ROCK OF AGES Cast Press Release

(Northport, NY- January 2022) – The John W. Engeman Theater announces the cast and creative team for ROCK OF AGES. Performances begin on Thursday, January 27, 2022, and run through Sunday, March 13, 2022. Please note this is a change from the originally scheduled opening date of January 13, 2022.

The five-time Tony Award®-nominated Broadway musical smash ROCK OF AGES tells the story of a small-town girl, a city boy, and a rock ‘n’ roll romance on the Sunset Strip. But when the bar where rock reigns supreme is set to be demolished, it’s up to these wannabe rockers and their band of friends to save the day — and the music. ROCK OF AGES’ electric score features all your favorite ’80s rock anthems and power ballads, including “Every Rose has its Thorn,” “I Wanna Know What Love is,” “Here I Go Again,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and more! So, get ready to rock and roll all night….or at least until the curtain goes down!

ROCK OF AGES is Directed by IGOR GOLDIN (Engeman Theater: Matilda, Newsies, Gypsy, Oklahoma, 1776; Off-Broadway: YANK!, With Glee, A Ritual of Faith; Regional: Seattle 5th Ave., Goodspeed Musicals, Cape Playhouse, Tuacahn Center for the Arts), and Choreographed by NATALIE MALOTKE (Engeman Theater: Once; Broadway: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Off Broadway: Carnegie Hall, City Center, Lincoln Center; National Tour: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live!; Regional: Pittsburgh Music Theatre, Northern Stage, TexArts and Wagon Wheel; Film: “SNL Season 47”, “PBS – A Capitol Fourth”).

The Creative Team includes JEFF COX (Musical Director), KYLE DIXON (Scenic Design), KURT ALGER (Costume and Wig Design), JOSE SANTIAGO (Lighting Design), LAURA SHUBERT (Sound Design), KRISTIE MOSCHETTA (Props Design), SCOTT WOJCIK, COURTNEY HAMMOND, and HOLLY BUCZEK of WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING (Casting Directors), LISA STAFFORD (Production Stage Manager).

ROCK OF AGES is being produced for the John W. Engeman Theater by RICHARD DOLCE.

The cast of ROCK OF AGES features NICK BERNARDI as Staccee Jaxx (National Tours: Barbie Live; Regional: RoA Hollywood, Royal Caribbean, Broadway by the Bay, Playhouse on Park), MATT DASILVA as Lonny (National Tours: Beauty and the Beast; Off-Broadway: Endlings, The Melting Pot, and New Dawn; Regional: A.R.T., Flat Rock Playhouse, Ocean State Theater Company; TV/Film: “FBI”), BAILEE ENDEBROCK as Sherrie (Regional: Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts, The Lexington Theatre Company, McLeod Summer Playhouse), DAN HOY as Drew (National Tours: Cats; Regional: Theater on the Square, Thin Air Theater Company, Revolution Theatrics, and Actors Summit), RYAN M. HUNT as Hertz (National Tours: Rock of Ages, The Simon & Garfunkel Story, R+H’s Cinderella, Mamma Mia!; Off-Broadway: Sondheim on Sondheim, Broadway Backwards, 25th Annual…Spelling Bee, Closer Than Ever; Regional: Fulton Theatre, Tuacahn Amphitheatre, Greenbriar Valley Theatre), and ERIK SCHARK as Dennis (National Tours: Jekyll & Hyde and Grease; Regional: Arc Stages, Oklahoma City Rep, Trump Plaza Atlantic City; TV/Film: “The Sopranos”, “Something to Be Desired”, “The Baristas”).

Also featured are RENEE TITUS as Justice, SEAN WIDENER as Franz, and DARIA PILAR REDUS as Regina.

The ensemble includes NATALIE NICOLE BELLAMY, TIGER BROWN, GARY BOWMAN, SEAN FLEMING, LAURA GULEY, CHRISTIAN MAXWELL HENRY, JAMES GARRETT HILL, JAELLE LAGUERRE, KENNETH D. WASHINGTON, and JESSICA WHITE.

Press Opening is Saturday, January 29th at 8:00pm                     

ROCK OF AGES will play the following performance schedule: Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm. Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $80 for matinees and Saturday evenings and $75 for all other performances. They may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900, going online at www.EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

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

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

Smithtown Matters Theater Review: ‘White Christmas’ At Engeman Theater

By Cindi Sansone-Braff

“White Christmas,” at the Engeman Theater, is an Enchanting Holiday Must-See for the Entire Family

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas The Musical is based on the beloved Paramount Pictures 1954 film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen, and Rosemary Clooney. This two-act show features music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and book by David Ives and Paul Blake.

The musical opens somewhere on the Western Front of WW II, on Christmas Eve, 1944, where we meet our two leading men, who are still in the army and entertaining the troops with a holiday show. From the opening numbers, “Happy Holiday” and “White Christmas,” Daniel Plimpton as Phil Davis and Aaron Young as Bob Wallace let us know that they can sing, they can dance, and they can act! We also get to meet the formidable General Henry Waverly, played to perfection by Keith Lee Grant. Mr. Grant has a stately demeanor and a commanding voice that served this part well.

Fast forward to 1954 when Bob and Phil, now well-known Broadway song-and-dance stars, appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Later that evening, they go to “Jimmy’s Back Room” to catch Betty and Judy Haynes nightclub act. Donned in stunning blue dresses, Meadow Nguy as Betty and Darien Crago as Judy blow Bob and Phil away with their powerful voices, strong stage presence, and incredible fan dance as they perform “Sisters,” a song humorously reprised by Bob and Phil during Act II.  Through some scheming on Phil and Judy’s part, they all wind up in Vermont, at the Columbia Inn, owned by Henry Waverly, Bob and Phil’s former general. As soon as they discover that this ski resort is in severe financial trouble, Phil and Bob recruit their old army buddy, now a prominent television executive, Ralph Sheldrake, convincingly played by Nick Abbott, to help save the Inn.

Suzanne Mason as Martha Watson, the Inn’s wisecracking concierge, aced the role, and she gave a showstopping performance with her rendition of “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy.” Annabelle Deaner, as the general’s precocious granddaughter, Susan Waverly, was charismatic when she performed her own rousing version of “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy.”  Hearing such a big voice coming from this gifted little girl was one of the show’s high points.

The very talented Stephen Valenti played several roles, including the snoring man on the train who wakes up and sings his heart out, and Ezekiel Foster, a slow-moving farmhand who is a man of few words, yet riotously funny.  During the intermission, Mr. Valenti entertained the audience with his well-choreographed, painfully slow sweeping of the stage.

One of the most moving scenes in the show takes place in the Regency Room in New York City, where Betty performs the touching ballad, “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me.” Ms. Nguy’s euphonious voice was filled with passion and longing when she delivered this heartrending song. Mr. Young gave a standout performance when he crooned “How Deep is the Ocean.”

Under the astute direction of Matt Kunkel, the entire ensemble was energetic and flawless throughout. Kyle Dixon’s innovative set design, especially the quintessential Vermont barn,  added a bit of holiday charm to the show. There are many incredible 1950-style costumes by Dustin Cross, all of them ideally suited for each number. Using black and white outfits to represent keyboard colors during the song “I Love a Piano” was a stroke of genius.  This electrifying number had one of the most complex tap-dancing routines you will ever see on any stage. I am sure the rousing standing ovation at the show’s end had a great deal to do with Drew Humphrey’s outstanding choreography.

“The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” was one the most beloved dance numbers in the White Christmas movie and of all times for that matter, and Mr. Plimpton and Ms. Crago’s talent really shined through in this graceful and elegant dance performance that gave Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen a run for their money.

Make your holidays merry and bright by treating your family to this fun, festive, feel-good musical.

The Engeman Theater is having a fundraiser for the local food pantry, so please bring a few extra bucks to drop in the baskets as you leave; after all, this is the season to count your blessings and to be charitable.

The Theatre Guide: White Christmas – John W. Engeman Theater – Theatre Review

By Jessica Kennedy

Some of us may mark the approaching holiday season by the weather, or perhaps by the introduction of their favorite seasonal drink to their coffee shop’s menu- personally, I mark it by the live theater productions of my favorite holiday shows! This winter is welcomed by Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, running from November 11th to January 2nd. Directed by Matt Kunkel, this beloved classic is sure to leave you feeling merry and bright!

I grew up watching the iconic 1954 film version of this play starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. It is probably one of my favorite holiday movies of all time. The heartwarming story of two veteran friends who use their talent and influence to bring joy to their former General is the stuff that holiday cheer is made of for me. Oh, and there are love connections as well- what else does one need? Apparently, many moviegoers agree with me, and White Christmas was the highest grossing musical of its time, and is still consistently ranked among one of the top Christmas movies ever. This film to stage adaptation is a beautiful compliment to the legacy of this story, and has been captivating audiences since its premiere in 2000.

The cast at Engeman do a wonderful job making this show feel like an immersive celebration. The songs we all know (and are encouraged to sing along) are performed in a way that is both a compliment to the originals, but also not an attempt at straight replications. I appreciate how the performers made the songs their own- a beautiful example being Aaron Young (Bob Wallace) and Daniel Plimpton’s (Phil Davis) rendition of the show’s titular song.  The iconic scenes receive the attention they should, and this show has something to add as a welcome addition to the story- it has a lot more dancing! Seriously, this is a dance heavy show and it was beautiful to behold! Drew Humphrey’s choreography artfully enhanced the character dynamics, especially between the captivating Daniel Plimpton and Darien Crago (Judy Haynes). The tap dancing in “I Love a Piano” was a special treat! Additionally, the play’s couples felt sincere and heartfelt; I was rooting for Aaron Young’s sincere yet stubborn Bob Wallace to win the heart of Meadow Nguy’s headstrong and passionate Betty Haynes. Add a moving and emotional performance of General Henry Waverly by Keith Lee Grant, and a touch of comedy with Suzanne Mason’s witty and charming version of Martha Watson, and you have me both laughing and loud and shedding my first tears in live theater history (It was the final scene that got me).

This show is such a wonderful holiday treat! While I love a show that can make me think and ponder, sometimes I just need a show that will make me nod and smile. “What do I care how much it may storm, I’ve got my love to keep me warm.”

 

TBR Newsmedia Theater Review: Northport’s Engeman Theater rings in the holidays with ‘White Christmas’

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Phenomenal music, dance, comedy with romance sprinkled on top all wrapped up in a giant red velvet bow, that’s White Christmas, Engeman Theater’s gift to ring in this joyous season.

Last year, the holidays were dismal with theatres shut across our great nation due to COVID, but not even a sweeping pandemic could extinguish its spirit for long. Theater fought back, reigniting marques with brilliant neon lights announcing that the show would most certainly go on.

The Engeman proudly swung open its grand glass doors welcoming all who enter to enjoy the magic of live theatre once more and to celebrate the holidays it is treating audiences to an irresistible White Christmas. With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and book by David Ives and Paul Blake, this musical is based on the much loved 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. The first stage adaptation did not happen until 2004 when it premiered in San Francisco before playing a limited engagement on Broadway from Nov. 14, 2008, until Jan. 4, 2009.

The story revolves around two former WWII army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis who, after the war, become successful entertainers, then big time producers. They get a letter presumably from an army buddy asking them to check out his sisters’ act at a local club. Sparks fly when they meet these sisters who are leaving that night for a Vermont Inn to fulfill a booking engagement. In pursuit of romance, Bob and Phil follow the ladies and discover that their former general who now owns this inn has fallen on hard times. The plot proceeds with mad cap comedy and extraordinary musical numbers.

With producing artistic director, Richard Dolce and managing director Kevin J. O’Neill at the helm, the Engeman is dedicated to creating Broadway caliber experiences for their audiences and White Christmas is professionalism at its very best.

This multi-talented ensemble is captivating. From the rollicking open numbers of Happy Holidays and White Christmas, Aaron Young as Bob Wallace and Daniel Plimpton as Phil Davis grasp us and never let go. Young’s voice richly floats through his every song while his stage presence is beguiling. Davis is a true song and dance man. The I Love a Piano duet featuring Darien Crago as Judy Hayes, is a tour de force tap number. Crago’s skill and energy mesmerizes in all her dance routines, making them appear effortless. Meadow Nguy as Betty Haynes soaring soprano sends chills especially in Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me.

Rounding out this ensemble is an impressive supporting cast. Keith Lee Grant is riveting as the stern General Henry Waverly shouting out commands until he reaches a moment of reflection that allows the caring man within to materialize. Suzanne Mason as Martha Watson sporting red curls reminiscent of Lucille Ball and impeccable comedic timing takes center stage belting out Let Me Sing and I’m Happy and nearly stops the show. The general’s granddaughter, Susan Waverly, played by AnnaBelle Deaner, mimics Martha with a rousing reprise of the same song.

Director Matt Kunkel has created sheer perfection taking us on a memorable musical journey of sight and sound. Music Director Camille Johnson maintains energetic fluidity from start to finish with a band that is beautifully synchronized to the performers in every number.

Choreography is central to this show and Drew Humphrey’s lively routines from the tap numbers to a chorus line done with the precision of the Rockettes is outstanding. Sound design is essential in a musical and Laura Shubert has the levels just right.

This is a period piece musical therefore costumes must allow for ease of movement while reflecting the 1950’s era and Dustin Cross has created breathtaking silhouettes most notably the dreamy coats decorated with clouds in Blue Skies, the dazzling black and white ensembles in I Love a Piano with Judy’s belt that unwinds into piano keys and all those stunning red confections in the White Christmas and I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm finale. Hair design is another essential element in a period piece and Conor Donnelly’s 1950’s hairstyles look authentic.

Kyle Dixon’s scenic design sets the tone and is functional as it morphs easily from one scene into the next giving the continuous feel of the magical holiday season by emphasizing reds, greens and whites. Dixon’s giant frames of white bark against green matting outlines the set and emphasizes a rural feel for the Vermont Inn. Aaron Bowersox’s lighting design adds brilliance to the big numbers and subtle touches for gentler moments.

White Christmas is a must-see festive treat for the entire family so ring in the holidays with this spectacular musical now through January 2, 2022. And be sure to return for the rest of their 2021-2022 season of exciting shows.

The John W. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main Street in Northport. Tickets to the show range from $75 to $80 with free valet parking. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

https://tbrnewsmedia.com/theater-review-northports-engeman-theater-rings-in-the-holidays-with-white-christmas/

BWW Review: IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS at the John W. Engeman Theater

by Melissa Giordano

Whenever you see a production presented by the John W. Engeman Theater, you’re in for a wonderful event, especially around the holidays. Their current offering this holiday season, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, based on the classic Paramount Pictures film, is no exception. The Matt Kunkel directed musical, running through January 2nd at the exquisite Northport venue, boasts a beautifully talented, stellar cast.

Set in 1944, World War II Army vets Bob Wallace, portrayed by Aaron Young, and Phil Davis, portrayed by Daniel Plimpton, partner up to become a song and dance act after they are discharged from the war. Being that the movie version had Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace and Danny Kaye as Phil Davis, top-notch performers are needed for these roles and these great actors brilliantly delivered. Their bond is strong and they complement each other well.

Bob and Phil meet a singing sister duo, Betty and Judy Haynes, stunningly portrayed by Meadow Nguy and Darien Crago, respectively. Bob and Phil were originally going to take their act to Florida, but end up going to a Vermont resort where the sisters are headed. Ms. Nguy and Ms. Crago are fantastic in their roles. Indeed, a heartwarming performance of “Sisters”, complete with gorgeous blue dresses and large feathered fans, is certainly an audience favorite.

Coincidentally, the resort they go to is owned by their old Army commander General Henry Waverly portrayed strongly by Keith Lee Grant. At the time, business is slow at the resort due to the lack of snow. To surprise the General, Bob and Phil get in touch with another army buddy, Ralph Sheldrake portrayed by Nick Abbott, to have their old division come to the resort to check out their new act featuring The Haynes Sisters. The most poignant part of the show comes from General Waverly where he gives a very emotional speech thanking those who came. During the speech, the audience is acknowledged as if it were a banquet hall of soldiers he commanded the year before.

General Waverly’s manager at the resort is the hilariously bossy Martha Watson portrayed by Suzanne Mason. As a former Broadway actress, Martha surprises everyone with her strong voice offering to be part of the show they’re putting together. Another highlight is Engeman vet AnnaBelle Deaner as Susan Waverly, the General’s granddaughter. Bitten by the acting bug as she’s watching everyone rehearse for the show at the resort, Susan thrillingly sings “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” in act two to everyone’s enthusiastic approval.

On the creative team, Choreographer Drew Humphrey did a superb job recreating the mostly tap performances. Kyle Dixon’s set is beautiful as well. The most elaborate was the barn they rehearsed in. It has wooden walls that went all the way up to the rafters and into the wings. The ending scene is incredibly gorgeous as well. Dustin Cross’ costumes added to the ambiance of the show from Bob and Phil’s Army fatigues to the beautiful holiday dresses Betty and Judy wear for the big ending number, everyone looked stunning.

As you can see, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is one production that should not be missed this holiday season. A beautiful and enthusiastic cast and playful music (including the show’s namesake) will make for a dazzling evening of theater.

WHITE CHRISTMAS to be Presented at the John W. Engeman Theater

The John W. Engeman Theater has announced the cast and creative team for WHITE CHRISTMAS. Performances begin on Thursday, November 11, 2021, and run through Sunday, January 2, 2022.

Based on the beloved film, this heartwarming adaptation follows vaudeville stars and veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis as they head to Vermont to pursue romance with a duo of beautiful singing sisters. This family classic features beloved songs by Irving Berlin including Blue Skies, I Love A Piano, How Deep Is The Ocean and the perennial favorite, White Christmas. WHITE CHRISTMAS is an uplifting musical and a perfect way to spend holiday time with your loved ones.

WHITE CHRISTMAS is Directed by MATT KUNKEL (Engeman Credits: Sunset Boulevard and Elf the Musical; National Tours: An Officer and a Gentleman Candide,a??Elf the Musical; Regional: The Muny, St. Louis Symphony, L&L/92nd St Y, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Reading for The Met, Actors Fund, NAMT and Transport Group) and Choreographed by Drew Humphrey (Engeman Theater: Oklahoma, Mary Poppins, A Chorus Line, Singin’ In The Rain, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Guys and Dolls, 42nd Street, and Gypsy).

The Creative Team includes Camille Johnson (Musical Director), Kyle Dixon (Scenic Design), Dustin Cross (Costume Design), AARON BOWERSOX (Lighting Design), Laura Shubert(Sound Design), CONOR DONNELLY (Wig Design), Kristie Moschetta (Props Design), Gayle Seay, SCOTT WOJCIK and Holly Buczek of WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING (Casting Directors), Leila Scandar (Production Stage Manager), and KATIE SPINA (Assistant Stage Manager).

WHITE CHRISTMAS is being produced for the John W. Engeman Theater by RICHARD DOLCE.

WHITE CHRISTMAS will play the following performance schedule: Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm. Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $80 for matinees and on Saturday evenings, $75 all other performances and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, going online at www.EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport. Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express accepted.

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

https://www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/WHITE-CHRISTMAS-to-be-Presented-at-the-John-W-Engeman-Theater-20211102

 

 

TBR Theater Review: ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ sizzles at the Engeman

September 30, 2021

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please take your seats

and grasp on to your armrests.

You’re about to be part of

a musical experience!

Oh, and

You WILL get the urge to

jump up, sing and dance.

GO for it!

You have just entered

SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ!!

On September 16, the lights came up once again on the Main Stage at the Engeman Theater since they were shuttered last March and there’s no better way to premier their 14th season of bringing professional theatre to Long Island audiences than with the Grammy Award winning and Tony nominated hit, Smokey Joe’s Café. This exceptional revue holds a special place at the Engeman since it was the very first show produced on their stage back in 2007.

The second the theater’s red curtains sweep open, we are catapulted into a dazzling world that is Broadway’s longest running musical review. This fast-paced show brims with 40 high powered hits by the prolific songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who wrote for icons like Elvis Presley, Ben E. King, The Coasters and The Drifters. The show is over in a blink of an eye and at the end all you want is an encore.

Since this is a musical revue it is devoid of dialogue, but the songs create little vignettes. It takes a talented ensemble to tell stories through song and that’s exactly what Deidre Goodwin has accomplished with her directorial choices, stunning choreography and perfect casting. Goodwin has placed the audience in the hands of these dynamic entertainers who ignite the house.

Soon the audience becomes a venerable character taking part in the show by punctuating the end of every song with enthusiastic cheers and applause. Audience response culminates with an explosive standing ovation at the curtain call. The one reprised song, Neighborhood, performed eloquently by the entire company, serves to connect the songs creating a scrapbook feel.

There are so many captivating moments in this show.

In Young Blood, we meet a quintet of male performers (Devinre Adams as Ken, Tasheim Ramsey Pack as Adrian, Christopher Brasfield as Victor, Brian Maurice Kinnard a Fred and Jeff Sullivan as Michael) with smooth dancing and powerful harmonies.

In Dance With Me, B.J. (Elizabeth Yetunde Adabale) wraps the lyrics around her BIG leather voice that sends chills. Adabale captivates each time she takes center stage.

As Pattie, Francesca Ferrari, in I Keep Forgettin’ and Pearl’s a Singer shows off her formidable vocal dexterity capable of filling the house with her high notes that fall into a gravelly blues sound that almost resurrects Janis Joplin.

DeLee, Alysha Morgan, in Teach Me How to Shimmy, stops the show with her incredible dance made even more exciting by costume designer David Withrow’s sparkling silver fringe mini dress, just one in his array of striking showpiece costumes that permit ease of movement.

Mars Storm Rucker as Brenda draped in Winthrow’s black gown replete with a mile long train, is sultry and seductive as they declare a no-nonsense ultimatum in the torch song Don Juan. Rucker returns with their gorgeous belting voice in Some Cats Know. Equipped with nothing more than a simple staged chair acting as their partner, this visual is reminiscent of a Bob Fosse Chicago routine.

Brasfield is a uniquely talented force with his comical whiskey guzzling D.W. Washburn, to his impressive falsetto that blasts into the stratosphere in his heart wrenching I (Who Have Nothing).

A battle of the sexes ensues when the female ensemble gives a scorching rendition of I’m a Woman that reads like a spiked heal smashing down on the men’s lascivious turn at Little Egypt.

Scenic designer David Goldstein has given each song its own setting by constructing a raised platform, stairs on one side and spiral staircase on the other against an abstract backdrop of city windows that are enhanced by John Burkland’s lighting design which morphs into a variety of colors from pinks to blues to whites to yellows behind the windowpanes signifying mood changes. An outstanding touch is the strings of vertical white lights that exhilarate and define On Broadway.

The songs never quit and the five piece band keeps the energy flowing. Highlighted instrumental solos add excitement to some numbers. Joel Levy’s saxophone fires up Spanish Harlem while Darnell White’s keyboard joins in the fun with Charlie Brown and Baby, That is Rock & Roll is infused with Ray Sabatello’s spirited guitar riffs and Russell Brown’s cool bass.

This is theatre at its best dropped right in the middle of Northport. From the moment you enter the Engeman, you are awed by the attention to detail from its well-appointed lobby to its stadium style seating. It is as if you have been lifted by a tornado of Oz-like proportion and dropped right in the middle of Broadway. That sensation continues all through this spectacular show until you step back outside only to realize you are indeed on bucolic Main Street.

Join the celebratory reopening of theatre at the Engeman with a show that is packed with hit songs, slick dance numbers and a first-rate cast. This is truly a feast for the mind and the soul.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Smokey Joe’s Cafe through Oct. 31. Tickets are $75 per person and include free valet parking. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

BWW Review: SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE at the John W. Engeman Theater

Smithtown Matters – A Smoking Hot Show at the John W. Engeman Theater

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2021 AT 10:32PM

By Cindi Sansone-Braff

A Smoking Hot Show at the John W. Engeman Theater

A year and a half after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the theater industry, Northport’s beloved Engeman Theater is alive and well and thrilled to reopen their Main Stage, with Smokey Joe’s Cafe, a musical revue by the legendary songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.  Was the audience happy to be back watching live theatre?  Did they like the show?  Saturday evening’s rousing standing ovation says it all. This Grammy award-winning and Tony Award-nominated hit show runs now through Halloween.

The original Broadway production at the Virginia Theatre, directed by Jerry Zaks, opened on March 2, 1995. This classic jukebox musical was the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history. The mega-hit collection of some of the greatest songs of the past century is the primary reason this show remains an audience favorite.  Many of these chart-topping hits were originally performed by musical legends like Elvis Presley, Ben E. King, The Coasters, and The Drifters.

Like most musical revues, Smokey Joe’s Cafe doesn’t have a unifying theme, dialogue, or book. However, it does have unforgettable tunes, robust dance numbers, non-stop 1950’s nostalgia, pulsating energy, and sensational vocals.  The wide range of musical genres, including folk, gospel, country, blues, R&B, doo-wop, and rock’ n’ roll, had the audience clapping, hooting, and toe-tapping throughout the evening.  The superb cast seemed to be having as much fun on stage performing these classic song and dance numbers as the audience had watching them.

Director and Choreographer Deirdre Goodwin imbued this sizzling production with an overabundance of heart, soul, and humor. The dazzling period costumes by David Withrow and the expertise of the formidable band gave the show added pizzazz.

For this show, two understudies with star power, Alysha Morgan as Delee and ElizabethYetunde Adabale as B.J., stepped in to fill the roles that Alia Munsch (Delee) and Kai Brittani White (B.J.) regularly perform.

Alysha Morgan’s “Teach Me How to Shimmy” performance was a real showstopper, and her spectacular white beaded costume accented her energetic shimmies.  She also delivered an emotion-packed version of “Falling.”

Elizabeth Yetunde Adabale gave Elvis a run for his money as she belted out “Hound Dog,” and her marvelous voice, with unbelievable range and control, thrilled the audience with her powerful rendition of “Fools Fall in Love.”

Tasheim Ramsey Pack, as Adrian, displayed his impressive vocal range when he sang the classic “Stand by Me,” and when the company joined him on stage, they revealed their pitch-perfect harmonies.

“Jailhouse Rock” was, for me, the highlight of the evening.  The unstoppable powerhouse, Jeff Sullivan as Michael, astounded the audience with his Elvis-like gyrations, energized interpretation of this blockbuster hit, and his athletic prowess as he shinnied down a long pole.  During the finale, he wowed the audience as he raced back up the pole in record time.

“Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown” were two upbeat, animated, funny song-and-dance numbers, where the entire company got to strut their stuff.  These songs also gave Brian Maurice Kinnard as Fred a chance to show off his physical comedy skills.  Throughout the show, Mr. Kinnard’s immense talents were evident.  He has a rich, lyric baritone voice and his versatile dance moves, including a quick split, were most impressive.

Christopher Brasfield was charismatic as Victor and killed the song, “I (Who Have Nothing).” He moved the audience with the raw emotion that spilled out of him with every heartrending word and piercing falsetto cry he uttered.

Mars Rucker played Brenda and gave a soaring solo with a sultry, mesmerizing performance of “Some Cats Know.”

“Saved,” a gospel revival number sung by Elizabeth Yetunde Adabale and company, ignited the audience with their colorful costumes, fun props, lively dance sequence, and strong vocals.

Francesca Ferrari portrayed Pattie and gave an unforgettable performance during “I Keep Forgettin.” Her voice was raw, biting, and soulful.  Ms. Ferrari gave a stand-out performance with her rendition of the ballad “Pearl’s a Singer.”

Devinré Adams as Ken showed his strengths as both a singer and a dancer during his stunning performance of “Spanish Harlem.”

This great date-night, family-friendly show is a crowd-pleaser and highly entertaining. You don’t want to miss it!  You may purchase tickets by calling (631) 261-2900 or online at www.EngemanTheater.com or in person at the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

 

Cindi Sansone-Braff is an award-winning playwright. She has a BFA in Theatre from UCONN and is a member of the Dramatist Guilds. She is the author of two self-help books, Grant Me a Higher Love and Why Good People Can’t Leave Bad Relationships.

LIN – Engeman Serves Up A Musical Feast In Smokey Joe’s Cafe

Live Shows Return To The Engeman Stage After A 19-Month Pandemic Hiatus

By jake Pellegrino
jake@longislandergroup.com

The John W. Engeman Theater at North-port reopened with a jubilant celebration of everything that makes live theater great on Thurs. Sept. 16 with its production of “Smokey Joe’s Café.”

A musical revue, “Smokey Joe’s Café” takes the audience on a journey back to the ’50s and ’60s and though there is no setting or plot, what makes the show special is that it makes you feel connected to the characters and the time period through its music.

Additionally, this creates a unifying theme of togetherness and community which is ap-propriate given that it this is the first live pro-duction at the Engeman in 19 months. Evident by the packed house on opening weekend, the community is ready to to enjoy live entertainment in person again.

Just nine cast members pull off impres-sive acrobatics and prop effects and belt out classic hits of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller like “Neighborhood,” “Kansas City,” “Poi-son Ivy,” “Don Juan,” “Yakety Yak,” “On Broadway,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Love Potion No. 9.” Their acrobatics are espe-cially representative in a scene where the cast transforms their bodies into a human bicycle.

Lieber and Stoller were well known as the songwriters for artists such as Elvis Presley, The Coasters, The Drifters and Ben E. King. The pair were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

The cast also shows off their range with some powerhouse performances like “Neighborhood,” performed by the entire company; “Poison Ivy” performed by Dev-inré Adams, Tasheim Ramsey Pack, Brian Maurice Kinnard and Christopher Bras-field; and softer melodic tunes like “Falling” sung by Alia Munsch, and “Some Cats Know” performed by Mars Storm Rucker.

The show’s production value also matches the high-energy music in the show. The colorful costumes are authentically representative of the time as is the backdrop set representing windowpanes lit up with LED screens.

“Smokey Joe’s Café” runs until Oct. 31. Tickets are available online at Engemantheater.com or call the box office at 631-261-2900.

The Theatre Guide – Smokey Joe’s Cafe – Theatre Review

Smokey Joe’s Cafe – John W. Engeman Theater – The Theatre Guide

September 22nd, 2021

By Jessica Kennedy.

The days are getting cooler, pumpkin spice is in the air, and live theater is back on Long Island! After over 500 days, the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport opens its doors for its stunning rendition of Smokey Joe’s Cafe (September 16- October 31). This Grammy Award-winning and Tony Award- nominated musical revue is a wonderful way to welcome back excited theatergoers.

Directed and Choreographed by Deidre Goodwin, this musical revue- Broadway’s longest running- feels like the right way to celebrate the return to live theater. The program features 40 of the most iconic songs of the past century, including fan favorites like “Stand By Me,” “Charlie Brown,” and “On Broadway.” The line up of music lauds the songwriting of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, known for writing or co-writing over 70 chart hits, and for being inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1985.

While the show follows no particular pattern or plot, the effect of this musical experience is no less cohesive and magical. The cast of nine performers works synchronously and seamlessly to create a flow from rhythm to rhythm, mood to mood. The songs which spotlight a lead singer are often beautifully complimented by the other performers supplying harmony, dance, and even acrobatic assists if the song calls for a little Cirque de Soleil inspired choreography! While each song was beautiful and unique in its own right, viewers are bound to have their personal favorites. Group performance stand outs for me include “Searchin,” “I’m a Woman,” and “Teach Me How to Shimmy,” while Mars Rucker delivered a show-stoppingly awesome rendition of “Don Juan,” and Elizabeth Adabale’s “Fools Fall in Love” left me breathless. I’m also a sucker for a great duet, and Francesca Ferrari and Tasheim Pack certainly delivered a powerful one with “Love Me/Don’t.”

Everyone will have their own favorites, but anyone in the audience will agree- the 2021/2022 season at Engeman is opening with a hit!

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Newsday – Curtain Up! A behind-the-scenes look at how live theater returned to LI

Smokey Joe’s Cafe – John W. Engeman Theater – Newsday

September 2oth, 2021

By Daniel Bubbeo

When Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater opened on June 28, 2007, the curtain went up on its first production, “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” a musical pastiche featuring hits like “Hound Dog,” “On Broadway” and 37 others from the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller songbook.

As the theater reopens this weekend with its first main stage musical since being shut down by the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, it’s only fitting that “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is getting an encore.

“It’s a perfect choice because of Engeman’s history with this show and because of how this show makes people feel, and we need some joy”

Director-choreographer Deidre Goodwin

“There’s catharsis in this show, which I think we also need, and the cast is smaller. Its music may be from a different time period, but it’s timeless,” said Goodwin.

From the set’s flashing lights to the even flashier numbers, Goodwin promises this production won’t be the same old song and dance as the Engeman’s first version. Still, nothing could have prepared anyone for the challenges COVID would bring to the production process.

But in the spirit of the old show-biz adage, “the show must go on.” Here’s a scene-by-scene rundown of what it took to put on “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” as live theater returns to Long Island.

For Goodwin, a seasoned director and performer who has appeared on Broadway in “Chicago,” “A Chorus Line” and more shows, finding the right actors for “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” came from an audition process that was, to be sure, virtually unlike any she has experienced.

As a professional theater company, Engeman follows Actors Equity guidelines which means all cast and crew members must be fully vaccinated. In adherence with social-distancing and other safety protocols, the first round of auditions were all done by video submissions. “Auditioners were given the material they were to prepare and then they filmed it and we were able to view them,” Goodwin said.

A select number were then invited for phase 2, which was done in person at a Manhattan rehearsal studio. “They sang a song from the show or from their own book and then we did dance,” she said.

Though Goodwin couldn’t hazard a guess as to how many tried out, the live process took place on four separate days throughout a three-week period in August.

For Brian Kinnard, 36, a Chattanooga, Tennessee, native who landed the role of bass singer Fred, that live tryout brought back feelings that had been dormant since March 2020.

“Once the pandemic hit, I kind of shut down,” he said. “I stopped singing for about six months. My partner was like, ‘You stopped singing?’ and I said ‘Yeah, what’s the point.’ Then I started getting back because I missed it, I love it. At the audition, it felt warm and friendly being back in a room with people who were passionate about performing. Then when I got to sing, I felt like, hey, look what I can do?”

As the cast and crew gather together for the first time on Aug. 31 at NextGen Studios in Manhattan, the atmosphere bears a striking resemblance to a classroom on the opening day of the school year. Goodwin could just as well be a teacher welcoming her class of fresh faces — what she can see of them behind their masks — with an endearing blend of energy and enthusiasm in her pep talk about her plans for the show.

After the tedious task of filling out necessary paperwork, the cast introduces themselves, something they haven’t really had a chance to do. “Normally everyone’s hugged everyone. Today it’s more like, ‘Is it OK if I hug you?’ ” Kinnard said.

After about a half-hour, it’s time to get down to business. Cast members are pulled individually to another room down the hall for costume fittings while everyone else starts to harmonize with musical director Jaret Landon on the opening number “Neighborhood.” With only 11 in the cast, everyone can be spaced carefully apart, though singing with a mask on is not something anyone is used to unless they’re doing “The Phantom of the Opera.”

Being masked is an even bigger challenge for learning the dance routines, Goodwin said. “When I’m just teaching, it’s fine; when I’m just dancing, it’s fine; when I’m just talking, it’s fine,” she said, “but putting it all together is a challenge. Also when I’m teaching the choreography to people, I have to literally make sure they have enough time to catch their breath.”

Not that she or anyone else is complaining. “It’s a family we’re creating now and we’re taking care of each other. We would rather be uncomfortable and have this on than throw caution to the wind,” she said.

For Medford’s Ramsey Pack, who plays the tenor Adrian, being part of the “Smokey Joe’s” family has a deeper meaning. As a youngster participating in Broadway Dreams, a nonprofit organization that mentors and teaches performing skills to kids, he had the opportunity to work with Otis Sallid, who choreographed “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” on Broadway. “That was an incredible experience and he was a beautiful person,” Pack said.

The purpose of a set is to help tell the story of a show, said Tim Moran, Engeman’s technical director who has been constructing the theater’s sets since 2014.

“There’s going to be a bunch of bells and whistles that are going to pop,” Moran said of the “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” set. Loudest of those bells and whistles are sure to be the hundreds of colored lights that illuminate windows on the stage, a dual-layered staircase on which dancers will go through their paces and a firefighter’s pole in the middle of the stage that someone slides down (think of an iconic ‘50s rocker’s movie theme about “a warden who threw a party in the county jail”).

Like all Engeman sets, construction on this one starts at a warehouse in Ronkonkoma where the theater’s previous set pieces and Moran’s equipment are housed. “When we open a show on Saturday, that Monday we start building the next show and it usually takes about six weeks,” Moran said. That phase usually comes about a month after speaking with the set designer about his or her vision for the show.

Once the set is complete, it is dismantled then transported to the theater in Northport and reconstructed, usually about 10 days before opening night. “The lighting guy is going to help me install all this stuff, while this week I’m helping him install all the lights,” Moran said.

Shining all that light on the Engeman stage is Brian Kurtz, the lighting supervisor. Most of this particular day has been spent wiring all of those LEDs on the stage windows to create a rainbow of flashing colors. Once everything is fully wired, Moran’s biggest concern is maintenance.

“Things break, things are plugged in the wrong spot thing and you end up fixing them,” he said.

And once the set is built, the designer then offers his input on lighting. “What’s most interesting usually is that you put the lights up and then you start to put the set up and you find, oh, these don’t quite fit together. So you have to make adjustments. Once it’s all together, it works pretty well,” Kurtz said.

While the “Smokey Joe’s” set is less complicated than those of most other Engeman shows, the biggest challenge for both the designer and builder has been working strictly with materials already in the warehouse.

“Without having an income for the past year and a half, we’re trying to do this with found materials,” Moran said. “The designer really had to stretch his creativity to come up with a way to work with what we have, so we didn’t have to spend a ton of money on materials. I think he’s been pretty darn creative.”

After about three days, everyone seemed to be finding their groove during rehearsals in Manhattan. Spirits were high, the cast was bonding and then there was an unexpected sour note: Everyone was alerted that two cast members had tested positive for COVID-19.

The two actors were put in isolation, rehearsals were temporarily put on hold and all cast and crew were required to have a COVID test. There was also understandable anxiety by some of the performers.

“It made me feel afraid for sure,” said Francesca Ferrari, who hails from San Jose, California, and shows off a little of her rocker girl side as Pattie. “When the vaccinations rolled out, there was just an attitude of ‘we’re not going to get it.’ Then I remembered, no that’s not what they said.”

In addition to anxiety, there was also concern for their fellow actors. “First, we were just worried for our castmates that had to leave and be quarantined. We were just worried for their health,” said DevinRé Adams, 26, of Washington, D.C., who handles some of the ballads as the soulful Ken. “And then we were worried that the show could continue.”

So was Engeman, which took extra precautions to ensure that the remaining players stayed healthy. Everyone on site has had regular testing three times a week, masks have been worn all throughout rehearsal and understudies have gone on during rehearsals for the two who tested positive. If both performers test negative at the end of the isolation period and are given a doctor’s OK, they will be allowed to continue with the show, said Richard Dolce, producing artistic director of the Engeman.

Masking has continued to be a part of everyone’s wardrobe at all times in the theater. “Up until now in tech we have been masked and that is 100% great and fine,” said Ferrari. “Fortunately, there are a lot of solos in this show, so there’s only a few times when we’re all on stage together. And whenever we’re offstage, we have our masks on.”

On Sept. 11, the cast arrived on the Engeman stage for the first time and experienced that moment when all of the show’s elements start to mesh together. Working on the actual set and having technicians apply the proper lighting effects adds a whole new dimension for the actors.

“It’s like reading pages on a line versus a pop-up book,” said Jeff Sullivan, 28, of Newfoundland, Canada, who calls his character, Michael, a quintessential rocker. “We had taped outlines of the set in the rehearsal hall and then we come here and we’ve actually got two layers of something. We’re actually getting to walk down stairs.”

He seemed unfazed that the cast might have been a few steps behind walking down those stairs.

“Normally, when you get to tech, you pretty much know the show,” Sullivan said. “But because we lost a little rehearsal time, the first two days of rehearsal here in the theater were spent learning the remainder of the show. So that layered on an extra layer of ambitious. Now I feel like we’re ready, we’re really ready to do this.”

That feeling comes through even more on Sept. 14, the day the cast performs with the musicians for the first time. “Getting to feel that presence on stage. Having the band be just as important a piece of the show as we are is really powerful,” Ferrari said. “For one of my songs, ‘Pearl’s a Singer,’ I really get to interact with the band a little bit more. I get to spend time with the piano and then the guitar player. That’s exciting.”

For Pack, it “feels surreal” to have the chance to be in the show and perform it on Long Island for his family and friends. “That’s something that’s so fulfilling spiritually, to know that my family can come and support me on a stage again,” he said.

At long last, the “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” cast is all dressed and ready to go. Most of them, that is. Only nine of the 11 will be on stage tonight because the two actors who tested positive will have to sit out this performance, as well as the three previews and the opening weekend.

“It was just going to be too much for them to get up to speed in time for the opening,” Dolce said. “But they should be back next week.”

As the rehearsal unfolds, it becomes clear that Goodwin was able to seamlessly make any adjustments for the missing performers. The cast members were ready to go out there and give it their all. Alysha Morgan appears to have mastered the art of shimmying on the sexy “Teach Me How to Shimmy.” The male quartet soaked up the bright lights performing the Drifters hit “On Broadway.” And the entire cast took everyone to church on the gospel number “Saved.”

After the last number, the Ben E. King classic “Stand by Me,” the cast delivered a surprise number — not from the Leiber-Stoller catalog — for Goodwin: “Happy birthday.”

For Goodwin, the show may have been the best birthday present ever. Asked earlier, if the show was everything she expected, she replied “Yes. And more.”

It’s an usually warm night for September, as some ticketholders wait outside the theater around 30 minutes before showtime. Also standing outside is one of the Engeman’s staffers whose job is to make sure everyone presents their proof of COVID vaccination as well as a photo ID before entering.

The lobby and piano lounge are also filled with people, many of them Engeman regulars who are happy to finally be seeing a show there. “It’s one of our favorite things to do,” said Kelly Garone of Kings Park who was waiting for her husband to join her in the lounge. “It’s local and the productions are great.”

And with hand sanitizer stations installed and the theater’s proof of vaccination requirement, she felt safe. “Everybody’s vaccinated, so I feel comfortable,” she said.

Because wearing a mask isn’t required but suggested, the majority of the crowd chose not to wear one, which displeased Merrick subscriber Fani Gellman. “I think it’s great that the theater is open again, but I wish people would wear their masks. They’re foolish not to,” she said.

Though the theater accommodates 400 people, attendance was only a little more than 50% capacity. “It’s not surprising given the times we’re in,” Dolce said.

Even though it was a smaller crowd, it was clear they were excited to experience live theater again judging by the cheers and applause that greeted Dolce and the theater’s other owner, Kevin O’Neill, as they welcomed everyone back and thanked the community for its support during the 18-month hiatus.

And the applause kept building throughout the night with each number. Christopher Brasfield’s falsetto wowed the crowd on “I Who Have Nothing.” Sullivan slid into high gear sliding down that pole on “Jailhouse Rock.” Pack’s rendition of “Love Potion No. 9” was a formula for success. And all four leading ladies were invincible on that ode to female empowerment “I’m a Woman.”

And the finale, “Stand by Me,” was followed by a standing O.

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WHAT “Smokey Joe’s Cafe”

WHEN | WHERE Through Oct. 31, John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport

INFO $75-$80; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com

Broadway World Review

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at The John W. Engeman Theater

January 28, 2020
By Melissa Giordano

Now in the middle of their spectacular fourteenth season, the John W. Engeman Theatre continues to dazzle with an excellent rendition of Million Dollar Quartet. It is a dramatization of a real jam session between Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. The Engeman’s terrific incarnation of the jukebox musical by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott runs through March 1st at the exquisite Northport venue.

Among the top-notch cast is Sam Sherwood as Carl Perkins, Sky Seals as Johnny Cash, Noel Carey as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sean Michael Buckley as Elvis. They are all excellent, but please don’t expect them to look exactly like the legends. It is apparent who each gentleman portrays. The historic jam session that evening was arranged by Sam Phillips, portrayed by Luke Darnell. Sam is the head of Sun Records and noted as a founder of Rock and Roll.

Sarah Ellis is also superb as Dyanne, Elvis’ girlfriend. The rest of the brilliant cast is completed by Corey Kaiser, who portrays Brother Jay (Carl Perkins’ brother who plays the bass for recording sessions) and David Sonneborn, who portrays Fluke, on drums. It is refreshing and amazing to see that the cast is the orchestra. The interaction makes it apparent they’re enjoying the time in this show.

As for Mr. Andrews’ creative team, Jordan Janota puts his “spin” on Sun Studio. In a stationary set, an elevated studio sits upstage with microphones and other studio equipment making up the jam session floor. Enhanced beautifully by John Burkland’s lighting and Dustin Cross’ costumes, the production is truly gorgeous.

You will not be disappointed when you catch a performance at the Engeman. And, you’ll be dancing in your seats with the music that includes “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Hound Dog”, and “Great Balls Of Fire”. The stunning theatre, a heart-tugging story, and a top-notch cast make for a thrilling night of theatre.

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The Theatre Guide Review

Million Dollar Quartet – John W. Engeman Theater – Theatre Review

January 27, 2020
By Kristen Weyer

When: December 4th, 1956. Where: Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. What: The impromptu jam session of four legendary musicians. This famous evening would mark the only time in history that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis ever played together, inspiring the musical Million Dollar Quartet, now playing at The Engeman Theater. This fabulous musical, with a book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, is directed and choreographed here by Keith Andrews.

This show is predominantly an incredible concert given by these four artists. It does however, contain an overarching plotline: the decision over the fate of Sun Records. The show is narrated by music producer, and Sun Records owner, Sam Phillips. Sam address the audience at numerous moments throughout the production describing the events of, and leading up to, that evening. At the same time, he is agonizing over an important offer from RCA Records to buy Sun Records and have Sam come work for them. While he struggles to decide what to do, we are introduced to the four icons. We are informed of fascinating backgrounds and history, and given an insider’s view to the events of that night all the while being treated to a plethora of amazing music.

This cast does a marvelous job, performing beautifully with stunning vocal and musical talent. They are: Sam Sherwood as Carl Perkins, Sky Seals as Johnny Cash, Noel Carey as Jerry Lee Lewis and Sean Michael Buckley as Elvis Presley, with Luke Darnell as Sam Phillips, Sarah Ellis as the lovely Dyanne, David Sonneborn as drummer Fluke and Corey Kaiser as Brother Jay. They give wonderful characterization, with intelligent portrayals and accurate comedic timing. Also, rest assured that you will not be subjected to painful and over-the-top impersonations in this performance. Sherwood, Seals, Carey and Buckley portray these iconic figures with an ease and grace that makes it easy to believe them, while stopping short of full impersonations. Don’t worry though, Elvis still says “Thank you very much”.

Don’t overlook the other characters in this show though, and indeed their performances are such that you won’t be able to. Luke Darnell plays Sam Phillips with expressiveness and charm. Elvis’ girlfriend, Dyanne, is portrayed by Sarah Ellis whose stunning vocals happily impress more than once. The recording studio musicians playing “back-up” for the four stars are Carl Perkins’ brother, Jay, on bass, and Fluke on the drums, portrayed with talent by Corey Kaiser and David Sonneborn.

A nicely accurate set by designer Jordan Janota, and attractive and time period appropriate costume design by Dustin Cross compliments the action. Sound Design by Laura Shubert gives that concert feel.

Whether these are the artists and songs of your youth, or possibly your first introduction to them, Million Dollar Quartet is a superb evening of theater for all. From “Blue Suede Shoes”, “I Walk the Line” and “Hound Dog” to “Great Balls of Fire”, this incredible piece of music history comes alive on the stage before your eyes and transports you back to another time. This show is fascinating and fabulous fun.

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The Observer Review

Come one, come all, there’s a hit at the Engeman

January 23, 2020
By David Ambro

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport has provided us with a high level of entertainment for a long time, but the show that is there right now is by far the best live music this town has ever seen.

Million Dollar Quartet is a show about a jam session December 4, 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, a recording studio made famous by Sam Phillips, the Father of Rock ‘n Roll. In the studio are rock legends Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, all protégés of Mr. Phillips. They are all there for different reasons, Carl Perkins to record a song, Johnny Cash to tell Mr. Phillips he is leaving for a new contract at Columbia Records, Elvis to try to talk Mr. Phillips into coming with him to RCA Records in New York, and Jerry Lee Lewis there to launch his musical career.

Though emotions run high and low, what they all have in common is an appreciation, admiration and respect for their mentor, and it is those feelings for Mr. Phillips that sparks the music.

The quartet of superstars is accompanied at the studio by Elvis’ girlfriend Dyanne, who performs vocals, Carl Perkins’ brother Jay who plays the bass, and Fluke on the drums. They tell the story of rock n’ roll history, the meteoric rise of each performer’s career, biographical flashbacks about their lives and their upbringings, including a commonality they share from the death of loved ones and how that affected their lives.

Beyond the storyline though, Million Dollar Quartet is a rock concert by a talented cast of musicians who awe the audience with classic music, from solos to quartets. And after the recording session seems to be done and the studio goes black, they jump back on stage for an encore that caps off the show in classic concert style.

This is no doubt one of the best shows the Engeman Theater has ever brought us. Buy your tickets now because when word gets out about how good this is they are going to be hard to find.

The cast of Million Dollar Quartet is special in that every one of the performers is an Actors Equity professional. That tells you something. But better than that, they are all tremendous at what they do.

Jerry Lee Lewis is played by Noel Carey. It’s a tough part to play because Jerry Lee Lewis is a bit weird in real life, and in the scripted lines Mr. Carey emotes through it, but he is one of the most talented musicians ever to hit Main Street in Northport Village. Mr. Carey is probably one of the most exciting rock n’ roll pianists around, and he couples that with a melodic voice that is worth the price of admission alone.

Carl Perkins is played by Sam Sherwood. He is the music captain of the show and it’s easy to see why. Mr. Sherwood plays the electric guitar with such skill and spirit that it is a performance theater lovers and music enthusiasts can’t miss.

Sky Seals plays Johnny Cash, not the old slow singing Johnny Cash many of us remember, but the young up-and-coming Johnny Cash full of vim and vigor, and Seals delivers on some solo classics that are tremendous: Folsom Prison Blues, Sixteen Tons and I Walk the Line among them.

Sean Michael Buckley plays Elvis, and it is also at a time when he is at his prime, the hottest rock n roll idol and movie star in America at the time. In mannerism, Mr. Buckley brings us a real Elvis, but like the rest of the cast he is a tremendous musician, a wonderful acoustic guitarist, and like Johnny Cash, he delivers some classic solos that are terrific, Hound Dog, Long Tall Sally, Peace in the Valley to name a few.

Sarah Ellis plays Dyanne, and although she is not a star of the 1956 rock era, she is a star on the Engeman stage. Ms. Ellis is both a tremendous actor and a fantastic singer, who enhances this magical quartet of superstars, and also fills the stage with solo performances of Fever and I Hear You Knockin.

This is a show that crosses the generational divide with rock n’ roll that livens the spirit. Beyond their individual performances, the quartet delivers the million dollar billing with such classics as Down By the Riverside, I Shall Not Be Moved, one of my favorites, Party and Peace in the Valley.

Again, this is a tremendous show not to be missed. If you do, you’ve let one of Engeman’s best pass you by.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Theater Review: The Engeman’s ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ is a musical treasure

January 23, 2020
By Rita J. Egan

The folks at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport have brought back the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll in its latest offering, “Million Dollar Quartet.” The show, which debuted on Jan. 16, celebrates four iconic musical legends with a sensational cast masterfully directed by Keith Andrews.

With book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, the production is inspired by the music of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and that historic day of Dec. 4, 1956, when a series of events created the stuff dreams are made of for many music lovers.

Recognized as one of the greatest improv jam sessions ever, it was on that fateful day that Perkins and Lewis were recording at Sun Studio in Memphis when Cash stopped by to break the news to owner Sam Phillips that he was leaving the studio’s record label. If that wasn’t enough, Presley stopped by on the way to his mother’s house with his girlfriend Dyanne on his arm.

On Broadway from April 2010 until June 2011, “Million Dollar Quartet” was nominated for three Tony Awards in 2010. That year Levi Kreis won the Best Featured Actor in a Musical award for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis.

Right from the opening number of “Blue Suede Shoes” sung by Sam Sherwood (Carl Perkins), Sky Seals (Johnny Cash), Noel Carey (Jerry Lee Lewis) and Sean Michael Buckley (Elvis Presley), the audience knows they are in for a real treat. With classic rock songs such as the opening number, “That’s All Right,” “I Walk the Line” and “Great Balls of Fire,” it’s hard to choose a favorite. Each of the talented actors recognizes just how important it is to bring the spirits of these musicians to the stage, and they were spot-on during every number.

During last Saturday’s performance the foursome sounded especially beautiful when they sang “Down by the Riverside.” Sarah Ellis as Dyanne also served up steamy versions of “Fever” and “I Hear You Knockin,” and provides a refreshing female presence with her friendly portrayal of one of very few people, Marilyn Evans, who witnesses the recording.

Luke Darnell as Phillips is charming as he also serves as narrator, filling the audience in on Dec. 4, 1956, and how he met each of the singers and recognized their unique talents. He also portrays the character with a sense of integrity that leaves the sentiment that the Sun Records and studio owner truly cared about the music and not just the money.

Sherwood plays Carl Perkins with a good amount of cockiness, which is appropriate considering Perkins wrote and first recorded “Blue Suede Shoes” before Elvis Presley became known for the tune after performing it on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Buckley as Presley has all the right moves that the King was known for and also captures how down-to-earth the singer was.

In the role of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carey performs the eccentric singer from Louisiana to the hilt, which garnered plenty of laughs from the audience and captures the wild and controversial side of the musician perfectly. Seals’ Johnny Cash is stoic and gentlemanly and also has a knack for holding the guitar high like Cash did when playing the instrument.

David Sonneborn and Corey Kaiser as musicians Fluke and Brother Jay, respectively, round out the cast perfectly. Both are “Million Dollar Quartet” veterans as Kaiser played Brother Jay on Broadway and was part of Off-Broadway, national and regional productions, and Sonneborn is an original cast member of the national tour.

As the story ends, the entire cast, including Darnell on harmonica, puts on a performance that feels as if the audience was transported to a concert back in time. On press opening night, Buckley was adorable, flirting with an audience member like Elvis would do during “Hound Dog.” Those in attendance also couldn’t help singing along to “Ghostriders in the Sky,” “See You Later Alligator” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Jordan Janota has cleverly crafted a set that seamlessly transitions from the interior of Sun Studio to the exterior, and costume designer Dustin Cross has chosen outfits that capture the personality of each singer, and the costumes during the last few songs are absolutely fabulous, especially Ellis’ dress.

“Million Dollar Quartet” at the Engeman is the ideal choice for a night out on the town and also shares an interesting peek into life in the mid-50s. Woven into the story of the legends’ lives is a bit of American history with mentions of the cost of living at the time and the influence of gospel music on rock ‘n’ roll musicians.

Phillips tells Dyanne that Sun Studio “is where the soul of a man never dies” toward the end of the musical. At the Engeman, the extraordinarily talented cast has celebrated and honored the souls of all of these legends — both living and passed — wonderfully.

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Broadway World Review

MATILDA at John W. Engeman Theater

Nov. 21, 2019  
By Melissa Giordano 

Northport’s John W. Engeman Theatre does it again with a thrilling production of Tony award-winner Matilda, the musical. The lavish incarnation, superbly directed by Igor Goldin, runs at the exquisite Long Island venue through December 29th. And, based on the audience reaction opening weekend, you may want to get your tickets quickly.

Based on the classic 1988 Ronald Dahl children’s book, we follow five-year-old Matilda. She’s precocious, loves to read, and, unfortunately, has a horrible family. However, she knows what she wants and her worth which is beyond amazing. It is also hilarious when she gets revenge on everyone who have been needlessly unkind to her.

Elsa Dees and AnnaBelle Deaner alternate the titular role. Elsa is enjoyable, has great stage presence for someone so young, and brings lots of laughs when needed as this show is kind of an emotional roller. I had the pleasure of previously seeing AnnaBelle in productions of Annie and Once at the Engeman. She is such a firecracker and also a great choice to portray Matilda. It is also a treat seeing Michael Perrie, Jr. back on the Engeman stage as Mr. Wormwood, Matilda’s rotten father. He does put a great comedic spin on the role. In all honesty, the entire company is truly top-notch.

On the brilliant creative team, Nate Bertone‘s set is well done. Enhanced by Jose Santiago’s atmospheric lighting and Mara Newbery Greer’s entertaining choreography, you will be captivated by this production as you leave the theatre. Leave it to the Engeman for another visually stunning show.

The Engeman will not disappoint and this is indeed a must see for the holiday season. A top quality production, talented & beautiful cast, and a classic tale make for an exhilarating evening of theatre.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Theater Review: Kids take center stage as ‘Matilda the Musical’ arrives in Northport for the holidays

November 21, 2019
By Rita J. Egan

“Matilda the Musical” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport Nov. 14 with all the spunk of a Broadway production.

Inspired by the 1988 book by Roald Dahl, the musical introduces audience members to the real and imaginary worlds of 5-year-old Matilda Wormwood, who is misunderstood by her dim-witted family. While the Wormwoods make life difficult at home by making fun of her passion for reading and her smarts, the days become even more troublesome when she begins school with the dastardly Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of Crunchem Hall. However, with her love of reading, a magical imagination and caring teacher Miss Honey on her side, Matilda finds her happy ending.

The musical, with book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and orchestrations and additional music by Chris Nightingale, debuted in England in 2010 and opened on Broadway in 2013. While the show closed on the Great White Way in January of 2017, “Matilda the Musical” is still running at the Cambridge Theater in London. It was also released as a movie in 1996 starring Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman as the Wormwoods and Mara Wilson as Matilda.

Igor Goldin has directed a superb cast in the Engeman version, which includes many talented children actors. AnnaBelle Deaner and Elsa Dees alternate in the role of Matilda. On the night of Nov. 15 when I reviewed the musical, AnnaBelle played the part. The actress is darling in the role and portrays Matilda perfectly as the brave and precocious girl she is. She hits every note during her solos and her version of “Quiet” is beautiful and touching.

AnnaBelle along with her fellow youth actors stole many scenes. During one depicting the first day of school, they along with the ensemble performed a sensational “School Song” where everyone involved was strong in both vocals and dance moves. The company also delivers a fantastic “When I Grow Up,” the signature song from the musical.

Sara Gallo as Mrs. Wormwood and Michael Perrie Jr. as Mr. Wormwood are hilarious. While the two characters aren’t the best at parenting, Gallo and Perrie are pros at garnering laughs from the audience. Gallo plays her character to the hilt during the song “Loud” as she and Al Lockhart as Rudolpho, her dancing partner, show off some fantastic dance moves. And Perrie’s vocals are strong on “All I Know,” known as “Telly” in the Broadway and London versions. He also does a wonderful job interacting with the audience toward the end of intermission. Richard Westfahl as Michael Wormwood is also funny as Matilda’s dim-witted brother.

Dane Agostinis as Miss Trunchbull, the Olympic Hammer-Throwing Champion headmistress who believes children are maggots, plays the antagonist role perfectly. Agostinis can deliver her songs smoothly without breaking character despite the funny lines and laughs from the audience. Kate Fahrner as Miss Honey is simply endearing and sings a beautiful “My House” in the second act.

Emily Kelly as The Acrobat and Alex Herrera as The Escapologist are delightful, especially when Herrara joins Matilda on the song “I’m Here.” Nicole Powell was a charming Ms. Phelps, the librarian who looks forward to Matilda’s stories. Jamie Colburn as the Doctor and Sergei rounds out the cast perfectly.

On the night that I attended the show, I was fortunate to have with me 15-year-old Jonathan Guttenberg, who has seen countless productions, including “Matilda the Musical” on Broadway and London. Jonathan said “School Song” and “Revolting” were his favorite numbers in the Engeman production because they were both powerful and thought the theater did a phenomenal job.

Scenic designer Nate Bertone has put together a fun and colorful set with clever oversized books that fold out one way to serve as the Wormwood’s living room and another to provide the backdrop for the library. Mara Newbery Greer also has choreographed several energetic dance numbers, which the actors have mastered, including the youngest members of the youth ensemble, with special mention to Lily Tamburo.

With the chilly weather settling in along the North Shore, “Matilda the Musical” has arrived just in time with its funny, heart-warming story and will be a hit with local theatergoers of all ages.

The Theatre Guide Review

Matilda – The John W. Engeman Theater – Theatre Review

November 19, 2019
By Jessica Kennedy

The John W.  Engeman Theater in Northport has selected a critically acclaimed powerhouse with Roald Dahl’s Matilda– winner of seven Olivier Awards, including Best Musical, and five Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical!  Directed by Igor Goldin and running from November 14th- December 29th, this delightful and uplifting tale of a courageous young girl reminds us that- no matter our circumstances- it is never too late to change our story!

Matilda tells the tale of a clever child born into a family who is less than thrilled with her arrival.  Add to that her proclivity to read and her assertion that she, in fact, is a GIRL, and she finds herself frequently mocked and criticized by her parents and ignored by her witless brother.  Things don’t look much better for her when she starts school and encounters the sadistic and tyrannical headmistress, Miss Trunchbull; however, hope prevails in the shape of her charming teacher, Miss Honey, and just a touch of magic.  The result of all this is a touching, tragic, and enchanting story, which both breaks your heart and lifts your spirits!

From start to finish this show is highly engaging and beautifully performed!  The set, designed by Nate Bertone, is masterfully constructed, and serves to enhance the overall staging, while Mara Newbery Greer’s clever choreography uses the set and props to underline and intensify the musical performances.  Moreover, the junior cast members of this show were remarkable to watch! Each young man and woman was both highly engaging and believable in his or her role. Their voices and stage presence exceeded my expectations; it is apparent that these young performers are both talented and professional.  Furthermore, Miss Elsa Dees is truly impressive as the title character; her vocals are melodious, while her pacing and delivery make Matilda feel both nuanced and genuine. Michael Perrie Jr. and Sara Gallo (Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood) are terribly terrific as the selfish and imbecilic parents of the beloved prodigy.  They are each artfully able to make such reprehensible characters appear both despicable and diverting. Kate Fahrner skillfully portrays Miss Honey with all the saccharine sweetness you would expect of her namesake, which only intensifies the cruelty of her gruesome counterpart, Miss Trunchbull. Add to that an absolutely hilarious portrayal of the despotic and diabolical headmistress by Dane Agostinis- his rendition of “The Hammer” had me practically in tears- and you have the makings of a fantastic cast and a fabulous show!

While the story of a precocious young girl who spends all her time in the library doesn’t sound like the makings of a riveting plot, this show delivers a highly engaging storyline- and the Engeman Theater completes the experience with a fabulous production team and cast!

The Theatre Guide Review

Sunset Blvd. – John W. Engeman Theater – Theatre Review

September 22, 2019
By Jessica Kennedy

Come and visit the infamous and fabled Sunset Blvd! Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is brought to life on the stage at Engeman Theater in Northport from September 12th- October 27th. Directed and Staged by Matt Kunkel and based on the Billy Wilder film of the same name, this show will captivate you with its bittersweet story of glamour, romance, and tragedy.

The play opens with the disillusioned Hollywood writer Joe Gillis (Bryant Martin) struggling to find a script to get him through a dry spell.  When he finds himself hiding from a pair of repo men, he ends up in the home of Norma Desmond (Judy McLane), a legendary actress of the silent pictures age who is unwilling- or unable- to accept that her time in the limelight has passed. What first seems like a blessing, quickly turns into a curse when the complicated dynamic between the pair, which promises “The Perfect Year,” leads to heartbreak and ruin for them both.

As soon as you walk into the theater you will notice the ambiance is quite somber. Paige Hathaway’s scenic design captures both the elegance and palpable sadness of the show’s leading lady. While there are a few lighter moments in the show-particularly the ones featuring the fierce and confident Betty Schaeffer (Sarah Quinn Taylor)- the main focus of the story features an exquisite portrayal of a woman whose struggle with reality is equally painful and poetic. Judy McLane is truly fantastic as Norma; she skillfully embodies the full scope of her character’s troubled and fragmented actions. Kurt Alger’s costume design beautifully compliments McLane, and elevates the glamour of her performances, especially in “New Ways to Dream,” and “The Lady’s Paying.”  The mystery of this enigmatic star and her reclusive lifestyle are highlighted additionally by the presence of Max von Mayerling (David Hess)- the unwaveringly loyal constant in Norma’s empty life. The vocal performances in this show are packed with passion and pain. Don’t expect many upbeat company numbers, or tunes to keep you humming on the way home. This show has something else to offer- it will leave you feeling dazzled by Norma’s star power, and haunted by the ghost of a queen without her throne.

Broadway World Review

SUNSET BOULEVARD at The John W. Engeman Theater

September 20, 2019
By Melissa Giordano

 

It may seem that productions of Tony winning musical Sunset Boulevard are a dime a dozen. But when it is playing at the exquisite John W. Engeman Theater, you know it is a must-see. Running through October 27th at the Northport venue, the show boasts a fantastic, affecting cast.

In the two act tuner directed by Matt Kunkel, we follow Norma Desmond living – mentally – in the past of her glorious career as a legendary silent film star. She has yet, transitioned to the talkies. It is a very moving story. She lives in a run-down house and believes she is still the toast of the town.

Judy McLane brilliantly leads the cast as Norma commanding the stage at every moment. Indeed a favorite of the enthusiastic audience is her rendition of “As If We Never Said Goodbye”. She makes a great team with Bryant Martin who portrays Joe, an up-and-coming writer who tries to take advantage of the situation when he end up at Nora house. David Hess is also a highlight as Max. Mr. Hess’ “The Greatest Star Of All” doesn’t leave a dry eye in the house. The entire company is excellent.

On the creative team, Paige Hathaway‘s set is well done. It’s minimal with several rolling pieces for seamless scene changes. Enhanced by Kurt Alger‘s beautiful costumes and John Burkland lighting, this production is stunning. And, of course, it is always thrilling to have a live orchestra accompany the cast this one superbly led by Musical Director Charlie Reuter.

Sunset Boulevard is an emotional show, but one of the greats to see. Again, we may see it performed a lot, but when you have a cast as good as the Engeman’s, it’s worth another look.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Engeman Theater’s ‘Sunset Blvd.’ cast shines in iconic tale

September 20, 2019
By Rita J. Egan

On Sept. 12, the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport debuted “Sunset Blvd.” Filled with memorable performances, the cast members are definitely ready for their close-ups.

With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by Don Black and Christoper Hampton, “Sunset Blvd.” tells the story of Norma Desmond, an aging silent screen star who is desperately holding on to her glory days. Set in 1949 and 1950, Desmond meets struggling writer Joe Gillis. The screen star feels a spark of hope in her reclusive life when she asks Joe to edit a screenplay that she hopes will pave the way to her comeback.

The production, based on the 1950 movie of the same name starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden, spins an intriguing web of seduction, unrequited love and jealousy. The musical’s culmination is a dramatic Hollywood ending.

Opening on Broadway in 1994 and running for more than two years, the show won several Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Glenn Close. The production was revived in 2017 for a brief Broadway run with Close once again starring as Desmond.

The Northport version, under the direction of Matt Kunkel, is filled with a talented cast that brings the Great White Way to the North Shore. Judy McLane as Norma Desmond steals the spotlight the moment she steps on stage with her striking appearance, strong stage presence and sensational vocals. It’s no surprise that McLane’s a Broadway veteran appearing in hits such as “Mamma Mia!” (Donna and Tanya), “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Chess.”

McLane shines in her solos especially during “With One Look,” “As If We Never Said Goodbye” and in her duet with Bryant Martin, as Joe Gillis, in “New Ways to Dream.”

David Hess, who appeared in “Sunset Blvd.” on Broadway, is perfect as the stoic Max, Norma’s butler, who has been in love with her since the first time they met on a movie set. Hess’ vocals are fantastic. During the first act, he performs a beautiful version of “The Greatest Star of All” while giving Joe a tour of Desmond’s run-down mansion.

Martin is a suave and charismatic Joe on whom Norma sets her sights not only to work with but to be her lover early in the musical. The character also serves as the narrator of the complex tale. Martin gets to show off his singing chops in a duet with McLane titled “The Perfect Year” during Act I, and later in Act II while performing “Too Much in Love to Care” with the talented Sarah Quinn Taylor, who plays a delightful Betty.

Because she’s his friend’s fiancée, Joe tries to fight off falling in love with Betty but finds it difficult to resist her as they work on a screenplay together. The budding romance between Joe and Betty soon creates tension between him and Norma, which leads to a dramatic twist that seals his fate. Douglas Waterbury-Tieman as Betty’s fiancé Artie Green, Martin, Taylor and the whole ensemble, perform an entertaining “This Time Next Year” toward the end of Act I. Ensemble member Cody Gerszewski steals the scene at times as he convincingly portrays a drunk partygoer.

Eric Jon Mahlum is also a scene-stealer during the number “The Lady’s Paying” as the tailor Manfred who has been hired to make over Joe with a stylish new wardrobe. And during a visit to the Paramount Pictures studio, Larry Daggett, with his strong vocals and an air of confidence, captures the essence of old-time Hollywood perfectly playing director Cecil B. DeMille.

Among the show’s stars are the musicians conducted by Charlie Reuter and the costumes by Kurt Alger. The costumes encapsulate the spirit of the period, especially with Norma’s glamorous outfits. As for Paige Hathaway’s scenic design, it’s a clever one using sliding wood doors and a movable staircase that help transform the stage seamlessly from Norma’s mansion to the Paramount Pictures backlot.

The musical leaves a lot to ponder about growing old gracefully and the difference between true love and obsession, and the Northport cast of “Sunset Blvd.” delivers the iconic classic with grace and talent.

The Long Islander Review

Engeman’s Saturday Night Fever Burns Hot

July 27, 2019
By Sophia Ricco

 

It’s hard not to tap your toes and bob your head when hearing “Stayin’ Alive” as your favorite disco classics take form in the ’70s spectacular musical “Saturday Night Fever.”

This energetic rendition of the blockbuster film will make anyone want to hit the dance floor and do the hustle. The classic movie gets a musical twist with characters singing and dancing their way through life’s challenges with the help of the Bee Gees and other disco legends. It tells the story of Tony Manero, played by Michael Notardonato, a teen dodging his problems through his love for dancing.

“It’s a coming of age story,” Notardonato said in an opening weekend interview. “It’s about this 19-year-old guy, that’s trying to break out of his no-good neighborhood and rise above the struggles he’s grown up around.”

Throughout the musical, Tony encounters characters who pull him in different directions. He finds himself consumed by Stephanie Mangano, played by Missy Dowse, a refined dancer that wants to escape Bay Ridge and make a new life for herself in Manhattan. As the pair practices for an upcoming dance competition, Tony realizes he wants more than living at home and working at a paint shop.

“The message I hope people take away is no matter how trapped or stuck you are in your current situation, you can overcome that by finding a few guiding lights in your life,” Notardonato said. “It’s about choosing your happiness and finding your own path.”

As Tony figures this out, he and the cast share sensational numbers on the 2001 Odyssey dance floor, with choreography that masters the decade’s scene. The cast moves with precision while performing, “Night Fever” and “You Should Be Dancing,” giving the feel of a crowded club moving in unity to their favorite song. These disco hits take new life when performed by Monty, played by Colin E. Liander, and Candy, played by Gabriella Mancuso, who perform soulful renditions of “Disco Inferno” and “More than a Woman.”

“Learning choreography for Saturday Night Fever, it’s very important to capture the 70s vocabulary, especially because the audience is familiar and grew up with this style,” Notardonato said. “We gotta give them a hustle.”

The actors commit to their roles completely, embodying Brooklyn through their accents, style and mannerisms. With casual, conversational dialogue, they build realistic relationships between friends, lovers and even parents and children. As a first generation Italian, Notardonato feels he can relate to his character and puts his own twist on the iconic role, while keeping famous scenes intact.

“When I play Tony, I like to bring out the youth in his character,” Notardonato said. “I play him a little goofy, because he is a ladies man and a bit of a womanizer, but he’s also 19 and doesn’t know much. He’s learning a lot in the time the audience sees him, you get to watch him grow up.”

You can’t have the Bee Gees, without a group of guys harmonizing and hitting those falsetto  high notes. Tony and his friends, who call themselves “The Faces” are the ultimate guy group, that move and groove in the song “Boogie Shoes.”

“We want the audience to take a trip back in time, have a nostalgic moment and maybe see the glimmer of their youth,” Notardonato said. “For people my age, we can relate to the characters and see that you can change anything about your life, you just have to go ahead and do it.”

Broadway World Review

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER THE MUSICAL at John W. Engeman Theater

July 18, 2019
By Anthony Hazzard & Scott Stolzenberg

 

Put on your bell-bottoms and hustle your way down to the Engeman Theater where “Saturday Night Fever The Musical” is electrifying groupies and keeping disco alive! The stage musical based on the 1977 movie starring John Travolta is an entrancing blast from the past and a blissful trip in a radical time machine.

Right where we left him, Tony Manero is still working in the paint store by day and has dance fever by night. His brother the priest stole the limelight at home and dancing is Tony’s love and passion, besides his hair. Michael Notardonato is our big star here and he is an outstanding Tony. In true Travolta fashion, Notardonato roped us in with his looks and moves from the very beginning and had us rooting for him the whole way. Whether putting on his boogie shoes or igniting a disco inferno, Notardonato carries the production on his theatrical shoulders and dazzles us from start to finish.

Poor Anette, played by a charming Andrea Dotto, wants Tony bad but he’s got his eyes set on the prize for best dancer and a Brooklyn born dancer/do-gooder Stephanie played by knockout Missy Dowse. Both Dotto and Dowse shake and shimmy their way into Tony’s heart and light up the dance floor every chance they get. Kudos to Stephanie for wanting to better herself yet our heart always went out for Anette!

Tony’s four main confidants and thugs are in terrific form. Matthew Boyd Snyder, Christopher Robert Hanford, Steven Dean Moore, and Casey Shane are all top notch performers with snappy moves and spirited voices. Look out for Mr. Snyder’s brilliant falsetto! Other major standouts include Gabriella Mancuso as Candy, Colin E. Liander in a multitude of roles, and a talented ensemble chock full of young stars and starlets.

The retro choreography created by Breton Tyner-Bryan keeps the show soaring above the 70’s clouds along with the best of The Bee Gees song catalog performed by a swinging band led by Chris Rayis. Director Richard Dolce did a fine job essaying this cult musical to the Long Island stage.

When “Saturday Night Fever” the movie opened, fans flocked to it making it one of the most successful movie musicals in history. This groovy stage adaptation does not disappoint and for those of us old enough to have seen the movie about a hundred times, there’s certainly no harm in revisiting an old classic and gazing back into the disco ball now and again.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Theater Review: John W. Engeman Theater heats up the summer with ‘Saturday Night Fever’

 

July 18, 2019
By Melissa Arnold

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is bringing out its disco balls and bell-bottoms this summer as it kicks off its 2019-20 mainstage season with “Saturday Night Fever.”

The high-energy musical delivers all the 1970s hits and fashion that’s made it a beloved classic for more than just baby boomers. The musical is based on the famous 1977 film of the same name that rocketed John Travolta into stardom. The film was adapted for the stage by Robert Stigwood in collaboration with Bill Oaks, and the North American version was written by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti.

Directed by Richard Dolce, “Saturday Night Fever” is the story of Tony Manero, a 19-year-old ladies’ man from the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. It’s 1977, and Tony is restless, working a dead-end job in the shadow of the Verrazzano Bridge and dealing with his family’s scathing disapproval. It doesn’t help that his brother Frank Jr. is a priest, making Tony even more of a black sheep.

All of that fades away on the weekends, though, when Tony escapes to the local disco Odyssey 2001 to show off his skills on the dance floor. He’s got real talent and sets his sights on winning an upcoming dance competition that could be his ticket to a more fulfilling life.

Tony is quickly frustrated with his overeager dance partner, Annette, who’s more interested in winning a trip to his bedroom than a dance competition. To Annette’s chagrin, Tony is drawn to Stephanie, a lovely yet guarded dancer he meets at the club. Stephanie reluctantly agrees to enter the contest as Tony’s partner on the condition that it’s strictly business. But their passion at the disco is unmistakable, and romance is hard to resist.

While it’s difficult to compare anyone to John Travolta, Michael Notardonato makes the role of Tony seem effortless. A newcomer to the Engeman, Notardonato has also played Tony elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad — he was even nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Musical by the Connecticut Critics Circle for a past performance of the show. Notardonato’s silky vocals and expert footwork are a treat to take in.

Annette (Andrea Dotto) and Stephanie (Missy Dowse) are in contrast throughout most of the show: One is bold, the other withdrawn; one is full-on Brooklyn, the other tries to forget her roots. Both Dotto and Dowse are great dancers with strong vocals; newcomer Dotto tugs on the heartstrings with a powerful rendition of “If I Can’t Have You,” while Dowse’s multiple duets with Notardonato (“100 Reasons,” “What Kind of Fool”) are where she really shines.

Also at the heart of “Saturday Night Fever” are Tony’s knucklehead best friends who are prone to making bad decisions, including some that change their lives forever. Matthew Boyd Snyder, Christopher Robert Hanford, Steven Dean Moore and Casey Shane act like they’ve known each other forever. They play well off of one another and have no trouble getting laughs out of the crowd while also drawing empathy in the show’s darker moments.

The standout work for this show goes to the ensemble and orchestra — after all, it’s the soundtrack and dancing that drive “Saturday Night Fever.” Chris Rayis leads the band in foot-tapping, dance-in-your-seat favorites from the Bee Gees, including “Stayin’ Alive,” “Boogie Shoes” and “Disco Inferno.” The ensemble’s dance numbers, including “Jive Talkin’” and “Night Fever,” are among the best in the show.

Dance captain Kelsey Andres, choreographer Breton Tyner-Bryan and associate choreographer Emily Ulrich deserve accolades for the obvious hard work and effort that went into preparing the cast to be at the top of their game. Keep an eye out for Gabriella Mancuso who plays Candy, 2001 Odyssey’s professional singer. Her vocals are among the strongest in the entire cast, and definitely the most memorable.

The extra touches to the Engeman’s production of “Saturday Night Fever” help the audience feel like they’re a part of the show. Disco balls can be found both above the stage and in the lounge area, covering the entire theater in those characteristic funky lights we all love. The set is equally dazzling and showcased a wide variety of scenes. The mirrors in the dance studio, neon lights in the club, and a stunning, climbable Verrazzano Bridge made the show more realistic.

The only drawback in the musical version of “Saturday Night Fever” is the number of unanswered questions by the end of the show, but it’s still a fantastic performance that’s not to be missed. Stick around after the curtain call for a few extra songs, and don’t be afraid to dance in the aisle.

Newsday Review

‘Saturday Night Fever’: It moves when there’s music

July 16, 2019
By Barbara Schuler

Really, it’s all about the white suit. Even the briefest glimpse of the famous outfit drew a smattering of applause from the audience at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater for “Saturday Night Fever.” So imagine the reaction when Michael Notardonato, playing Brooklyn bad boy Tony Manero, finally struts center stage in that iconic outfit.

The thin musical adaptation of the 1977 film, which has been revised off and on since its 2000 Broadway run, cleans up the story to the point that it’s little more than a device to get to the next song (there seems to be a lot of that on area stages right now). When there’s no singing, the show is flat and humorless (seeing it the day after the big New York City blackout, the only real laugh came courtesy of a ConEd joke). If you’re looking for dramatic intensity or plot-driven action, rent the movie.

On the other hand, if you spent any time in a disco in the ’70s (or wish you had), the show, with music mostly by the Bee Gees, will make for an entertaining couple of hours. Notardonato, who has toured nationally and internationally in the role, does not have the swagger of John Travolta, who shot to stardom in the movie (yes, TV fans already knew him from “Welcome Back, Kotter,” but this sealed the deal). Vocally, he can carry hits like “Stayin’ Alive,” and as a dancer he’s got the goods to justify his status as king of the club.

Staged by Engeman’s producing artistic director Richard Dolce, the show features strong performances by the women in Tony’s orbit. Long Island actress Missy Dowse as Stephanie does a fine job in her duet with Tony of the closing “How Deep is Your Love,” and Andrea Dotto as Annette makes the emotional “If I Can’t Have You” a heartbreaker. And a word for Gabriella Mancuso, playing nightclub singer Candy, a character not in the film, who raises the roof with “Disco Inferno.”

Choreographer Breton Tyner-Bryan gives the cast — accomplished dancers all — the right moves on the slick set (the towering Verrazzano Bridge is impressive) by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, who also provided the impossibly shiny disco duds.

In this era of sensitivity to triggers, the theater felt it necessary to post a sign warning that disco lights would be used throughout the theater. Seriously? Who would expect anything less, though they really don’t get going full blast until the by-now ubiquitous megamix of the best songs post curtain call. And, yes, everyone leaves with “burn, baby, burn” ringing in their ears.

The Theatre Guide Review

Saturday Night Fever – John W. Engeman Theater – Theatre Review

July 15, 2019
By Kristen Weyer

Bell-bottoms and disco abound at the John W. Engeman Theater’s production of Saturday Night Fever The Musical. This groovy throwback to the seventies is based on the story by Nik Cohn, and the 1977 Paramount/RSO movie starring John Travolta, and features the music of The Bee Gees.  It was adapted for the stage by Robert Stigwood and Bill Oaks, with the North American version being written by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti.  This production is produced and directed by Richard Dolce, with choreography by Breton Tyner-Bryan.

Tony Manero (Michael Notardonato) is a 19 year old Brooklynite, with a lousy job and an unhappy home life.  His only joy is on the weekends, which he spends dancing at the disco and messing around with his friends, Bobby C (Matthew Boyd Snyder), Joey (Christopher Robert Hanford), Double J (Steven Dean Moore), and Gus (Casey Shane).  When he meets talented dancer Stephanie Mangano (Missy Dowse), they decide to enter a dance competition together.  Little does he know that this will mark a changing point for the rest of his life.

I feel that the enjoyment of this production is going to vary greatly, based mostly on the generation of the audiences.  If you lived through the seventies, were raised on the music of the time period, or just have fond memories of the original movie, then you’ll probably enjoy yourself immensely.  If you didn’t, weren’t, or don’t, then you probably won’t.  I found the plotline slow, and at points tedious.  The music, while time period appropriate and frequently fun, multiple times felt forced into the story rather than flowing from it.  The characters are annoying, abrasive, and difficult to get behind.  Even though you might feel badly for Tony at points, his personality is such that truly caring what happens to him is a fairly unattainable prospect.

The actual performance, however, can be fun.  The acting is great, the dancing lively and fun, and there are enough hip thrusts to rival Elvis.  Michael Notardonato makes a wonderful Tony, with an emotional voice, great dancing skills, and excellent characterization completed with brilliant facial expressions. He brings John Travolta to mind on more than one occasion.  Missy Dowse is amusing as the ignorant, social climber Stephanie.  Her lines are lovely and her singing is pleasant. Snyder, Hanford, Moore and Shane display skillful harmonies and dance moves throughout the show, and Andrea Dotto as Annette has a wonderful moment with an emotional performance of “If I Can’t Have You.”  Gabriella Mancuso as disco singer Candy, and Colin E. Liander as DJ Monty dive wholeheartedly into the era’s music.

Along with the talented ensemble, the orchestra under direction from Chris Rayis performed beautifully. Set and costume designers Michael Bottari and Ronald Case made excellent use of the space, giving us an elevated bridge and even adding that slightly cramped feeling to the disco scenes. The delightful and time period appropriate costumes rounded out the feel of the show.  Saturday Night Fever is a groovy flashback into a bygone era, and don’t get out of your seat too early, the best part comes after the bows!

Broadway World Review

BWW Review: AIDA at the John W. Engeman Theater

May 22, 2019
By Melissa Giordano

 

Closing out The John W. Engeman Theatre’s dazzling season is a thrilling a showing of Elton John & Tim Rice‘s Aida. The beautiful Northport venue outdoes itself with the lush production of the heart-tugging musical. Excellently directed by Paul Stancato, the cast is remarkable drawing the audience in at every turn.

Running through June 23rd, the tale is about love, loyalty, and betrayal. We follow the love triangle between Aida, a Nubian princess stolen from her country, Amneris, an Egyptian princess, and Radames, the soldier they both love. The soaring score only clinches why this show is a Tony Award winner.

Kayla Cyphers is exquisite in the titular role. In particular, her heartbreaking performance of “Easy As Life” doesn’t leave a dry eye in the house. Ms. Cyphers makes a fantastic team with Ken Allen Neely, who skillfully portrays Radames. They carry the audience on an emotional roller coaster as the forbidden love of Aida and Radames grows. Also, Jenna Rubaii is stellar as Amneris, the Egyptian princess to whom Radames has been betrothed. Her performances of “Every Story Is A Love Story” is truly captivating. The full company is genuinely brilliant.

On the talented creative team, Michael Bottari & Ronald Case design the fantastic set. Rolling pieces and everyone contributing make for seamless scene changes. The atmospheric and sometimes chilling lighting by John Burkland enhances the visually moving show. Add in Kurt Alger‘s costumes, and you have a very touching production.

It’s evident that Aida at Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theatre is a must-see for this season. In true Engeman fashion, they do not disappoint. An emotional tale and a superb cast make for a very stirring night of theatre.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Theater Review: Engeman Theater’s ‘Aida’ is a gift from the gods

 

May 15, 2019
By Heidi Sutton

The sands of ancient Egypt have blown into Northport as the Engeman Theater presents the timeless love story “Aida” through June 23. With music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, the musical is based on Giuseppe Verdi’s 19th-century opera of the same name.

The Egyptian pharaoh (Julius Chase) wishes to expand his reign beyond the Nile and orders Egyptian captain Radames to make war with neighboring Nubia. In his travels, Radames captures a dark and beautiful Nubian princess, Aida, and presents her as a gift to his fiancé of nine years, Princess Amneris. Over time he finds himself falling in love with Aida and begins to question the course his life should take.

When a plot orchestrated by Radames’ father Zoser (Enrique Acevedo) to poison the Pharaoh is brought to light and Radames and Aida’s forbidden love is discovered, Princess Amneris is tasked with deciding their fate. Without giving away the ending, let’s just say that breaking ancient Egyptian laws never ended well.

Costumes by Kurt Alger are gorgeous, from Princess Amneris’ many gowns and headpieces to the Pharaoh’s royal garbs. The set, designed by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, is adorned with hieroglyphics, palm trees, an occasional stream and a rotating platform that is utilized in many ways including as a ship, a throne and a prison cell.

Kayla Cyphers is perfectly cast as Aida, a enslaved princess stolen from her father, Amonasro (Gavin Gregory) and trying to stay strong for her people. “Nubia will never die! Whether we are enslaved or whether we are far from our native soil, Nubia lives in our hearts. And therefore, it lives.” Regal and strong-willed, she commands the stage in every scene.

We see the most change in Radames, expertly played by Ken Allen Neely, from a selfish cold-hearted man to a hopeless romantic who just wants to run away with his Nubian princess.

Jenna Rubaii is divine as the materialistic Princess Amneris, “first in beauty, wisdom … and accessories,” and draws the most laughs — “Are you trying to get me drunk, Radames? You know it’s not necessary,” and special mention should be made of Chaz Alexander Coffin who plays Mereb, a Nubian slave. From his first appearance on stage Coffin quickly becomes an audience favorite.

The musical numbers are the heart of the show, from the highly charged dance numbers, “Another Pyramid” and “Dance of the Robe,”  to the fun fashion show “Strongest Suit” and the romantic duets “Written in the Stars” and “Elaborate Lives.”

Director and choreographer Paul Stancato has such a wondrous and mysterious time period to work with and he takes full advantage of it, creating an exciting and colorful show  with a first-rate cast of actors-singers-dancers and live band to produce a wonderful evening of live theater.

Newsday Review

‘Aida’ review: It flows as beautifully as the Nile

May 14, 2019
By Barbara Schuler

When Disney optioned a children’s book based on Verdi’s majestic opera “Aida,” the intention was to turn it into an animated film. But after “The Lion King,” Elton John wasn’t keen on another movie, so the project went straight to becoming a musical, running on Broadway for more than four years but rarely done in regional theaters.

And with good reason. Despite the pedigree of its creators — music by John, lyrics by Tim Rice with David Henry Hwang (“M. Butterfly”) contributing to the book — “Aida” has never been able to make up its mind about what it wants to be. Campy parody? Tragic love triangle? Diatribe on slavery?

Let’s just acknowledge it was gutsy of the John W. Engeman Theater to give “Aida” a shot — and happily the risk paid off. The Northport theater’s production is a stunner, making the most of this problematic musical with an extraordinary cast and lofty production values.

Mostly it works because of the impressive performance of Kayla Cyphers in the title role, powerfully sung with a stirring combination of vulnerability and strength. With an old Egyptian myth at its heart, the show opens in a contemporary museum, with visitors wandering an exhibition about Amneris, “the female pharaoh.”

In an instant, time travels backward and we’re in ancient Egypt, where army captain Radames (an appropriately conflicted Ken Allen Neely) has captured a group of Nubian women, among them the king’s daughter, Aida. There’s instant attraction and an immediate problem: He’s engaged to the pharaoh’s daughter Amneris (Jenna Rubaii, smartly playing the pampered princess to the hilt, though she eventually sees the light and denounces the oppression inflicted by her people). For the necessary comic relief, Chaz Alexander Coffin delights as Nubian slave Mereb.

The story unfolds in predictable fashion, with John’s music ranging from the expected piano pop rock to Motown to full out gospel. Director-choreographer Paul Stancato has fun with an anachronistic vision of Amneris singing an ode to her wardrobe that ends with a fashion parade highlighting the creative work of costumer Kurt Alger. It plays out on the massive stone set by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, brightened with lovely, atmospheric lighting by John Burkland.

Remember, this is based on an opera, so there’s no happily ever after, unless you believe in reincarnation. In the end, we’re back in the modern museum, where a couple looking awfully familiar meets cute in front of a diorama of Amneris. To steal from another Disney epic, it’s a tale as old as time.

Theatre Guide Review

Aida – John W. Engeman Theater

May 13, 2019
By Jessica Kennedy

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport has selected a timeless story of love, deceit, passion, and loyalty with Aida– winner of four Tony Awards with soul-stirring music by Elton John and Tim Rice.  Directed and choreographed by Paul Stancato, this tremendous performance will have you talking about it long after the curtains close.

A tale of star-crossed lovers is a favorite romantic trope; however, this cast of characters and their struggles make this heart-rending tale about much more than love at first sight.  When the Nubian Princess, Aida- played flawlessly by the captivating Kayla Cyphers- is stolen from her home and forced into slavery, she hides her true self in order to stay alive. Her encounters with the Egyptian warrior Radames, played exquisitely by the charming Ken Allen Neely, soon make it harder for her to guard her identity- and her heart.  All the while Radames is betrothed- and not to just anyone- to the Egyptian Princess Amneris, played by the dynamic Jenna Rubaii. Will Aida succumb to her love for Radames, or choose her love of country above all? Will Radames risk his status and security for a forbidden love that could never truly be? This rapturous tale reveals a plot full of passion, love, betrayal, and pain- and you won’t want to miss a minute of it!

The Engeman Theater always puts on a beautiful show, and this performance is no exception.  While talent abounds on stage- Cyphers, Neely, and Rubaii create a painfully beautiful love triangle that is genuine and layered- there are countless other elements that make this performance practically perfect! The Creative Team for this show deserves a standing ovation for their artful construction and portrayal of both modern day and Ancient Egypt.  Scenic Designers Michael Bottari and Ronald Case not only impress with a set that swivels and turns, but the dramatic set changes from scene to scene are incredibly fluid.  John Burkland’s lighting design adds both drama and subtlety to the scenes in a way which compliments and amplifies the superior talent of the performers.  Speaking of talent- it abounds in this performance from start to finish! Jenna Rubaii’s portrayal of Amneris is both hysterical (“My Strongest Suit”) and heartbreaking (“I Know the Truth”); Chaz Alexander Coffin’s version of Mereb is both light and witty, while his performance of “How I Know You” (Reprise) will have you on the brink of tears.  Enrique Acevedo’s nefarious evocation of Zoser will leave you in stunned wonder of a man’s capacity for power and vanity with his vigorous and spirited renditions of “Another Pyramid” and “”Like Father, Like Son.” However, nothing will move you more than the tragically touching interaction between Aida and Radames (Cyphers and Neely) as they struggle to hold on to a love they know is fleeting (“Elaborate Lives” and “Written in the Stars”).

This show is quite simply a must see! It runs from May 9th- June 23rd, so grab a ticket and let Aida take you to another time and place- where love is layered and deep- and will always lead you back to the people and places you keep close to your heart.

Broadway World Review

A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER at The Engeman

 

March 22, 2019
By Melissa Giordano

It is a real treat that The John W. Engeman Theatre is currently mounting A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder. The top-notch cast is remarkable leaving the audience in stitches. The hit show plays the beautiful Northport venue through April 28th, and it is sure to be a must-see this season.

The two-act farce, wonderfully directed by Trey Compton, tells the tale of Monty who has learned that he is an heir in the famed D’Ysquith family. When he realizes he’s ninth in line, Monty shrugs off his findings thinking the family wouldn’t even know who he is. However, he wonders if he could make it to the top of the family tree by bumping off those who stand in his way. Don’t worry about the murders; this is an all-out comedy.

Indeed collecting the most laughs is Engeman vet Danny Gardner portraying each member of the D’Ysquith family who is before him in the heritance. Mr. Gardner does a tremendous job giving each family member a very distinctive personality and his top-notch comedic delivery. Mr. Gardner makes a great team with Sean Yves Lessard who charmingly portrays Monty. Of course, the women of the cast are stellar. Katherine McLaughlin is adorable as the pious and witty Phoebe D’Ysquith. Moreover, Kate Loprestis superb as sassy Sibella. In truth, I really could go on and on about the entire company as they all extraordinary.

On the talented creative team, Nate Bertone‘s set is well-done. Portraits of Mr. Gardner as each of the D’Ysquith’s hang along the outside of the stage. On the stage, it is mostly a stationary set bringing in rolling pieces for each of the locales. The wigs, perhaps, could have been more to the Engeman’s high standards, but I digress. This is enhanced masterfully by Matthew Solomon‘s relevant costumes from 1900’s London; corsets and suit tails abound. Also, it is always thrilling to see a live band this one excellently headed up by James Olmstead. They deliver the Steven Lutvak/Robert L. Freedman score splendidly.

As you can probably tell, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder is another hit for Northport’s John W. Engeman Theatre. A remarkable cast and entertaining story make for an enjoyable night of theatre.

The Long Islander Review

Kill and be done in time for tea

 

March 21, 2019
By Sophia Ricco

Slaying has never been so slick, when it’s done with song and ends in becoming an aristocrat as A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder proves, you can always change life’s path.

Tony Award winner for Best Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder has smashingly slaughtered on Broadway and is ready to entertain audiences at the John W. Engeman Theater until Saturday, April 28.

The show is set in early 20th century England and tells the story of Monty Navarro, played by Sean Yves Lessard, who learns of ancestral ties to the Earl of Highhurst and D’Ysquith family at his mother’s funeral. A woman claiming to know his late parents tells Monty of his mother’s banishment from the D’Ysquith family after choosing to marry a Castilian, in “You’re a D’Ysquith.” Only eight relatives lie between Monty, the title of earl and the family fortune. He plans a little assassination to get himself there.

“It’s been fascinating, in so many ways I am similar to the character,” Lessard said. “But in the most fundamental of ways, I am not, because I am not a serial killer… It’s funny, because even though he is killing these people, every time he does, he contemplates, ‘Should I have done this?’ He’s grappling with his conscience the entire time.”

 

The D’Ysquith family is anything but ordinary. Each member is more comical and hate-able than the next. What’s most impressive, is all eight relatives are played by Danny Gardener, who captures an entire family of personalities. At certain points you wouldn’t believe the same man that played Asquith D’Ysquith Jr., a snooty, rich playboy who unknowingly serenades with Miss Barley and Monty in “Poison in My Pocket,” could become a foolish society lady looking for a charity cause in “Lady Hyacinth Abroad,” within the same act.

“His characters are so specific and different from one another, it makes my job so much easier,” Lessard said. “I treat them as completely different creatures, because he does as well… It’s all different voices, postures, body ticks, inflections and accents, it’s impressive.”

As Monty gets to know members of the D’Ysquith family, he learns the good and bad of his family and society. He proves to be emotionally layered, as he ponders whether to kill his generous employer, Lord Asquith D’Ysquith, Sr. in “The Last One You’d Expect.”

“The way he justifies it is, he’s killing these people, who are all terrible… For every character you take on, you have to be the hero of your own story,” Lessard said. “Every answer to any question has to be, ‘Yes’. So would I have done it? Yes I would have as Monty.” It’s more than just massacre on Monty’s mind, he has two loves that each dominate his world. His mistress, Sibella Hallward played by Kate Loprest, commands his passion, as evident in “I Don’t Know What I’d Do.” That is until, his distant cousin, Phoebe D’Ysquith played by Katherine McLaughlin, turns his world “Inside Out.”

“The redeeming quality of Monty is he loves unconditionally,” Lessard said. “He loves these two women who are the center of his life, he loves Asquith, and he was unconditionally attached to his mother. This is the genesis of it all, was how terribly his mother was treated by the family.”

A favorite with audiences and Lessard himself, the lively song “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” puts Monty literally in the middle of Sibella and Phoebe, as he maneuvers his way between the two rooms that the women are in. It’s a scene that truly has to be witnessed, as Monty swings back and forth from door to door, all the while harmonizing. “It’s a lesson in being able and open to love, but also a cautionary tale to not love too many people at once,” Lessard said.

Smithtown Matters Review

‘A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder’

March 21, 2019
By Jeb Ladouceur

‘A Gentleman’s Guide…’ is unlike any other play you are likely to see this season or … for that matter … ever! Similarly, the musical version of a 1907 novel by Roy Horniman titled ‘Israel Rank – The Autobiography of a Criminal’ is quite possibly a reviewer’s worst nightmare, because no fewer than eight (count ‘em) eight of the dozen major roles are played over a 150-minute span by a single actor (Danny Gardner)!
If the madcap goings on … about conniving heir Monty Navarro (played by Sean Yves Lessard) who is ninth in succession to inherit the family fortune … were not so convincingly conceived by writer Robert L. Freedman (he adapted the farce for the stage), and cleverly choreographed by Vincent Ortega (a comic genius if ever there was one), it might be impossible closely to follow the proceedings that tumble across the John W. Engeman proscenium in a torrent of hilarity.
But the sly Navarro rivets our attention by figuring out novel ways to knock off those relatives who stand between him and the jackpot he covets. These dastardly devices include everything from death by bee sting, to decapitation while weightlifting. It’s all very farcical stuff, but this critic has seldom had as much fun in the theater.
Highlight of the evening is a vaudeville-style song and dance routine featuring two males that once might have been thought a bit naughty, but in our so-called ‘progressive’ age, has to be considered rather tame. It’s titled ‘Better With a Man’ and that said, one need not go into further detail to describe its content. Suffice it to say, hoofers Lessard and Gardner steal the play with their show-stopping routine. It’s very funny … superbly polished material.
Without question, in this musical the supremely talented Danny Gardner has been handed one of the most complex theatrical assignments imaginable. If you thought any actor taking on the dual roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had his hands full, you ain’t seen nuthin’ until you’ve watched (and heard) Gardner act, sing, and dance his way through eight juicy parts (of both sexes, yet) as if he were absolutely born to each role.
But while everyone is good in this show … the workmanlike dressers who see to Gardner’s numerous costume changes, though they are never seen onstage, deserve a special nod of appreciation. Some of these unheralded staffers work their miracles in a matter of 15 or 20 seconds … and that often includes applying and removing the star’s makeup as well as his clothing. Geez! We should have a special category for acknowledging the expertise of such professionals.
Meanwhile, perhaps it will serve to give the plaudits to ‘A Gentleman’s Guide…’ Director, Trey Compton. He will know how the kudos should be distributed. This musical could not possibly work without the diligence of its dressers.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

You’ll die laughing at Engeman Theater’s ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’

 

March 20, 2019
By Melissa Arnold

I never thought I’d cheer for a murderer. Nor did I ever imagine laughing so much at a show about murder. There’s a first time for everything, I guess.

Directed by Trey Compton with musical direction by James Olmstead, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” has a deceptively simple title, one that probably makes you think of a classic, suspenseful whodunit.

What you get instead is a fast-paced, absurdly funny comedy that will keep you laughing from start to finish.Based on the 1907 Roy Horniman novel “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal,” the Tony Award-winning musical, with book by Robert L. Freedman and music by Steven Lutvak, ran on Broadway from 2013 to 2016.

As the show begins, we find ourselves looking in on a young man feverishly writing his memoirs from a London jail cell, seeking to preserve his story if he should face execution the next day. That man, Montague “Monty” Navarro, is the newly minted Earl of Highhurst, and his rise to nobility wasn’t exactly noble. Two years earlier, while grieving his mother’s death in 1907, an impoverished Monty learned that she was related to the powerful, aristocratic D’Ysquith family. The D’Ysquiths, however, disowned her when she chose to marry a commoner. Despite this, Monty was the ninth descendant in line to become the earl.

Monty hoped his newfound lineage would impress Sibella Hallward, the posh and sultry woman he loves, but she ultimately abandoned him to marry a wealthy man. With no one else to turn to, he attempted to make inroads with his new relatives, and in the process had a sinister thought: What if he killed the D’Ysquiths? What if he could become the earl? The show follows Monty through flashbacks of the past two years as he eliminates his cousins in a variety of zany and unexpected ways.

Wojcik/Seay Casting consistently assembles stellar casts for the Engeman’s shows, and this one is no exception, featuring a host of Broadway and national theater vets. Sean Yves Lessard plays Monty, and he is earnest, polished and entirely believable. You’ll empathize with his poverty and join him on an emotional roller coaster as he sneakily offs the D’Ysquiths. Beyond that, Lessard’s smooth, controlled vocals are a real treat, especially in the waltzing “Poison in My Pocket” and steamy “Sibella.”

What makes “Gentleman’s Guide” stand out is that eight of the D’Ysquith cousins are played by the same actor, Danny Gardner. He makes the transition from young to old, gay to straight and even male to female characters look entirely effortless. Each D’Ysquith has his or her unique quirks, and Gardner is so astoundingly versatile that you almost won’t believe it’s the same person. He also deserves accolades for impossibly fast costume changes and impressive tap dancing.

A torrid love triangle sits at the heart of Monty’s escapades. Despite her marriage to a wealthy man, Sibella (Kate Loprest) still comes knocking, especially as Monty ascends the line of succession. At the same time, Monty quickly finds himself falling for his distant cousin Phoebe D’Ysquith (Katherine McLaughlin), a good-hearted and pious lady that just wants to love and be loved.

Loprest makes the self-absorbed Sibella almost lovable with charming wit and confidence. She’s also a delight to listen to, a crystal clear soprano that’s strong without being overpowering. McLaughlin’s Phoebe is demure and sincere, a perfect foil to Sibella. She shines in songs like “Inside Out,” and the trio’s performance in “I’ve Decided to Marry You” is one of the show’s highlights.

Scene and props designer Nate Bertone deserves particular mention for his creative work on the detailed, Edwardian set of “Gentleman’s Guide.” To help audience members keep track of the D’Ysquiths, the stage is framed with massive portraits of Gardner in his various incarnations. Spotlights and laser X’s on those portraits will alert you to who’s still kicking and who’s been taken out. The effect is a lot of fun and adds to the show’s overall silliness

The bottom line: “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is hilarious from the first line, and so enjoyable that I’d love to see it again. The show isn’t gory, but there’s plenty of innuendo to go around, and there are occasional loud noises and use of light fog throughout.

Newsday Review

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

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.
 

The Theatre Guide Review

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Broadway World Review

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

January 24, 2019
By Melissa Giordano

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.

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.

Covid-19 Policy Update

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your continued support.
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