New York City.

This wonderful cast produces non-stop energy and entertainment from beginning to end. Characterization, chemistry and charisma flow from every angle of the stage.  Brilliant choreography by Sandalio Alvarez is energetically executed.

Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly will blow you away, pure and simple.  His vocals impress straight from his stunning opening number of “Santa Fe” all the way through to the end. Tracy’s characterization of Jack as he turns from a boy into a young man throughout the show is excellent. His charming grin, and the rakish twinkle which always seems to be hiding a joke, is intermixed with his maturing words, and actions. He is the perfect Jack Kelly.

Dan Tracy (Jack Kelly). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Whitney Winfield is superb as Katherine Plumber.  Her beautiful voice and spunky attitude will bring a permanent smile to your face.  Mike Cefalo is an excellent Davey. Wonderful vocals and fantastic facial expressions bring his character to life.  Zachary Podair is terrific as Davey’s little brother Les.  His charm is palpable, and he adds delightful humor.

Tom Lucca is phenomenal as Joseph Pulitzer. He executes the strong, and frequently ruthless, character with calculated precision.  His excellent vocals are clear and crisp, yet melodic. You’ll love to hate him.

The intricate multi-level set by designer DT Willis works perfectly for this production.  Accurate historical costumes by Kurt Alger, and props by Suzanne Mason add dimension. Zach Blane’s brilliant lighting design, and Laura Shubert’s excellent sound design added a layer of magic to the production. Music Director Alexander Rovang and the entire orchestra performed exquisitely.

Whitney Winfield (Katherine Plumber). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

With power, excitement, emotion and romance, Newsies will appeal to a plethora of tastes. “The Bottom Line” is to go “Watch What Happens”, and you might leave feeling like the “King of New York”, or at least with “Something to Believe In”. Either way, Newsies is definitely not to be missed.

 

Read Online Buy Tickets

The Observer Review

“Singin’ in the Rain a smash at the Engeman”

Danny Gardner in the iconic role of Don Lockwood, made famous in 1952 by Gene Kelly, performs the title scene “Singin’ in the Rain” at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, By popular demand, Singin’ in the Rain is the third shows in a row at the Engeman Theater to have its engagement extended.

June 7, 2018
By David Ambro

Readers of The Observer have probably figured out by now that there’s something special going on at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport – Singin’ in the Rain.

Theater proprietors Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce have made a name for themselves with their mantra to “bring Broadway to Main Street,” and with Danny Gardner as Don Lockwood and Brian Shepard as Cosmo Brown going toe to toe tapping out “Moses Supposes,” Singin’ in the Rain lives up to all expectations. I especially love tap, so this is one of my favorite Engeman shows.

But, there’s a lot more to Singin‘ at the Engeman. First, as I reported last week, the rain in Singin’ in the Rain, the scene that closes the first act, is real. It rains on stage, downpours actually. I was about 10 rows up, so I stayed dry, but it looked like some of the front-row guests got a splash out of it.

Made famous by Gene Kelly, Singin’ in the Rain is a story about a motion picture production company that makes silent films and to keep up with the competition, it has to start making talking films. The trouble is that its female star, Lina Lamont played by Emily Stockdale, can’t sing. So the studio uses a lip sync technique with the behind-the-scenes voice of Kathy Selden, played by Tessa Grady, who sings like an angel, and the plot twists from there. It’s a love story, Don snubbing Lina for Kathy.

What is wonderful for local audiences about Singin’ in the Rain at the Engeman (and readers of The Observer have gotten a preview of this as well) is that the black and white silent film scenes used in the show were filmed in Northport Village Park. It makes it fun.

The film sequences are cropped so it appears to be in the woods, filmed around the boulder and in the pine trees behind the bandstand. But in the background there is a treat, an occasional glimpse of a house on Bayview Avenue, a peek at the harbor, a pan past the bandstand… Rather than Broadway to Main Street, this brings Northport to Broadway at the Engeman, and it makes Singin’ in the Rain a must see, especially for the local audience.

As usual, of course, the show is terrific. From the opening “Fit as a Fiddle” scene to the reprise of Singin’ in the Rain to close the show, this is a wonderful rendition of a 66-year-old classic and audiences are flocking to see it. While the rain sequence for Singin’ in the Rain is an Engeman Best Of, and while “Moses Supposes” is a tap dance connoisseur’s delight, one of my favorite numbers in this show is “Good Mornin'” a classic scene that comes late in the show featuring Don (Danny Gardner), Kathy (Tessa Grady) and Cosmo (Brian Shepard). The music is fun and exciting and this trio is strong, athletic and they dance as well as they can sing. For me, it was just one highlight of another great show at the Engeman.

A black and white film shot in Northport Village Park plays on the Engeman stage during Singin’ in the Rain.

Also enjoyable was the scene “What’s Wrong With Me?” a solo by Lina (Emily Stockdale) which comes mid-way through Act II. It’s hard to judge the talent of an actress when she is playing the role of a character who can’t sing – can hardly talk with any kind of tone quality for that matter. But in “What’s Wrong With Me?” Ms. Stockdale is able to showcase her talent, even while playing a character of little talent. She can sing, and on stage alone she is a joy to behold.

Singin’ in the Rain has been playing to a packed house and it is the unprecedented third show in a row at the Engeman Theater to be extended beyond the July 1 run due to popular demand. The Engeman announced this week that seven additional shows will be added to the run, July 1 at 7 p.m., July 5 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., July 6 at 8 p.m., July 7 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and July 8 at 2 p.m.

For tickets, to Singin’ in the Rain at the Engeman, call the box office at 631-261-2900, visit the theater website at engemantheater.com or the box office at 250 Main Street Northport. Tickets are $78 for Saturday evenings and $73 for all other shows.

 

Buy Tickets

The Long Islander Review

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ Makes Big Splash at Engeman Theater

May 31, 2018
By Janee Law

Engeman Theater’s latest production is making a big splash with audiences.

The May 19 showing of the Northport Village theater’s “Singin’ in the Rain” production, with its high-energy tap-dancing numbers and comedic performances, was met with a standing ovation.

Audience member Lisa Malaszczyk, of Garden City, called it “pure fun” and praised its spectacular dance numbers.

Engeman’s production is directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey, with musical direction by Jonathan Brenner.

The production is an adaptation of the hit 1952 musical film of the same name, a romantic comedy that starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor and Jean Hagen.

Mirroring that of the film, the ensemble for Engeman’s production is talented and agile, producing lively tap dancing sequences that had audience members beaming with delight from start to finish.

Danny Gardner portrays the charismatic Don Lockwood and is unforgettable and alluring in the role, embodying a young Gene Kelly, who played the character in the film.

Gardner’s solo performance of title number “Singin’ in the Rain” dazzles as he passionately taps across the stage, making a splash in the process, while showing off his huge grin.

The number went over swimmingly with audience member Skip Laisure, of Garden City, who called it his favorite number of the night. “There was real rain on the stage. You don’t see that all the time,” he said.

Along with “Singin’ in the Rain,” tap dancing numbers “Fit as a Fiddle,” “Moses Supposes” and “Good Mornin’” kept audience members’ eyes glued to the stage.

Along with Gardner’s, mesmerizing performances are dealt out by Tessa Grady, who plays the charming and feisty Kathy Selden; and Brian Shepard, who depicts the energetic and comical Cosmo Brown.

Laughter intensified whenever Emily Stockdale walked on stage, as her high-pitched voice and spot-on portrayal of Lina Lamont had the audience howling throughout the show.

The fun-filled dance number “Good Mornin’” sees Gardner, Grady and Shepard take the stage together, and the trio’s chemistry is alluring.

The number is Shepard’s favorite, he said after the show, praising his fellow cast members.

For Shepard, performing in the show is a personal accomplishment, he said, as it was the 1952 film that first inspired him to join the entertainment industry.

“I saw ‘Singin in the Rain’ when I was 12 years old and it ultimately was the reason why I went and took a dance class,” Shepard said. “I was obsessed with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner, I wanted to be those guys.”

As Cosmo, who was played by O’Conner in the film, Shepard tackles song-and-dance routine “Make ’Em Laugh,” a high-energy and hysterically-exhausting performance in which he performs several stunts and gags to incite laughs from the crowd.

On the role as a whole, he said, “It’s interesting finding the right balance of clowning, zaniness and being truthful. That’s what’s fun for me and maybe a little bit challenging, trying to stay real and stay really heightened, while emulating Donald O’Connor.”

Performances of “Singin in the Rain” continue at the 250 Main St. theater in Northport Village each Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 p.m.; through July 1. There are also select Wednesday, 8 p.m. and Sunday, 7 p.m. shows.

Read Online Buy Tickets

Newsday Review

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ review: A sunny Hollywood spoof

Brian Shepard, left, Tessa Grady and Danny Gardner
Brian Shepard, left, Tessa Grady and Danny Gardner will brighten your day performing “Good Mornin’ ” in “Singin’ in the Rain” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Photo Credit: Michael DeCristofaro

May 22, 2018
By Barbara Schuler

After slogging around in the rain for most of last week, the last thing anyone needed was another downpour — unless you count the deluge of pure delight that was the Act 1 finale of  “Singin’ in the Rain” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.

Taking on the iconic role so associated with Gene Kelly in the 1952 film (talk about pressure!), Danny Gardner put his own thoughtful spin on Don Lockwood, the silent film star caught up in the transition to “talkies.” He splashed his way through that title number in flawless song-and-dance-man style, seeming to have as much fun kicking the increasingly substantial puddles as any kid on a rainy day.

The musical adaptation, first on Broadway in 1985, doesn’t stray much from the film, considered among the best movie musicals of all time. It’s one of those shows that constantly surprises with songs you may have forgotten were in it — gems like “Make ‘Em Laugh,” made famous onscreen by Donald O’Connor as Cosmo, Don’ s loyal sidekick. Then there are the love songs, “You Are My Lucky Star”  and “You Were Meant for Me”; the peppy “Good Mornin’ ” (sadly without that well-known overturned sofa), and the razzle-dazzle production number “Broadway Melody.”

The Engeman has upped its game when it comes to casting of late, and this show has star turns everywhere you look. Among the standouts: Brian Shepard as Cosmo, who truly does make you laugh in that number; Tessa Grady, walking a fine line as love interest Kathy Selden, bringing a little modern sensibility into a role that could easily be a cliché, and Emily Stockdale as Lina Lamont, the inept silent-film star who bravely manages to sustain throughout a voice so grating you could only wish for nails on a chalkboard.

They all look fabulous, thanks to Kurt Alger’s stunning period costumes, all sequins and feathers that lit up David Arsenault’s soundstage set.  A word, too, for director-choreographer Drew Humphrey, who not only worked his wonders with the onstage happenings, but managed to pull off a series of silent films, with the requisite shaky, grainy footage, that helped move the story along.

But back to that rain. Kudos to whoever decided to leave the curtain open after the first act, allowing audience members who stayed in their seats to witness the herculean efforts involved in getting rid of all that water (wonder how many Wet Vacs they’ll go through?). First time I’ve seen a standing ovation during intermission.

Buy Tickets

Broadway World Review

The Classic SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN at The Engeman

May 23, 2018
By Melissa Giordano

Singin’ In The Rain, the classic Tony nominated musical based on the wildly famous MGM film, is certainly a must see among theatre attendees. With a Screenplay by Betty Comden & Adolph Greene and Music by Naico Herb Brown & Arthur Freedes, the incarnation at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theatre will surely have you leaving the theatre with a smile. Running through July 1st, closing out the Engeman’s dazzling 11th season, the delightful incarnation is strongly directed by Engeman vet Drew Humphrey.

The story, set in the 1920’s, follows silent film star Don Lockwood, charmingly portrayed by Danny Gardner, who barely tolerates his annoying and meddlesome “leading lady”, Lina Lamont, hilariously portrayed by Emily Stockdale. Laughter abounds throughout the show and we also see a budding relationship between Don and up-and-coming actress Kathy Selden, portrayed beautifully by Tessa Grady.

Mr. Gardner honors the Gene Kelly role well while truly making it his own. A great voice and classic look make him a natural for the part. Additionally, his fantastic rendition of the iconic “Singin’ In The Rain”, complete with sheets of rain coming down from the rafters, practically receives a standing ovation from the enthusiastic, sold out audience. As for Ms. Stockdale, her performance brings roars of laughter. While gorgeous for the big screen, Lina Lamont’s speaking – and signing – voice is less than desirable making her, shall we say, perfect for silent films.

And Ms. Grady is a fine Kathy. A quiet confidence and sass serves the role well. Indeed an audience favorite is her exquisite rendition of “You Are My Lucky Star” in addition to the well-known “Good Morning” with Mr. Gardner and and Brian Shepard who portrays Cosmo, Don’s best friend. Mr. Shepard is excellent as Cosmo who also serves as the fictional movie studio’s head musician. He and Mr. Gardner did some incredible tap numbers including “Moses” in Act One and “Broadway Melody” in Act Two.

In addition to the outstanding cast, the musical direction is superbly done by Jonathan Brenner leading a fantastic live orchestra with Kurt Alger‘s gorgeous costumes enhancing the visually stunning production. Yellow colored rain coats and umbrellas adorned the cast for the big final number and it is apparent that everyone in the company is enjoying Mr. Humphrey’s energetic choreography. As you can see, everyone on the cast and creative team is truly top-notch.

Indeed, you will be happily singin’ in any type of weather once you’ve seen this production. A wonderful cast, gripping story, and Long Island’s fabulous John W. Engeman Theatre prove a classic never goes out of style.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

The Theatre Guide Review

Singin’ in the Rain – John W. Engeman Theater

Danny Gardner (Don Lockwood). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

May 22, 2018
By Kristen Weyer

The John W. Engeman Theater is closing its 11th season with that musical classic Singin’ in the Rain! This fabulous production is brilliantly directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey and features everything you could hope for and more from this beloved show.  The iconic 1952 movie starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds has been perfectly transferred to the stage; every one of your favorite lines, songs and dance sequences are present, and, oh yes, it is going to “rain” onstage!

It’s 1927 in the heyday of silent films, and Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are Hollywood’s favorite film couple. Then the talking movies arrive and turn Hollywood upside down.  With their newest film about to release they must desperately convert it into a “talkie” or risk the ruination of the entire movie studio.  We’re taken on a delightful romp through the golden age of Hollywood with romance, humor, dancing, and of course, Singin’ in the Rain.

This cast is amazing.  From leads to ensemble each and every one of them was extremely impressive.  Danny Gardner is excellent as Don Lockwood, combining his charismatic and debonair manner with smooth and perfect vocals. His superb talent is obvious, especially as he sings, dances and splashes his way through that most awaited scene “Singin’in the Rain”. Tessa Grady is a lovely and captivating Kathy Selden.  Her beautiful voice and impressive dance skills are blended to perfection. Brian Shepard does the memory of Donald O’Connor proud with his portrayal of Cosmo Brown.  His charming smile and quirky grin, his excellent voice and energetic performances bring his silly, comical character to life.  As impressive as they are separately, these three together are even more so.  Their dance sequence during “Good Mornin“ is exceptional.

Brian Shepard (Cosmo Brown), Tessa Grady (Kathy Selden) and Danny Gardner (Don Lockwood). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Emily Stockdale is brilliant as the tonally challenged Lina Lamont.  Her personae and timing were spot on.  Leer Leary is wonderful as the studio head R.F. Simpson; he portrays the perfect man in charge but somehow makes him endearing.  Comedy abounds in this amusing show, and it is not just from the leads.  Ben Prayz is flawless as the put-upon director Roscoe Dexter; Peter Surace’s portrayal of the Diction Coach makes the number “Moses Supposes”; and Britte Steele is exactly what you hope for as Dora Bailey.

Brian Shepard (Cosmo Brown), Emily Stockdale (Lina Lamont), Danny Gardner (Don Lockwood) and Britte Steele (Dora Bailey). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The costumes in this production are simply fabulous. Designer Kurt Alger’s choices are a feast for the eyes from the wonderful 1920’s period pieces to the elaborate movie costumes they wear.  This, combined with Scenic Designer David Arsenault’s appealing set, Zach Blane’s enchanting lighting, and Laura Shubert’s excellent sound design, created the perfect ambiance.  The orchestra’s outstanding performance, under direction from Jonathan Brenner, bolstered the entire show.

From hysterical silent pictures, and excellent live performances, to that exquisite dance in the rain, Singin’ in the Rain is perfection from start to finish.  Whether you’ve seen it many times, or perhaps this might be your first, Singin’ in the Rain should not be missed.

Read online Buy Tickets

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Theater Review: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ makes a splash at the Engeman Theater

May 25, 2018
By Victoria Espinoza

The latest production at the John W. Engeman Theater will have you dancing and singing — rain or shine. “Singin’ in the Rain” premiered this past weekend to a full house and one of the most energetic crowds in past years.

The classic movie, which is regarded as one of the greatest movie musicals of all time, comes to life as soon as the curtain rises, bringing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s golden age to Northport. It’s 1927 and Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the toast of Tinseltown until silent films are threatened with the rise of talking pictures. The Northport stage is set to look like an old Hollywood film studio lot. David Arsenault, the set designer, creates a simple but inviting backdrop, and many times throughout the show the sets are used to enhance musical numbers and bring even more laughs to the audience.

Danny Gardner (Don Lockwood) and Corinne Munsch (Girl in Green) in a scene from ‘Singin’ In the Rain’

While the songs, actors and sets all excel in this production, the choreography comes out on top. Drew Humphrey is both the director and choreographer for this show and brings audiences a nonstop party with intricate and joyful dance numbers that were accompanied by nonstop applause throughout the night. Standouts include “Fit as a Fiddle,” “Make Em Laugh,” “Good Morning” and, of course, the timeless classic, “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Danny Gardner, who plays Don Lockwood, brings all the magic of Gene Kelly’s iconic scene with his mile-long grin, infatuated attitude and love-struck dance moves. Perhaps the most excited the audience got was when the rain started to pour on stage and Gardner appeared in a fedora with an umbrella under his arm.

Tessa Grady and Brian Shepard round out the main trio as Kathy Selden and Cosmo Brown, respectively, and the chemistry between the three is great fun to watch. Shepard brings the biggest smiles to audiences’ faces with fun jokes and a charming and lovable attitude. He steals the scene in “Moses Supposes,” and you can’t help but look for him in every scene to see what fun little moments he brings to his character. All three stars have beautiful voices, and Grady does a great job bringing her talents to Kathy Selden to make her a confident, charming character with some great comedic moments as well.

Emily Stockdale as Lina Lamont and Danny Gardner as Don Lockwood in a scene from the show.

Of course, the other character who delighted audiences with laughs was Lina Lamont, played by Emily Stockdale. The voice she was able to achieve for Lamont was impressive and hilarious and her short solo number in the second act was sharp and enjoyable. She brought great depth to what could’ve been a one-dimensional character.

An extra fun treat for audiences was the short films inside the musical. Producer Richard Dolce and Humphrey do a great job making the film shorts hilarious, and as an added bonus a recognizable spot, Northport Village Park, makes a cameo appearance. It makes the black-and-white shorts twice the fun when you see the recognizable white gazebo as a backdrop for a sword fight and a lovers reunion. The ensemble cast who are a part of these shorts also deserve a special shout out for the delight they bring to the small screen.

Musical Director Jonathan Brenner handles the numbers wonderfully, bringing all the right emotion each scene calls for. “Moses Supposes” excels not only for Shepard’s lovable conviction but also the way Brenner handles the music. The same can be said for “Good Morning.” This scene delivers on all the fun the original film brings, and although the characters aren’t trotting together from room to room, this production’s version encapsulates all the charm.

And even with all the fun, this production saves the best for last with a closing number you won’t want to miss. Kurt Alger, costume designer for the show, adds an extra pop with costume choices for the end, bringing extra color and fun to the stage. But, of course, the elegant period pieces in the show’s entirety are also a marvel to see, especially a French-style costume worn by Stockdale.

With more than just fan favorite songs, this musical promises to deliver a fun-filled evening for all who attend.

Read online Buy Tickets

Huntington Now Review

“What a Glorious Feeling…” This Singin’ in the Rain

singin in the rain

May 25, 2018
By Mary Beth Casper

Wow!

That was the overall reaction of the audience to a recent performance of Singin’ in the Rain, currently in production at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.

The cast and crew were spectacular.   That’s no small feat when it comes to embarking upon a staged version of the iconic 1952 movie musical, which starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor.

The Engeman production has its own special razzle dazzle, though. Its exceptional cast, rousing song and dance numbers, beautiful costumes and wonderful special effects, came together perfectly under the expert guidance of director/choreographer, Drew Humphrey. Humphrey nipped in the bud any comparisons that could crop up between his production and the legendary film’s  by apparently directing his cast not to imitate the stars of the movie, but to put their own individualized stamp on their roles.

The performances soared.

The play’s storyline is the same as the Betty Comden and Adolph Green screenplay. It focuses — with laser beam humor — on the history of Hollywood’s transformation from silent pictures to “Talkies” during mid-1920s. It’s a love story, as well. One that smacks of old-fashioned innocence and charm.

Leading man Don Lockwood (played oh, so endearingly by Danny Gardner) and his leading lady, Lina Lamont (Emily Stockdale, a beauty with impeccable comic timing) are silent screen superstars. America can’t get enough of them.  The gossip columnists have created a love story around the two, but in reality, Don can’t stand Lina. She, however, refuses to believe that.

There’s another issue, too. When their studio boss, R.F. Simpson (the solid character actor Leer Leary) realizes the future belongs to talking pictures, he decides to take the plunge and bring his leading man and lady with him. How could this venture fail? After all, Don is a great song and dance man, and his speaking voice should transfer perfectly to film.

But, Lina? She may be gorgeous, but oh, that horrible voice! Her nasally, New Yawk accented screech, won’t be music to audiences’ ears. What will they do?

It’s Don and his best friend, lovable Cosmo Brown, (portrayed wonderfully by Brian Shepard) to the rescue. They’ll have spunky, actress, Kathy Selden (a delightful girl next door type, convincingly played by Tessa Grady) dub Lina’s voice. Unbeknownst to Lina, of course.

It can’t fail. Or, can it?

Naturally, love develops between Kathy and Don. And, when Lina gets wind of that romance, as well as of her voice being dubbed, the sparks fly.

While this play is chock full of splendid song and dance routines, none is as powerful as Gardner’s spectacular rendition of the show’s title song, Singin’ in the Rain. He brought the house down at the end of Act One with his joyful performance.   And, yes, it really rained down on him, thanks to a collaborative effort between the show’s scenic designer, David L. Arsenault and the theater’s technical director, Timothy Moran.

A standing ovation, ensued. Followed by another, for the stage hands who mopped up the puddles during intermission.

Whatever you do, don’t miss this show.

Read Online Buy Tickets

The Long Islander Review

Engeman’s In The Heights Excites With Musical Diversity

By Janee Law
March 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Tickets Read Online

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Engeman Theater soars to new heights in latest production

By Rita J. Egan
March 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Tickets

 

The Observer Review

Engeman Theater to new heights

March 22, 2018
By David Ambro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Buy Tickets

Newsday Review

In the Heights: Scorching numbers on a summer day

By Barbara Schuler
March 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read at Newsday.com Buy Tickets

Broadway World Review

IN THE HEIGHTS at The Engeman

By Melissa Giordano
March 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read at Broadwayworld.com

Buy Tickets

The Theatre Guide Review

In the Heights

By Kristen Weyer
March 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read at thetheatreguide.com Buy Tickets
Navigation

Send this to a friend