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

Newsday
Barbara Schuler
January 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Theatre Guide Review: Once

The Theatre Guide
Kristen Weyer
January 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Observer
David Ambro
November 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Times of Huntington-Northport
Melissa Arnold
November 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Broadway World Review: ANNIE at The Engeman

Broadway World
Melissa Giordano
November 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Newsday
Barbara Schuler
November 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Theatre Guide
November 13, 2017
Kristen Weyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Smithtown Matters Review: Annie

Smithtown Matters
Jeb Ladouceur
November 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Times of Huntington-Northport

Heidi Sutton

October 3, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Long Islander

Janee Law

September 28, 2017

 

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

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

The production brings energetic musical numbers, comedy and sincerity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Times of Huntington-Northport

Heidi Sutton

September 28, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Newsday

Barbara Schuler

September 20, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

September 20, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Theatre Guide Review: Gypsy

The Theatre Guide

Kristen Weyer

September 19, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

DC Metro Theater Arts

July 23, 2017

Kristen Weyer

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grease plays through August 27, 2017 at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport – 250 Main Street, in Northport, NY. For tickets call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or purchase them online.

 

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

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

The Long Islander

July 20, 2017

Janee Law

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Productions of “Grease” at The John W. Engeman Theater (250 Main St., Northport) are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets ($73-$78) are available at the box office or Engemantheater.com.

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

Broadway World Review: GREASE at John Engeman Theater

Broadway World

July 16, 2017

Anthony Hazzard & Scott Stolzenberg

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Times of Huntington-Northport

July 13, 2017

Melissa Arnold

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Observer

July 13, 2017

David Ambro

 

Move over Olivia Newton John.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Newsday

July 11, 2017

Steve Parks

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Smithtown Matters Review: “Grease” Engeman Theater

Smithtown Matters

July 10, 2017

Jeb Ladouceur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Long Islander

Janee Law

May 22, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Times of Huntington-Northport

Katherine Espinoza

May 20, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Observer

David Ambro

May 18, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broadway World Review: RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S OKLAHOMA!

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

May 17, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Newsday

Steve Parks

May 16, 2017

 

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

—Oscar Hammerstein II

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

DC Metro Theater Arts

Kristen Weyer

May 15, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Village Tattler Review: Jekyll & Hyde Triumphs at Engeman Theater

The Village Tattler

Claudia D. Wheeler

March 30, 2017

 

The John W. Engeman Theater has not ceased to amaze audiences with its fantastic 2016-2017 season. Jekyll & Hyde is no exception. The amazing nineteenth-century period costumes, off-the-charts talent, and chemistry between the actors is worthy of a second visit to this show, which runs through Sunday, April 30, 2017. The musical will play the following performance schedule: Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00. Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $76 on Saturday evenings, $71 all other performances and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, going online at www.EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

Set in nineteenth-century London and based on the classic novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, the musical Jekyll & Hyde features a score of pop rock hits from multi-Grammy and Tony-nominated Frank Wildhorn and double Oscar and Grammy winning Leslie Bricusse. It’s a tale many of us know well of two men, a doctor and a madman, and the two women who love them. This production is produced by Richard T. Dolce, the Engeman’s Producing Artistic Director, and directed and choreographed by Paul Stancato (Engeman Theater: Sound of Music, Hairspray; Broadway: The Wedding Singer (Asst. Choreo.), The Lion King (Res. Director); National Tours: Flashdance (Dir/Choreo), Jekyll & Hyde (Dir/Choreo), The Wedding Singer (Dir); International: House of Dancing Water (Artistic Director), New York; Regional: NYMF, Beckett Theater, Minetta Lane, Flatrock Playhouse, Palm Beach Dramaworks and the Zipper Theater). Musical direction is by Kristen Lee Rosenfeld (National Tour: Spring Awakening; NYC: Band of Angels, Divided – Composer). TheAssociate Director is Dana Iannuzzi (National/International Tour: Flashdance; NYC: ICON, The Cobalteans, Divided).

Acting and vocal recognition must go first to Nathaniel Hackmann, who plays both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with such astounding passion, giving the role more than 100 percent. The transformation scene from Jekyll to Hyde is mesmerizing and a particularly hard scene to pull off for any actor. Hackmann just soars in this production as the story unfolds, lending a believable and emotional depth to the character, as he portrays a man coming apart at the seams due to his own experimentation and his wish to play God. His vocals are of particular note, as Dr. Jekyll in “This is the Moment,” and with his romantic interest Emma in “Take Me As I Am,” but also as Hyde in “Alive” and with the character Lucy in “Dangerous Game.” It would be worth going to the production a second time just to listen to Hackmann’s impressive vocals.

Hackmann makes his Engeman debut in this production. Credits include Broadway/National Tours: Les Miserables (Valjean, Javert u/s), Paint Your Wagon (Steve); Regional: Beauty and the Beast at MUNY (Gaston), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Oliver!, Sweeney ToddA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ForumCarousel, Ragtime, Into the Woods, Camelot, Sanders Family Christmas, Bye Bye Birdie).

Also of note are both leading ladies making Engeman debuts, who play characters Emma Carew and Lucy Harris–Liana Hunt and Caitlyn Caughell, respectively. They each are cast perfectly in their roles. Hunt gives just the right amount of sweetness and caring to her role as Emma, Dr. Jekyll’s fiancée, whose beautiful soprano voice shines in her duet with him, “Take Me As I Am.” Hunt’s credits include Broadway: Newsies (Katherine), Mamma Mia! (Sophie); National Tours: Wicked (Nessarose), Mamma Mia! (Sophie); Regional: Private Lives at Riverside Theatre, Les Miserables at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, Beauty and the Beast at Jean’s Playhouse.

Caughell’s performance as the prostitute Lucy is right on the mark,  with powerful vocals, especially notable in “Someone Like You” and “A New Life,” songs that any actress/singer would dream to have the chance to perform. Here the duality of good and evil meets up in Jekyll & Hyde. Jekyll first meets Lucy at The Red Rat, where Lucy is a bar girl. They are drawn to each other and Jekyll gives her his number before he leaves the bar, letting her know that she can rely on his help should she need it. Lucy becomes dangerously involved with Mr. Hyde.

The cast also includes a fantastic ensemble who perform in many well-choreographed numbers, including “Facade,” with Lucy in “Bring on the Men,” and of particular note, “Murder, Murder,” on the streets of London. The ensemble includes Danny Arnold, Ryan Bloomquist, Joey Calveri, Lily Dickinson, Lauren Gobes, Laura Helm, Deven Kolluri, Megan Koumis, Rebecca Kuznick, Tom Lucca, Jake Mills, William Mulligan, Bronson Norris Murphy, Blake Price, James D. Schultz, Teresa Whitt, and Jeff Williams.

Performing as a creative team, the amazing scenic design is by Stephen Dobay with costume design by Kurt Alger, lighting design by Keith A. Truax, sound design by Laura Shubert, and casting directors, Scott Wojcik and Holly Buczek of Wojcik/Seay Casting.

 

Read online: http://villagetattler.com/jekyll-hyde-triumphs-northports-engeman-theater/

Smithtown Matters Review: Jekyll & Hyde

Smithtown Matters

Jeb Ladouceur

March 28, 2017

 

About twenty years ago, when I first heard that the famed thriller novella (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson) was to be staged as a musical, my initial reaction was, ‘What next?’ I feared the moguls of Broadway might eventually give us a musical comedy version of ‘The Bad Seed,’ for heaven’s sake … just to show that nothing is impossible in the wacky world of show business.

Furthermore, I was convinced that ‘Jekyll & Hyde – The Musical’ would soon find itself on the scrap heap of failed productions that depend solely on the popularity of late 19th century literary works for their success.

How wrong I was. Four years later, the melodramatic ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ was still packing in enthusiastic audiences at New York’s Plymouth theater (a record for that grand old playhouse at the time) and the show finally closed after an impressive 1,543 regular performances! It had garnered four Tony nominations … won in the ‘Best Costumes’ category … and was even more triumphant in the prestigious Drama Desk, and Outer Circle Awards groupings.

Sadly, I never saw the Broadway offering.

The story, of course, is a familiar one … it’s a general analysis of how good and evil can co-exist in the same person … and the production on the Engeman boards now thru April 30 has gambits that smack of Sondheim, Wilde, and Shakespeare … specifically: Sweeney Todd, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Othello.

What the current Engeman show has that those other theatrical creations almost assuredly did not, however, is the most versatile, dynamic, energetic performance that this critic has ever seen! Indeed, any theater aficionados who miss the opportunity to observe Nathaniel Hackman in the demanding dual roles of compassionate Dr. Henry Jekyll and vicious Mr. Edward Hyde, will be depriving themselves of the artistic treat of a lifetime.

Producer Richard Dolce will stage ‘Jekyll & Hyde – The Musical’ at Northport’s delightful Engeman Theater thru April 30th(Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings – with Matinees on Saturday and Sunday). The guess here is that once word gets around about the virtuosity of Mr. Hackman, a majority of those dates will be sold out … just as the matinee was when I attended last Saturday.

In critiques such as this one, it is required that the reviewer support his claims whether they be superlative or disparaging. That said, the critic’s task of reporting on the ‘Jekyll & Hyde’  now under consideration is immediately reduced by half … there is absolutely nothing censorious to say about this polished gem of a show.

Accordingly, we may focus on Mr. Hackman’s considerable skills that made his performance the magical tour de force it became: It goes without saying that this play requires deep insight into the nature good and evil … particularly as they occupy the body of a single individual simultaneously (this, after all, is the plot in a nutshell). In that regard, Nathaniel Hackman immediately makes gasping believers of his audience despite the improbable nature of the proposition.

Then there is the matter of the remarkable lead actor’s singing voice. The man’s appealing baritone is quite simply top-notch. I never heard him miss a single note or beat in two hours. As for his stage presence … Hackman owned the Engeman boards with every step he took, whether as the romantic Dr. Jekyll or the threatening Mr. Hyde.

It would be unfair to reveal much of the detail about the special effects that Director / Choreographer Paul Stancato and Lighting Designer Keith Truax have in store for audiences during the forthcoming month. Suffice it to say that both impresarios combine to take full advantage of Hackman’s energetic skills, and together the trio creates an absolutely unforgettable climactic light show that theatergoers will be talking about for generations.

If that sounds like hyperbole … go see for yourself. Like everyone else in the grand Engeman Theater (including Nathaniel Hackman’s accomplished fellow actors) you’ll stand and cheer this wonderfully gifted artist off the stage.

 

Read online: http://www.smithtownmatters.com/theater-review-jekyll-hyde.html

Long Islander Review: Good And Evil Battle In Engeman’s ‘Jekyll & Hyde’

The Long Islander

Janee Law

March 27, 2017

 

In John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “Jekyll & Hyde” audiences are exposed to an authentic battle between good and evil.

The battle is particularly apparent in “Confrontation,” a mesmerizing performance in which Dr. Henry Jekyll, a gentle, passionate and romantic giant displays his internal battle with the violent beast and petrifying madman, Mr. Edward Hyde.

Based on the 1886 story, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson, the Northport Village production features a thrilling score of pop rock hits from multi Grammy- and Tony Award-nominated composer Frank Wildhorn and two-time Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer Leslie Bricusse.

As Paul Stancato serves as director and choreographer of the production, the ensemble commands the stage with its operetta synchronization.

For Penelope Voeller, an audience member at last Friday’s show, she said the production delivered an operatic quality, adding that “Broadway is in Long Island and very fortunate.”

In “Transformation,” Nathanial Hackmann (Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde) starts the captivating scene as the well-mannered and soft-spoken doctor, but then, in a physical battle, Hackmann effortlessly transforms into the grunting and indecorous brute.

Not only is Hackmann’s ability to embody polar opposite personalities impressive, but he is also a powerful singer. He bellows beautiful operetta tones in “Take Me As I Am,” and exposes his low, mid-range voice with gritty angst and operetta pitches in “Alive!”

The production’s leading ladies are Caitlyn Caughell, as the beautiful and seductive Lucy Harris, and Liana Hunt, as the beautiful and trusting Emma Carew. In “In His Eyes,” the two stun the audience with a compelling duet.

Chris Mancini, another audience member, said her favorite character was Lucy, adding that Caughell’s portrayal of the character was amazing and “her singing was fantastic.”

When both Hackmann and Caughell hit the stage, their chemistry is undeniable. The passionate and toxic pull between the duo in “Dangerous Game” is thrilling and authentic.

For Voeller, her particularly favorite scene was “Dangerous Game.” She added that “There was a great chemistry between both performers and they were very professional. That moment was very believable.”

Although Hackmann loves all the scenes he performs on stage, his favorite last Friday was “Dangerous Game.” Hackmann said he enjoyed hearing the reaction of the audience at the end of the scene.

“It’s the greatest fruition of any long process, when you see that goal and you can feel the work you’re doing is effective,” he said. “That’s exactly what we do it for.”

Hackmann added that this has been the hardest performance he’s done on stage.

“Trying to be specific and trying to be contrasting between the two characters is an amazing challenge, but it’s also a bucket list part,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been in love with since I was a kid so the opportunity to get to do this is just amazing.”

When he learned that he landed the part, Hackmann said, he did a lot of research on dissociative identity and borderline personality disorders to prepare for the role and find authenticity within the character.

“I was very lucky because of our director and the way he let us go through the process,” he said. “We talked very much about specific choices about what the characteristics of the two characters will be. The body language, the accent choices, and the voice choices were very specific from the very beginning.”

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/good-and-evil-battle-in-engemans-jekyll-hyde

Broadway World Review: JEKYLL & HYDE at the Engeman

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

March 22, 2017

 

To start, this article will probably not do this incredible production justice. The latest at the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Jekyll & Hyde, The Musical, is absolutely electrifying and the Broadway caliber cast is positively glorious. This is, without a doubt, a must see for Long Island this season. And by the reaction of the sold out audience on opening night, you may want to get your tickets quickly as this runs through April 30th.

Set to a commanding pop-rock score by Frank Wildhorn (music) and book writer Leslie Bricuse (lyrics), the thriller follows Dr. Henry Jekyll attempting to cure his ailing father’s illness by separating “good” from “evil” in the human personality. Dr. Jekyll, however, inadvertently creates an alternate personality of evil – who he names Mr. Hyde – and wreaks horrifying havoc in London.

Paul Stancato wonderfully directs and choreographs the brilliant cast headed up by Nathanial Hackmann. A wondrous talent and spectacular voice make Mr. Hackmann a natural in the role(s). His sharp attention to detail for each character (stance, movement, ext.) is inspired. This particularly during the intense “Confrontation” number where Jekyll is battling Hyde to be free from his murderous grasp.

And, naturally, the leading ladies are dazzling. Liana Hunt portrays Emma, Dr. Jekyll’s fiancé. Emma’s sweet devotion to Dr. Jekyll balances well with her headstrong demeanor. Indeed, her rendition of “Once Upon a Dream” is met with thunderous applause. And Caitlyn Caughell is superb as Lucy, the main attraction at The Red Rat, a sleazy club. Just as Jekyll has a “light” and “dark” side, Lucy is the “dark” to Emma’s “light” as Lucy is deeply attracted to Hyde. Ms. Caughell’s performance of “Bring on the Men” was particularly fun and sassy.

I really could go on and on (and on!) about the entire cast, but I think you get the idea that the entire company is really outstanding.

As for Mr. Stancato’s amazing creative team, a clever set by Stephen Dobay is enhanced ideally (and, at times, chillingly) by Keith Truax’s lighting (Dr. Jekyll’s basement laboratory is a highlight). The mood and tone is set perfectly under the musical direction of Kristen Lee Rosenfeld and her orchestra with Laura Shubert‘s spot-on sound design. Additionally, Kurt Alger’s costumes are breath-taking.

Even as I write this, I am still rendered speechless at this exhilarating production. A top-notch production with an unnerving story make for a thrilling night of theatre.

 

Read online: www.broadwayworld.com/BWW-Review-JEKYLL-HYDE-at-the-Engeman

Newsday Review: Evil has never been so good in ‘Jekyll & Hyde’

Newsday

Steve Parks

March 20, 2017

 

Since the first publication of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in 1886, the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” has become part of the language, denoting a person whose moral character is diametrically opposed from one situation to the next. Since its Broadway debut 20 years ago, “Jekyll & Hyde” the musical has become a cult phenomenon combining classic literature with a melodramatic pop score spawning fan clubs the world over.

The challenge for director-choreographer Paul Stancato at the Engeman Theater in this latest of a half-dozen Long Island “J&H” productions over the years is to present it with a fresh look without detracting from its core appeal.

He and an earnest cast succeed spectacularly, led by Nathaniel Hackmann in the chemically split-personality role of Jekyll/Hyde. Dr. Henry Jekyll, frustrated by a hospital board’s refusal to endorse his laboratory experiment in separating good from evil in a human guinea pig, decides to make himself the guinea pig. The result is Edward Hyde, who proceeds to murder the entire hospital board. Jekyll becomes a stranger to his bride-to-be, played and sung by Liana Hunt with a delicate balance between devotion and determination, and to himself within his own body. Lucy, a London harlot, meets both Jekyll and Hyde, not realizing that they’re “related.” With a voice ranging from sultry to siren, Caitlyn Caughell captures Lucy’s angst in finally meeting a decent man (“Someone Like You”) while being pursued by a monster.

Hackmann electrifies on such signature numbers as “This Is the Moment” and on the climactic “Confrontation” in which his duality is brilliantly conveyed through a translucent scrim behind which Jekyll struggles to escape Hyde’s enveloping hold on his life. (Victorian set design by Stephen Dobay, dramatic lighting by Keith Truax, throbbingly amplified by Kristen Lee Rosenfeld’s band.) One quibble: The shadow effects of the sliding scrims deployed throughout the show are overused to diminishing effect, until the riveting penultimate scene.

A deep cast contributes splendidly to smaller supporting roles — among them Tom Lucca as Jekyll’s loyal friend, Jeff Williams as his prospective father-in-law, Jake Mills as the whoring bishop and Lauren Gobes as the judgmental ladyship (dazzling costumes by Kurt Alger), plus an ensemble too numerous, unfortunately, to credit here. Together they make the chorus numbers sparkle in this fine new production of a modern classic.

 

Read online: www.newsday.com/jekyll-hyde-review-nathaniel-hackmann-leads-a-terrific-cast/

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ mesmerizes at the Engeman

Times of Huntington-Northport

Victoria Espinoza

March 21, 2017

 

For theatergoers with one personality or more, the newest production at the John W. Engeman Theater has something for all. The Northport playhouse kicked off its seven-week run of “Jekyll and Hyde The Musical” this past weekend to a full house, and the multiple Tony-nominated production felt alive as ever on the Engeman stage.

Led by director Paul Stancato, who also serves as choreographer and has been at the helm of several other shows at the Engeman theater, the classic tale of Dr. Henry Jekyll and his doomed science experiment draws you in from the moment you meet the leading man.

The show starts with a stiff rejection, coming from the hospital board that refuses to support Jekyll’s experiments to understand why man is both good and evil and to separate the good from the evil. However, the doctor does not take defeat lying down and eventually decides to make himself the patient in the experiment. As the name of the show suggests, soon we have two leading men fighting for the spotlight, as Jekyll’s potions give birth to Edward Hyde, the purest projection of evil who lives inside Jekyll.

Not only does Hackmann transport you through love, torment, sin and more with his voice, but he also convinces with his body language. He lurks and awkwardly shuffles across the stage as the murdering Hyde, while embodying the perfect gentleman when playing Jekyll. It becomes hard not to root for the antagonist when it’s so fun to watch his every move on stage.Jekyll and Hyde are played to perfection by Nathaniel Hackmann. As soon as you hear him sing a soft and sad goodbye to his dying father in the first scene, you can’t help but be excited to hear him sing an evil tune, as his voice seems to have no limits. Hackmann makes you feel safe and happy as he sings “Take Me As I Am,” with his betrothed, Emma Carew, played by Liana Hunt, and then just a few songs later sinister seems much more fun as Hackmann belts his way through “Alive” and becomes Hyde.

Of course, Hackmann is not the only star of the show. Caitlyn Caughell plays a seductive yet vulnerable Lucy Harris, a lady of the night who entices both Jekyll and Hyde. Harris’ formidable voice is the perfect partner to Hackmann’s, and the moments featuring the couple are among the most enchanting, including the tragic love song “Dangerous Game.” It’s also not hard to understand why both the successful doctor and the mysterious Hyde enchant the young wench when Hackmann plays both — can you blame her?

The set, designed by Stephen Dobay, helps make Hyde even more menacing, with several long screens that cast Hyde as a prowling red shadow on the hunt. Each screen also has two empty frames hanging from the top, subtly reminding the audience of Jekyll’s original inspiration of each person having two sides in them: good and evil. And, of course, the orchestra, under the direction of Kristen Lee Rosenfeld, brings the pop rock hits of the original score to life and makes the evil tunes of the show all the more fun.Tom Lucca, who plays John Utterson, Jekyll’s loyal friend and lawyer, is also worth mentioning. Scenes where the two share the stage are very entertaining. The ensemble cast also has some stand-out moments, and it starts at the beginning with the hospital board all denying Jekyll. Each board member is worth focusing on for a minute, especially Joey Calveri as Lord Savage, whose facial expressions in every scene bring added fun to the stage. Ensemble songs like “Façade” and “Girls of the Night” highlight the singing strength of the cast.

 

Read online at: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/jekyll-hyde-mesmerizes-at-the-engeman/

DC Metro Theater Arts Review: ‘Jekyll & Hyde the Musical’ at the John W. Engeman Theater

DC Metro Theater Arts

March 21, 2017

Kristen Weyer

 

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport’s current production of Jekyll & Hyde the Musical is a nostalgic nod to its first season. Based on the classic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricuse and music by Frank Wildhorn, Jekyll & Hyde is directed and choreographed by Paul Stancato. One of the theater’s most requested productions, Jekyll & Hyde is sure to thrill audiences straight from the opening scene.

Dr. Henry Jekyll is a man with a mission. He is determined to prove that the evil side of man’s nature can be removed and separated from the good. All he needs is a test subject for his serum, but the Board of Governors at the mental hospital refuse to give him one. Convinced he is in the right, and desperate to prove himself, Henry concludes his only choice is to experiment upon himself. The unexpected and dire consequences of this action put him at risk of losing everything he holds dear: his friendships, his fiancée Emma, even his own sanity. A riveting show, Jekyll & Hyde, is a melancholy and disturbing tale of good intentions gone awry.

This production is fabulous. Gorgeous and exquisite costumes by Kurt Alger swirl through the evocative choreography of Paul Stancato. Tantalizing effects of light and shadow play with emotion and heighten drama through the brilliance of Keith A. Truax. The ingenious set of sliding picture frames by Stephen Dobay works very well in varying aspects, and is especially apropos for the number “Façade” which underlays the entire show. The music which at times is soaring and stunning, and at others dissonant and spine-chilling, is superbly executed by Music Director Kristen Lee Rosenfeld and the entire band; with excellent sound design by Laura Shubert bolstering the production as a whole.

The cast of this show is perfection. Nathaniel Hackmann gives an incredible performance as Henry Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. With clearly defined characteristics, mannerisms and tone, the seeming ease with which he portrays the duality of his character is stunning. His strong and clear voice rings with emotion and soars through the theater with every number, particularly in the iconic “This Is the Moment, and Hyde’s “Alive!”.

The two women in Jekyll’s life are his fiancée Emma, played by Liana Hunt, and girl-of-the-night Lucy, performed by Caitlyn Caughell. Hunt’s sweet and loyal Emma is convincing and charming, and with a lovely voice to match, a pleasure to listen to. Emma and Lucy’s duet of “In His Eyes” is a wonderful match-up of harmonization. Caughell plays the jaded Lucy faultlessly, with just the right amount of wariness and burgeoning hope. Her show stopping vocals are on outstanding display in “Someone Like You” and “A New Life”.

Both Tom Lucca, as Jekyll’s friend John, and Jeff Williams, as Emma’s father Sir Danvers did wonderfully. Their believable emotions are genuine assets to their characters. The entire ensemble deserves commendation on their skills. The singing, dancing and characterization are spot-on and strengthen the entire performance.

The heartrending, and chilling tale of one man’s fatal choices, Jekyll & Hyde is a hauntingly beautiful musical. The Engeman’s production should not be missed.

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

 

Read online: http://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/review-jekyll-hyde-musical-john-w-engeman-theater/

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: ‘The Snow Queen’ captivates at the Engeman

Times of Huntington-Northport

Heidi Sutton

February 2, 2017

 

In perfect harmony with the frosty weather outside, “The Snow Queen” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport last weekend to a warm reception. Based on the beloved Hans Christian Andersen story that inspired Disney’s “Frozen,” the musical, co-written by Rick Lombardo and Kristen Brandt, is told in seven short stories and revolves around a young girl named Gerda, her best friend, Kai, and the power of love and friendship.

The Snow Queen has kidnapped Kai and taken him to her icy palace. There she orders him to solve the Riddle of Eternity by counting all the snowflakes in the world. When Gerda realizes what has happened, she sets off on a dangerous journey to save her friend.

Reminiscent of an Alice in Wonderland experience, Gerda encounters many obstacles along the way including a sneaky Garden Witch, a band of robbers and the blistering cold. Fortunately, she also meets a talking crow, a lovable reindeer and a wise Woman of the North who help her reach the palace.

Alyson Leonard expertly directs a talented adult cast of five, all of whom, with the exception of the lead, play multiple roles throughout the show.

Stephanie Krasner, last seen in the role of Rapunzel, returns to the Engeman’s stage as Gerda, who proves to be a faithful friend willing to go to the ends of the Earth to save Kai. Her courage and determination has the audience rooting for her from the beginning. Matthew Rafanelli is terrific as Kai, trapped within the cluthes of the Snow Queen but absolutely shines as the Crow who helps Gerda.

TracyLynn Connor gives the Snow Queen an icy regalness but also plays the role of a rose, princess and robber girl with ease. From her first appearance on stage as an old woman to her last as the Wise Woman of the North, Jacqueline Hughes’ performance is always top notch. Her solo “Breathe” takes your breath away and her various accents are impressive.

Last seen in “The Wizard of Oz,” Danny Meglio tackles the role of the troll, prince and sweet reindeer this time around. Helping Gerda reach the castle in the darkness and the cold as the reindeer is one of the most memorable scenes in the show.

Although at times Gerda’s journey may seem a bit long, the wonderful songs including “Flying,” “The Real Reality,” “Here I Am,” “Never Give Up” and “The End,” written by Haddon Kime, more than make up for its shortcomings, and you will find yourself humming these songs for days to come.

Those familiar with Andersen’s fairy tale won’t be disappointed with the ending and will go back out into the air with a warm heart after realizing that love conquers all.

This show is recommended for ages 8 and up because of its complex story line, although younger children will enjoy it for the beautiful costumes, special effects and songs. Meet the entire cast in the lobby for autographs and photos after the show. An autograph is conveniently located at the end of the program.

 

Long Islander Review: ‘The Full Monty’ Keeps The Laughs Coming

The Long Islander

January 26, 2017

Janee Law

 

Ten-time Tony Award nominee “The Full Monty” is bringing plenty of laughs to Northport village’s John W. Engeman Theater.

The venue was roaring with laughter during Saturday night’s show, causing audience member Rose Santopietro, of Northport, to call it “better than Broadway.”

The witty line delivery of Dave Bukatinsky (played by Ryan G. Dunkin), the introduction of the spunky Jeanette Burmeister (Diane Findlay) and the dance number of Noah “Horse” T. Simmons (Milton Craig Nealy) in “Big Black Man” can’t be missed, Santopietro added.

The production’s creative team, including director Keith Andrews, choreographer Antoinette Dipietropolo and musical director Andrew Haile Austin, meanwhile supplies a mix of harmonious melodies for the cast to perform.

The story focuses on friends Jerry Lukowski (Brent Michael Diroma) and Dave, who witness their wives’ enthusiasm for the popular touring company, Chippendales. They decide to gather a group of six men to put on a strip act after losing their jobs as buffalo steelworkers. Leading up to the big night, the group of six work through their fears, anxieties and find strength in their camaraderie.

The closing number of the show was one of audience members Santopietro and Rose Pascale, both of Merrick, favorite scenes.

“It was done elegantly with great taste,” Pascale said. “I absolutely loved it. If you need to be lifted, this will lift you right up.”

Both Santopietro and Pascale said their favorite characters were Jerry, “Horse” and Jeanette.

“They were so natural,” Pascale said. “You’ve got to go see it. Matter of fact, I’m going home and calling a few of my friends.”

Playing the lead role of Jerry, Brent Michael Diroma said his favorite scene is the hysterical bathroom scene, in which Jerry and Dave hide in a stall and overhear a conversation between Georgie Bukatinsky (Nicole Hale), Dave’s wife, and Jerry’s ex-wife, Pam Lukowski. The scene serves as a means to “set up all the relationships right out of the gate, and it’s a blast,” Diroma said.

Considering what his role entails, Diroma said the role isn’t nerve-racking.

“To a certain point, the six of us build this sort of camaraderie to where we’re doing it as a band of brothers, and we’re doing it together so it doesn’t feel weird,” he said. “If they put one of us on the stage, we probably couldn’t do it.”

Show times for “The Full Monty” at John W. Engeman Theater (250 Main St., Northport) are 8 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., Saturdays; and 2 p.m., Sundays. Some Wednesday and Sunday evening shows are also available. Tickets range $71-$76 and can be purchased at the box office or online at Engemantheater.com. The show runs through March 5.

 

Read online at: http://www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/the-full-monty-keeps-the-laughs-coming

The Observer Review: The Full Monty a hit on Engeman stage

The Observer

David Ambro

January 26, 2017

 

At the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, you get The Full Monty, if you know what I mean.

If you’re looking for a fun-filled night out this winter, this is it.

The Full Monty, starring Brent Michael DiRoma in a reprise of the lead role of Jerry Lukowski, an unemployed Buffalo steelworker who convinces a group of average Joes to become male strippers for quick cash, opened Saturay, January 21 at the Engeman Theater. It’s hilarious.

This is arguably the most playful, engaging and funniest show ever to hit the Engeman stage.

The Full Monty runs through March 5. For tickets call the box office at 631-261-2900, or visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport, or visit the theater website, EngemanTheater.com.

Mr. DiRoma, and his cast of misfit strippers, Ryan Dunkin as Jerry’s best friend Dave Bukatinsky is a standout, and are all talented singers, eager actors, and upbeat slapstick dancers. Diane Findlay, as pianist Jeanette Burmeister, is a veteran of her role and she plays it to perfection; and at the other end of the theatrical spectrum stage novice Kyle Wolf shines as Jerry Lukowki’s son Nathan.

Although it’s Mr. DiRoma’s debut on the Engeman stage, he is familiar with the roleof Jerry Lukowski. He played Jerry at Stages in St. Louis to close its 2015 season, a show that got rave reviews.

It’s a wonderful part for Mr. DiRoma, who delivers an engaging and likable musical version of Jerry Lukowski, a character created in a 1997 Academy Award nominated British Film, The Full Monty! set in Sheffield, England, which was adapted to a musical for the American stage and reset in Buffalo, New York.

During a post-opening night interview at the Engeman Saturday, Mr. DiRoma said one of the things he likes about the show is the interaction with the audience. During the opening-night performance he momentarily went off script when an audience member screamed, “keep your hat on,” as he squeezed a black derby over his naked crotch.

“Oh,” he said. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

He laughed and returned to his lines, and with the six members of Hard Metal flipped the audience The Full Monty, R-rated and tastefully done with a backdrop of hard stage lights that turned the row of male strippers into black silhouettes.

“The whole show is like that,” Mr. DiRoma said. “From beginning to end the show is a ball. I mean the show starts out with a guy taking off his clothes.”

“It’s not a fluffy show, you know what I mean. It’s not like Anything Goes, it’s not like the Bronx Tale. It’s The Full Monty,” said Mr. DiRoma, who has performed Huey in Memphis, Hank Maiewski/Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys, Tony in West Side Story, and Princeton/Rod in Avenue Q.

“Every night an audience builds a relationship with the actors on stage, and I felt really close to this audience tonight,” Mr. DiRoma said.

The men turned to stripping after being laid off from a steel mill. The play opens at Giordano’s on Route 11 in Buffalo, a club where the wives of the laid-off steelworkers attend a show of the famous Chippendale male strippers. Divorced and struggling to maintain custody of his son, Jerry comes up with the idea for a strip show of his own, 1,000 women at $50 each, a $50,000 night.

While the group practices its striptease routine, Jeanette reminds them of how bad they are, criticism she heaps on with uproarious punch lines.

Days before the big performance, Jerry’s best friend, Dave Bukatinsky, who struggles with insecurity about his weight, backs out of the opening night strip show. Then Jerry, in a desperate act to sell tickets, promises “The Full Monty,” a totally nude show not even the Chippendales provide. When the curtain goes up though, Jerry backs out suddenly, but the show goes on without him. Encouraged by his son, Nathan, Jerry hits the stage just in time for The Full Monty.

The Full Monty features a zany and comical plot interlaced with family drama, a story told with a wide ranging musical score highlighting the skill of the Engeman cast. Mr. Dunkin, Spencer Glass as stripper Malcolm MacGregor, Peter Simon Hilton as stripper Harold Nichols, and Noah Bridgestock as stripper Ethan Girard, are all wonderful singers, Big-Ass Rock, Michael Jordan’s Ball and You Walk With Me showcasing their wider range. And in Big Black Man, Milton Craig Nealy as Noah “Horse” Simmons turns in one of the show’s most entertaining numbers. And, early in the second act, Mr. DiRoma showcases his talent with the solo Breeze Off the River, a stunning ballad he delivers beautifully.

“I’m a singer first, but Jerry isn’t, so I try really hard to get away from the perfect vocals and the trained voice to give it more of a punching bag feel as opposed to trying to do it with all the technique and voice because I hate when people try to Jerry like that,” Mr. DiRoma said. “He’s a man’s man, and that’s how he wants to be seen. So, I think if you sing the ballad beautifully, that takes away from that manliness.”

DiRoma said though, that although the music is there, the role of Jerry Lukowski is in the acting, not the singing. “I do have to sing every night, and that takes work, but all my focus is on who Jerry is. And if Jerry were to sing a song, how would he go about it,” DiRoma said. “That’s what’s most important to me.”

“It’s a big role in that it is top to bottom and very little time off the stage, and as challenging as it is I share a lot of similarity with Jerry, and there is plenty that I don’t share with Jerry,” DiRoma said with a laugh. DiRoma, who was 25 when he first played Jerry and is 26 now, said as he gets older he can relate more closely to Jerry’s plight, a 32-year-old unemployed man trying to provide for his family.

About the Engeman Theater, Mr. DiRoma said performing in Northport has been a treat.

“I love it man. I love what they’re doing here. The people who run this theater are brilliant. It’s a theater for musicals with cup holders on the seats, so you can drink. That’s the way to see a show,” he said. “You know what I mean, especially for the husbands and dads who get roped into coming to see The Full Monty or something like that. I think they are pleasantly surprised to come into a theater that is welcoming in that way.”

“This is a show that is about the camaraderie of these characters and the music and the comedy aside, there is somebody they can relate to in these guys,” he said. “The theater itself is brilliantly run. Two weeks is a very difficult rehearsal process. Usually it is three weeks, but two weeks is fast.”

Ms. Findlay also said performing at the Engeman has been a treat and she loves this version of The Full Monty.

“I love this theater. It is a little diamond here and [Producing Artistic Director] Rich [Dolce] and everyone concerned are charming, they know what they are doing, we are treated beautifully, the cast that they selected is top notch all the way – it’s a perfect experience,” Ms. Findlay said after the show.

This is her fourth time as Jeanette. “It’s a great show,” she said. “I think this is the best cast I have ever worked with. I think that our director Keith Andrews really selected a cast that personifies each character.”

“I’m very proud to be a part of this perfect cast and beautiful Engeman theater,” she said.

Kyle Wolf, 13, of Glen Head, who has been a professional actor for less than a year, played Jerry’s son Nathan Lukowski in his biggest role ever.

“It’s a lot of fun. The show is so much fun,” he said during an interview in the Engeman lobby after the opening Saturday night. “It’s a very different experience because usually for every part that I have had it has been a younger version of the main character. So this is really cool because I am a main character throughout the show.”

“I really like the story because it is really funny and at the end it is heartwarming,” Kyle said.

He said his favorite members of the cast to work with are the gang of strippers, which includes his dad Jerry. He said his favorite part of the show is the closing scene in which he convinces his dad to go out on stage and strip with the other members of Hard Metal, the unorthodox group of male strippers his dad assembled and then tried to bailout on amid last minute stage fright.

He said another one of this favorite scenes is You Rule My World, with Vicki and Harold. “That’s a fun scene,” he said.

“This is my first time coming here. I’ve always wanted to do stuff here because it’s on Long Island and it’s a very good theater, but I have never gotten involved with it before,” he said. “So, this is a very good experience.”

Kyle performed off Broadway at the Davenport Theater in Manhattan as Young Vince in Molasses in January and he was Young Terk in Tarzan at the White Plains Performing Arts Center.

“This is one of, probably the best theater I have ever worked at. It is a real good theater,” he concluded.

Mr. DiRoma said although inexperienced, Kyle has been easy to work with.

“Kyle is awesome. He is my favorite Nathan that I have ever worked with doing this show,” he said. “It is interesting because everyone knows that if a kid is on stage they are the one who everyone is looking at. So I’m happy to be involved with him.”

Newsday Review: Hats (and everything else) off to these guys

Newsday

January 25, 2017

Steve Parks

 

In “The Full Monty,” six unemployed, middle-age men are so desperate for the dignity of earning a wage — even for just one night — that they strip naked in front of friends, family and everyone else they know in their hometown. The Tony-nominated musical, based on a British film, is played for laughs. And waves of opening-night laughter were generated at Northport’s Engeman Theater.

Laid off from a failed Buffalo plant, steelworkers hatch their short-term enterprise after seeing their wives thrilled by Chippendale strippers. For their striptease, they’re dressed as faux cops, hats and all.

Brent Michael DiRoma as Jerry and Ryan Dunkin as Dave, along with Peter Simon Hilton as Harold, their former boss — also laid off — embody the emotional investment these men have in their harmlessly public humiliation. Jerry, separated from his wife (Kate Marshall) and in child-support arrears, has the most at stake. He could lose shared custody of their son, played wise beyond his preteen years by Kyle Wolf. DiRoma invites us to own his pain, fortifying comedy with poignancy. Dunkin as overweight Dave lets us feel his self-consciousness about his body. But it’s his neglected wife, an empathetic Nicole Hale, who suffers his self-loathing about layabout unworthiness. Meanwhile, Hilton’s tortured Harold hasn’t told his wife (Gaelen Gilliland) that they can’t afford the high life anymore.

The guys recruit unabashed Malcolm (Spencer Glass) and Ethan (Noah Bridgestock) as unlikely partners, plus Milton Craig Nealy as “Horse,” a comically stereotypical “Big Black Man.” Together, they pledge to outstrip the Chippendales. All but stealing the show aboard DT Willis’ industrial set is their piano accompanist (Diane Findlay), who’s seen and done it all. Andrew Haile Austin and his six-piece band do the actual playing.

As directed by Keith Andrews and choreographed with naked split-second timing by Antoinette DiPietropolo and crucial backlighting by Doug Harry, it’s a blessed relief to laugh out loud as the men “Let It Go,” doffing even their hats.

Their humanity far outstrips their tease.

 

Read online at: http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/the-full-monty-review-laughter-s-the-bare-essential-in-northport/

Broadway World Review: ‘Let It Go’ with the Engeman’s THE FULL MONTY

Broadway World

January 25, 2017

Melissa Giordano

 

In another hit for Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theatre, Tony nominee The Full Monty delivers a lively production like its Broadway predecessor. This wonderful incarnation, directed superbly by Engeman newbie Keith Andrews, runs through March 5th at the gorgeous Northport venue. The musical, by Terrence McNally and David Yazbekbased on the 1997 movie, centers on a group of steel workers who were laid-off from their job and we follow them trying to get back on their feet and overcome insecurities.

Each has their own story, but their goal is the same.

Jerry, portrayed excellently by Brent Michael DiRoma, is fighting to continue to see his son as Jerry hasn’t paid child support in a while. Incidentally, Kyle Wolf, who portrays son Nathan, is a natural in the role with a great combination of hopefulness for his father yet discomfiture. Dave, portrayed charmingly by Ryan G. Dunkin, seeks to overcome body-image issues and be a more attentive husband to Georgie strongly portrayed by Nicole Hale. Harold Nichols, the guy’s former supervisor portrayed by Peter Simon Hilton, is worried how his wife, Vicki, portrayed by Gaelen Gilliland, will react to him being unemployed because she REALLY likes their extravagant lifestyle. Malcolm MacGregor, portrayed endearingly by Spencer Glass deals with an elderly, overbearing mother as well as shyness. Ethan Girard, portrayed hilariously by Noah Bridgestock, is a young, simple man navigating life. And Noah “Horse” T. Simmons, portrayed excellently by Milton Craig Nealy, is trying to keep busy in retirement.

Once Jerry and Dave realize how fervent their wives (and the rest of the town) react to a touring male strip-show revue, they recognize this is how they can at least start mending their lives. They put together their own Chippendales-esque show (with a twist!) with the help of sassy pianist Jeanette Burmeister portrayed by show-stopperDiane Findlay in a performance that leaves the audience in absolute stiches. Additionally, Kate Marshall is stellar as Jerry’s estranged wife Pam.

The entire Broadway caliber cast is truly extraordinary with spot on comedic timing at every turn.

Another highlight is the innovative set designed by DT Willis. At first we see a moody, grungy ambiance fitting to the guys beyond frustrated mood collecting unemployment for so long and nothing is being done by their union. Movable pieces flow seamlessly to bring us to different locations throughout the production. This is enhanced cleverly byDoug Harry‘s lighting and Tristan Raines‘ stunning costumes.

And so, the Engeman’s The Full Monty is indeed a must see for the season. And to clarify, even though there are intense moments, the outnumbering – and endless – hilarious moments will certainly leave you smiling.

 

Read online at: http://www.broadwayworld.com/Let-It-Go-with-the-Engemans-THE-FULL-MONTY/

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