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/

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: Engeman’s ‘The Full Monty’ more than satisfies audience members

Times of Huntington-Northport

January 24, 2017

Rita J. Egan

 

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport exposed a night of adult fun this past Saturday when it held the press opening of “The Full Monty,” its current mainstage production. Judging by the applause, laughter and howling coming from the audience, the musical, directed by Keith Andrews, will be another huge hit for the theater.

Based on the 1997 movie of the same name, the story takes six men on an adventure where they hold nothing back, emotionally or physically. Featuring a book by Terrance McNally with score and lyrics by David Yazbek, “The Full Monty” introduces theatergoers to two unemployed steelworkers from Buffalo, Jerry and Dave, who decide to organize and perform in a strip act after seeing local women go crazy for a Chippendales-inspired show. Even though they look nothing like strippers, they soon join forces with their former co-workers Malcolm and Harold and hold auditions for two more dancers where they meet Horse and Ethan and form Hot Metal.

While a few characters’ names differ from the film, and the location has been changed from the movie’s Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, New York, the musical is still filled with something everyone can identify with whether unemployment, divorce, relationship problems, body issues or even the caring of an ailing parent.

And like the movie, even though the men working together to overcome their anxieties and self-consciousness creates a few serious and tender moments, overall it is told with a great deal of humor both in dialogue and lyrics. It’s a tale that leaves audience members not only cheering for the characters but also exiting the theater feeling uplifted.

“The Full Monty” opens with a high-energy scene where the woman are enjoying a girls’ night out. The story soon switches to the men at the union hall, and the number “Scrap” let’s the audience know there are serious matters to be dealt with and money needed.

Throughout the musical, Brent Michael DiRoma (Jerry) and Ryan G. Dunkin (Dave) are a terrific duo easily handling delicate matters with well-timed humor. The two are at their best during Act One’s hysterical number “Big Ass Rock” where they try to discourage Malcolm from committing suicide by showing him the ridiculousness of different scenarios. Spencer Glass as Malcolm soon joins in on the number, ecstatic that he may actually have friends, leaving the audience laughing uncontrollably.

Peter Simon Hilton, who plays Harold a former supervisor hiding his unemployed status from his wife, captures the character’s nervousness perfectly and easily plays straight man to the others. He and Dunkin also reveal impressive vocals on the sweet number “You Rule My World,” where Harold wonders how he will tell his wife about his situation, and Dave ponders if he’ll ever lose the weight, particularly his stomach, that rules his life.

Noah Bridgestock is adorable as the young stud Ethan and exhibits great physical comedic ability, but it’s Milton Craig Nealy as Horse, during the number “Big Black Man,” who shows all the young men how it’s done with strong vocals and slick dance moves that delighted the Saturday night audience.

During the number “Michael Jordan’s Ball,” the men perform seamlessly together providing a catchy, standout number at the end of Act One. Another stellar performance by one of the male performers is “You Walk With Me” during the second act. While Glass nails the awkwardness of his character Malcolm, the tenor shines during this moving number, and toward the end of the song, Bridgestock joins him and complements his fellow actor nicely. “Breeze Off the River” sung beautifully by Diroma is another touching number during the second half of the musical.

While “The Full Monty” focuses on the six men, the female cast members cannot be ignored. Diane Findlay as Jeanette Burmeister, the men’s pianist, is a delightful surprise. She delivers her lines with the comedic ability of greats such as Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, and during “Jeanette’s Showbiz Number,” performs with the skill of a Broadway professional.

During Act 2, Nicole Hale as Dave’s wife, Georgie, and Gaelen Gilliland as Harold’s wife, Vicki, beautifully execute the reprise of “You Rule My World.” Kate Marshall, playing Jerry’s ex-wife Pam, skillfully balances strength and gentleness of a woman who is trying her best to move on while co-parenting with her ex.

Suzanne Mason, Jennifer Collester Tully and Lexi Lyric add to the humor as they hilariously bring to life the joys of working women just wanting to have some fun. Vincent Ortega also adds to the high jinks as club owner Tony Giordano, the Cha Cha teacher and a random jogger.

It should also be noted that Kyle Wolf is sweet and endearing as Jerry’s son Nathan. James D. Schultz garnered tons of laughs when he performed an awkward semi strip tease act during the dancer auditions, and Alexander Molina as Buddy “Keno” Walsh, the professional stripper, handled his egotistical character with a tongue-in-cheek performance as well as some dance moves that delighted the ladies in the audience.

“The Full Monty” leaves the best for last with the men’s anticipated performance and the catchy “Let It Go.” The cast and crew tastefully orchestrated the last scene, which left those in attendance howling with laughter but not too red from blushing. The show is perfect for a pleasurable night out with the girls or even date night, but leave the children home due to some adult language and partial nudity.

 

Read online at: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/engemans-the-full-monty-more-than-satisfies-audience-members/

DC Metro Theater Arts Review: ‘The Full Monty’ at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport

DC Metro Theater Arts

Kristen Weyer

January 23, 2017

 

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport rarely disappoints, and true to form their newest production, The Full Monty is remarkably well done. This ten-time Tony nominee has a book written by Terrence McNally, music and lyrics by David Yazbek, and was based on the 1997 movie of the same name. Directed here by Keith Andrews, and full of fun and entertaining choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo, The Full Monty will have you laughing the whole way through.

Jerry Lukowski (Brent Michael DiRoma) is a down-on-his-luck steel worker in Buffalo, NY. He, his best friend Dave (Ryan G. Dunkin), and many others, have been out of work for a long time. He’s in arrears on his child support, in danger of losing his son, and in low supply of self-respect. He needs money, a lot of it, and quickly. With the only jobs available not meeting his standards, things are looking down, until he gets an idea. Noticing how excited the women of the town are about the Chippendale dancers, he decides to get some guys together and put on a show featuring “real” Buffalo men. Through awkward rehearsals, self-doubt and cold feet, the six would-be strippers take the audience on a humorous ride through the world of male exotic dancing. Many views of derriere included.

This cast does a fabulous job in every aspect. Their voices are strong and pleasing, the comedic timing is spot on, and the characters progress naturally from fear and nervousness, to confidence. Brent Michael DiRoma and Ryan Dunkin have a wonderful rapport together, bringing the best friend relationship to believable life. Raw emotion flowed easily from them, adding authenticity to the down-trodden desperation driving their characters. Spencer Glass is endearing as the slightly dim-witted, yet sweet, Malcolm. His delightful facial expressions add to his character, as well as the overall humor.

Noah Bridgestock as Ethan, and Peter Simon Hilton as Harold, bring moments of both comedy and heart to the performance. Noah a.k.a. Horse, was portrayed by Milton Craig Nealy whose great voice and smooth dance moves were a pleasure to watch. Kyle Wolf did a marvelous job as Jerry’s son, Nathan. His amused, yet embarrassed demeanor is a perfect portrayal of his character’s emotions. While everyone was excellent, one performance stood out above the rest. Diane Findlay stole the show as the spunky piano player, Jeanette. Her hilarious antics and spot-on one liners, combined with sass and wit made for a magnificent performance.

DT Willis’ clever set worked extremely well. Its grungy appearance aids the feeling of a down trodden town, and its swinging panels easily bring us to differing locations. costume design by Tristan Raines appropriately reflects each character’s status in life. The lighting by Doug Harry is much appreciated, and superb sound design by Laura Shubert bolsters the entire show. The Full Monty is heartfelt, and always amusing.

 

Read online at: http://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/review-full-monty-john-w-engeman-theater-northport/

Smithtown Matters Review: ‘The Full Monty’

Smithtown Matters

Jeb Ladouceur

January 23, 2017

 

No one seems to know the exact origin of the British term ‘The Full Monty,’ but we’re certainly aware of what it defines in modern parlance. It means ‘whole hog’ … ‘all the way’ … ‘the whole enchilada’ … ‘the works!’

Accordingly, when Terrence McNally wrote the book for David Yazbeck’s musical about six destitute steel workers determined to raise money by putting on the mother of all male strip shows, he wisely stuck with the tantalizing title of the 1997 film from which the production is derived … and New York voyeurs showed up in droves to take a peek.

As it turns out, the show, which opened at Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre in October of 2000, had more going for it than just a suggestive moniker. Indeed, the musical garnered ten Tony nominations … a dozen Drama Desk nods … and ran for 800-plus performances. Not since ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ had such a provocative ‘come-on’ lit up The Great White Way.

Okay … maybe theatergoers in the mid-Long Island area don’t constitute quite the same naughty audience that flocked to sold-out performances of ‘The Full Monty’ on Broadway for two years. Still, it was apparent from last weekend’s Engeman opening of the risqué musical, that we locals can hardly be labeled a bunch of prudes. The titters, belly laughs, and catcalls were all there, and they rocked the jammed playhouse from curtain to curtain.

The concept of this show is a good one: It is built around six men’s convictions that their wives’ mania following a Chipendales performance, would be nothing compared to what the out-of-work sextet could generate … if they staged a similar beefcake production, but topped it off with … get the digitalis … a Full Monty climactic number!

Boyoboy!

Of course, there are some things even legitimate theater can’t get away with (apologies for the ‘dangling preposition’), but Director Keith Andrews keeps his six leading men in check just barely (there I go again) enough to dissuade the Northport cops down the street from raiding the joint.

The half-dozen would-be ‘eye candy’ exhibitionists turn-in some surprisingly dazzling, and dramatically empathetic performances along the way, and the actors deserve to be mentioned here. They are: Brent Diroma (as Jerry Lukowski), Ryan Dunkin (Dave Bukatinsky), Peter Hilton (Harold Nichols), Spencer Glass (Malcolm MacGregor), Noah Bridgestock (Ethan Girard), and Milton Nealy (playing ‘Horse’ Simmons).

‘The Full Monty’ contains obvious overtones of Mel Brooks’ classic ‘The Producers’ so it’s hardly coincidental that Richard T. Dolce, The Engeman’s Producing Artistic Director, tapped veteran dance arranger Antoinette DiPietropolo … who choreographed ‘Producers’ … to fill that vital function in this show. Comedy in dance must be an extremely difficult effect to achieve (Donald O’Connor and Danny Kaye were the masters, for my money) but DiPietropolo’s work is right up there with the best we’re likely to see in any genre. She created perfect synchronization throughout between her amateur ‘artistes’ and Musical Director Andrew Haile Austin.

‘The Full Monty’ has scheduled a fairly long run (it closes on March 5th) but the suggestion here is that tickets ($71.- $76.) be purchased well in advance. This is one of those productions that will almost surely fall into the ‘sleeper’ category … a show you definitely won’t want to have heard about from your neighbor once it’s over. That would be a shame! You’d lose out on show-stopping numbers by Nealy (‘Horse’) and Diane Findlay (who excels as piano-playing ‘Jeanette Burmeister’).

As for likely sources of the expression ‘Full Monty’ … most attribute the term in some way to British Field Marshal ‘Monty’ Montgomery … others favor English clothier Montague Burton … and so forth. It’s my theory, however, that the phrase stems from betting the entire pot in the old card game, ‘Monte.’ At any rate, don’t miss this bang-up show. It’s got some of the funniest sight gags you’ll ever see.

 

Read online at: http://www.smithtownmatters.com/theater-review-the-full-monty/

Village Tattler Review: Anything Can Happen at the Magical Mary Poppins at Engeman Theater

Village Tattler

December 12, 2016

Claudia D. Wheeler

 

A magical show the whole family can enjoy awaits you at The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport this holiday season. Based on the classic Disney film, Engeman brings the story of the mysterious nanny to life on the stage. Mary Poppins will follow the following performance schedule from now through Saturday, December 31, 2016: Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm. Some Wednesdays and Sunday evening are available.

Directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey (Engeman Theater: Thoroughlly Modern Millie, A Chorus Line, White Christmas), the cast of this magnificent production features Analisa Leaming as Mary Poppins (Broadway: The Kind and I, On the Twentieth Century). Leaming beams with just the right touch and attitude in the most delightful way. She brings the character of Poppins to life with a wonderful presence and rich, melodious vocals and makes you believe in the magic as she flies effortlessly across the stage on several occasions. Leaming alone is worth seeing the show for, and bringing the kids to see, but she is also accompanied by a talented cast: Luke Hawkins plays Bert (Broadway: Xanadu, Cirque du Soleil, and Banana Shpeel); Liz Pearce as Winifred Banks (Broadway: Billy Elliot and National Tours of Little Shop of Horrors, Jesus Christ Superstar, Seussical), as well as David Schmittou as George Banks, who delighted audiences as the narrator in A Christmas Story at Engeman in 2014.

This amazing cast also includes: Katherine Lafountain as Jane Banks and Chris Mckenna as Michael Banks, as well as Matthew Baker, Charles Baran, Luca Bergin, Jane Blass, Chris Brand, Linda Cameron, Samantha Carroll, Dena Digiacinto, Sophia Guarnaschelli, Alicia Hemann, Becky Grace Kalman, Sophia Kekllas, Oren Korenblum, Ben Russell-Lynch, Suzanne Mason, Meaghan Mcinnes, Danny Meglio, Courtney Moran, Peter Surace, Bronwyn Tarboton, Moore Theobald, Michael Verre, and Jacqueline Winslow.

We are entertained throughout the show by the magical Mary Poppins who shows up to care for Jane and Michael Banks and brings everyone on adventures with chimney sweeps, shopkeepers, and other characters. The dances are well choreographed numbers performed by skillful performers (many having performed on Broadway and Off Broadway). We remember all the catchy songs from the movie, which will get stuck in your head again for days: “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds,” “Step in Time,”  “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Jolly Holiday,” and  “Anything Can Happen.”

The Creative team features  Jason Simms (Scenic Design), Kurt Alger (Costume And Wig Design), Zach Blane (Lighting Design), Laura Shubert (Sound Design),Gayle Seay And Scott Wojcik Of Wojcik/Seay Casting (Casting Directors), Kristie Moschetta (Props Design), and Sean Francis Patrick (Production Stage Manager).

Mary Poppins is produced by Richard Dolce, the theater’s Producing Artistic Director and musically directed by Michael Hopewell (NYC: Once We Lived Here, Billy Bishop Goes to War, and Rent).

Tickets are $76.00 on Saturday evenings, and $71 all other performances and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visit www.EngemanTheater.com to purchase tickets or see a complete show schedule and what is up next at Long Island’s only year-round professional theater company.

 

Read online: www.villagetattler.com/anything-can-happen-magical-mary-poppins-northports-engeman-theater

Long Island Press Review: Mary Poppins: Holiday Extravaganza Opens at Engeman Theater

Long Island Press

December 2, 2016

Elise Pearlman

 

A holiday show is a genre all its own. It should tug on heartstrings and make the audiences smile, yet have music and glitz that fires up the imagination. The musical Mary Poppins, which recently opened at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, delivers all this and more.

Those looking to create lasting holiday memories with their families should partake of this show, which is truly an extravaganza. Theatergoers cannot ask for more in terms of engaging, family-friendly holiday entertainment.

The show is set in Edwardian London of the early 1900s. Something is sadly amiss at the home located at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Members of the well-to-do Banks family are at odds with each other.

George Banks, the patriarch, is a stern, hands-off father, who espouses the philosophy that children should be seen and not heard. Having been raised by a nanny himself, George seeks an employee who will infuse his offspring, Jane and Michael, with “precision and order.” The children act out by tormenting the nannies with pranks and shenanigans until they quit.

All is not quiet on the marital front either. George is very concerned with status and insists that wife, Winifred, focus on getting into the right social circle even though it makes her uncomfortable.

Having lost their sixth nanny, George is set to advertise for a replacement. But Jane and Michael have a wish list of their own: a nanny who would play games with them, read stories and simply bring childhood wonder back into their lives.

In short order, Mary Poppins mysteriously appears on their doorstep. Mary immediately takes control, extoling her virtues as the quintessential nanny in the delightful song, “Practically Perfect.” She also astounds the children by taking all manner of things—including a hat rack—out of her carpet bag.

The story of Mary Poppins—the inspiration for the memorable Walt Disney movie—was originally part of a series of books written by P.L. Travers. The author, who did not have a very happy childhood, spun the idealistic tale of a nanny with magical powers to entertain her siblings. She based the Poppins character on an aunt who also possessed a seemingly bottomless carpet bag.

Jane and Michael often judge people by their appearances and Mary teaches them to look beneath the surface. While at first they see Bert, the happy-go-lucky chimney sweep as dirty, they find out that Bert, who will be part of many adventures, is very likeable, full of fun, and he and Mary are old friends.

Similarly, when they run into the Bird Woman, who ekes out a meager living selling bags of food for the pigeons in the park, they see her as simply a bundle of rags. As the old woman (Suzanne Mason) and Mary render their heart-rendering duet, “Feed the Birds,” the children realize that the Bird Woman is really a kindly soul who has devoted her life to bringing nourishment to the tiny winged creatures.

Stunning musical showstoppers abound. One of my favorites is the astoundingly enthusiastic “Jolly Holiday,” in which Mary, Bert and the children are joined by the entire ensemble and wow the audience with song and dance. The colorful costumes are a visual delight. This number elicited spontaneous applause.

An extremely humorous bit of slapstick occurs when Mrs. Brill, the cook (Linda Cameron) gives Robertson Ay (Danny Meglio) some simple instructions to carry out in preparation for Mrs. Banks’ socialite tea party and things go hilariously awry. The mishap is followed by the crowd-pleasing tune, “A Spoonful of Sugar.”

As an investment banker, George is not so commanding and self-assured as he is at home. Act I leaves the audience with two cliffhangers. George makes a decision to fund one of two business ventures and time will tell if he made the right choice. Then, unexpectedly, Mary leaves in order to see how the family fares without her input. As she soars above the silhouetted rooftops of London, the audience is left to wonder if the Banks family will ever learn to function as a family without her help.

Directed and choreographed with great finesse and attention to detail by Drew Humphrey, Mary Poppins delights on every level. Analisa Leaming, who boasts a plethora of impressive Broadway credits, is the ideal Mary. From her very first song, “Practically Perfect,” the audience will be wowed by her melodic voice which borders on the operatic. She is a sight to behold in Kurt Alger’s spot-on period costumes. Expect to be smitten.

Luke Hawkins, who plays Bert, has appeared in Xanadu and Cirque de Soleil on Broadway. His amiability makes him the perfect sidekick for Mary. He will tap dance his way into your heart in numbers like the showstopper, “Step in Time.”

Katherine LaFountain (Jane) and Christopher McKenna (Michael) are no newcomers to the Engeman stage. They both have incredible stage presence and can sing and dance with the best of them.

George and Winifred are played by David Schmittou and Liz Pearce, respectively. Although Mary Poppins appears on the scene to correct the damage caused to the children by these wayward parents, the fact that the parents eventually win the audience’s sympathy is a credit to their fine acting.

Major kudos to Kurt Alger for his outstanding costume and hair design, which are truly an eye-catching salute to the elegant finery of the early 1900s. Jason Simms’ scenic design, showcasing the landmark London clock tower, combined with Zach Blane’s lighting, makes for dramatic silhouetted nightscapes. The six piece band directed by Michael Hopewell does full justice to the music.

Mary Poppins runs through Dec. 31. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, 250 Main St, Northport, by calling 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

 

Read online: www.longislandpress.com/2016/12/02/mary-poppins-holiday-extravaganza-opens-at-engeman-theater/

Long Islander Review: ‘Mary Poppins’ Rings In Holiday Season

The Long Islander

December 1, 2016

Janee Law

 

The stage of the John W. Engeman Theater is bringing an energetic performance to Northport Village this holiday season with the timeless and magical tale of “Mary Poppins.”

“I thought it was fantastic,” audience member Marianne Esolen, of Huntington, said after Saturday’s performance. “It was wonderfully uplifting and positive. It was a lovely night for families and a perfect pick for the holidays.”

Based on the classic children’s book series and Disney film, Engeman’s production of “Mary Poppins” is directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey and musically directed by Michael Hopewell.

The cast features Analisa Leaming as Mary Poppins; Luke Hawkins as Bert; Liz Pearce as Winifred Banks; David Schmittou as George Banks; Katherine LaFountain as Jane Banks and Chris McKenna as Michael Banks.

There are unforgettable dance numbers and fan favorite songs like Academy Award-winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds,” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” but the most entertaining number of the night was “Step in Time,” which demonstrated synchronized tap dancing and high energy performances that had the audience clapping along with the beat.

The cast delivered perfect European accents and demonstrated mannerisms of that of their characters from the film. For instance, Hawkins reflected Dick Van Dyke with his carefree performance of Bert, while Leaming reflected Julie Andrews with her operetta voice and feet pointing outward in her performance as Mary Poppins.

LaFountain and McKenna, who play the curious and sometimes mischievous children, both said their favorite scene to perform was “Step in Time.”

“I love the tap dancing and the energy is so great in it,” LaFountain said. “Kids our age usually don’t get to do stuff like this so it was really an honor to do it. I loved it.”

McKenna said he loved the opportunity to play Michael Banks, a “fun role.”

Esolen and Anne Paley, both of East Meadow, said “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Step in Time,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and “Anything Can happen” were their favorite performances of the night.

“I always prefer seeing things live,” Esolen said. “The film is amazing, but to see it performed in our own local community and to hear all the enthusiasm and all the laughter in the audience is better than any film could be.”

Show times for “Mary Poppins” at John W. Engeman Theater (250 Main St., Northport) are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. The last performance is Dec. 31, with some Wednesday and Sunday evening tickets available. Tickets are $71-$76, and can be purchased at the box office, or at Engemantheater.com.

 

Read online: www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/mary-poppins-rings-in-holiday-season

Broadway World Review: A Practically Perfect MARY POPPINS At The Engeman

Broadway World

November 30, 2016

Melissa Giordano

 

Having a long run on Broadway from 2007 to 2013, it is safe to day that any incarnation of Mary Poppins will not disappoint even the most devoted fans. One thing is sure; this still remains one of the most popular tales to this day as confirmed by the enthusiastic, nearly sold out audience at the John W. Engeman Theatre in Northport. The iconic story’s musical adaptation, now playing through January 1st at the gorgeous Long Island venue, features an exceptional and spirited cast.

When attending the staged version – The Engeman’s wonderfully directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey– you will see that it does not completely mirror the familiar 1964 P.L. Travers/Disney movie at several points. In typical fashion, things are added/taken out/expanded/moved around. Let me tell you, though, that the outstanding cast gets everything right.

Superbly leading the talented company is Broadway vet Analisa Leaming as Mary Poppins. As we know, things at the Banks household go awry at first when the mysterious and magical Mary is employed as a nanny for the Banks children. She and Mr. Banks – a very controlling man – have a difference of opinion in how to handle things like discipline; and they each don’t like to compromise much. It takes time for them to get on the same page but Mary, of course, ends up helping them become a closer unit.

Luke Hawkins portrays Bert, a jack-of-all trades who has known Mary for quite some time. Mr. Hawkins and Ms. Leaming are a fantastic team having many performances together in The Sherman Brothers score (with additional songs, music, and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe). Indeed, their great chemistry makes them well received. A rousing round of applause abounds particularly for “Step in Time” and the classic “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

Also highlights are the children, Katherine LaFountain and Chris Mckenna, who portray the mischievous but well-meaning Jane and Michael Banks. They are in many of the numbers and are impressively on point throughout the show. Additionally, Liz Pearce, another Broadway vet, is excellent as Mrs. Banks. One of her performances, “Being Mrs. Banks”, is heartbreaking telling about the difficulties of her marriage to an overbearing husband.

On the creative team, scenic designer Jason Simms admirably delivers. The moveable pieces and flying sequences are enhanced stunningly by Zach Blane‘s lighting and Laura Shubert’s splendid sound design. Additionally, devout fans will be very pleased with Kurt Alger’s costumes as they well adhere to the movie incarnation. There is also a remarkable orchestra headed up by Musical Director Michael Hopewell.

It is no surprise, really, that Mary Poppins is ideally achieved at the John W. Engeman Theatre. While some may have argued that the material is not “practically perfect”, my advice would be to see this production “spit spot” as a top notch cast and creative team – and an iconic story – make for a delightful night of theatre.

_______________________________________________________________

Mary Poppins is presented at the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through January 1st, 2017. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (631) 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film, Original Music & Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman, Additional songs, music, and lyrics by George Stiles& Anthony Drewe, Book by Julian Fellowes, Produced by Richard Dolce, Directed & Choreographed by Drew Humphrey (Engeman Theater: Thoroughly Modern Millie, A Chorus Line, et. al.), Musical Direction by Michael Hopewell (NYC: Once We Lived Here (U.S. Premiere), Billy Bishop Goes to War). Scenic Design by Jason Simms, Costume & Wig Design by Kurt Alger, Lighting design by Zach Blane, Sound Design by Laura Shubert, Casting by Gayle Seay and Scott Wojcik of Wojcik/Seay Casting, Props Design by Kristie Moschetta, Stage Management by Sean Francis Patrick

Starring Analisa Leaming (Broadway: The King and I, On the Twentieth Century), Luke Hawkins (Broadway: Xanadu, Cirque du Soleil, Banana Shpeel), Liz Pearce (Broadway: Billy Elliot; National Tours: Little Shop of Horrors, Jesus Christ Superstar, Seussical); David Schmittou (Engeman: A Christmas Story); Katherine LaFountain, Chris Mckenna, Matthew Baker, Charles Baran, Luca Bergin, Jane Blass, Chris Brand, Linda Cameron, Samantha Carroll, Dena DiGiacinto, Sophia Guarnaschelli, Alicia Hemann, Becky Grace Kalman, Sophia Kekllas, Oren Korenblum, Ben Russell-Lynch, Suzanne Mason, Meaghan Cinnes, Danny Meglio, Courtney Moran, Peter Surace, Bronwyn Tarboton, Moore Theobald, Michael Verre, and Jacqueline Winslow

 

Read online: www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Review-A-Practically-Perfect-MARY-POPPINS-At-The-Engeman

The Observer Review: Uplifting flight into Northport for Mary Poppins & company

The Observer

November 24, 2016

David Ambro

 

What Julie Andrews brought to the iconic role of Mary Poppins in the 1964 movie version, Analisa Leaming brings to the role in the production that opened at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport last week.

Mrs. Leaming, who was swarmed by the children of the cast when she arrived at the cast party after the opening-night performance Saturday, November 19, is the perfect Mary Poppins. She looks the part and boy can she sing.

During a pre-performance interview, Ms. Leaming said Mary Poppins is a “big sing” for her, and it is a sing in which she comes up big. She has an angelic voice with great range that allows her to capture the spirit of Feed the Birds and the excitement of A Spoonful of Sugar and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Much the same can be said for Luke Hawkins as Bert, Mary Poppins’ lighthearted and magical chimney sweep sidekick. Bert is a role made famous on the screen 52 years ago by Dick Van Dyke, and it is a role made unforgettable by Mr. Hawkins on the Engeman stage with his rendition with the ensemble of Step in Time, a tap-dance spectacular that was an audience and cast favorite.

Described in a word, this show is uplifting.

“I think it turned out beautifully,” said director and choreographer Drew Humphrey during an interview after the press-night show Saturday, November 19. Asked about his favorite part of the show, Mr. Humphrey thought for a short moment, and like many other chose the tap-dance extravaganza Step in Time.

“It is a story that everyone can relate to. Everyone has experienced some problems when they come home to their family and it is not working right and I think this show does a wonderful job of telling people that dealing with their problems is not impossible.”

Mr. Humphrey said there are high expectations when you take on a show like Mary Poppins. “Whenever you are dealing with source material that is iconic as this is, there is a pressure to do it justice. If you stay true to it and approach it honestly and approach it with love, you set yourself up for success,” he said.

David Schmittou, who plays George Banks, the strict and high-strung father of the children in Mary Poppins’ care, is a veteran of the Engeman stage, having performed in A Christmas Story. During an interview after the show Saturday he said he loves the Engeman Theater and has a fondness for this show, having performed Mr. Banks twice before.

“I love this show,” he said. “I think it is a great story. I’ve loved the story since I was a kid and saw the movie.”

“It is my second experience at the Engeman and I think it is a fantastic experience,” said Mr. Schmittou, who resides in New Jersey. “It’s great, and I think that the story had such an appeal to me as a kid but as an adult is also has appeal to me too because of the family dynamic and the stage show.”

Mr. Schmittou said the favorite part of his role was fixing the family, when he comes out of his stern character at the end and celebrates the Banks coming together as a family unit. It’s a fun scene, where he kicks up his heels and breaks into dance with Bert.

“The family drops the walls that are going up and comes together as a family,” he said. “Mary Poppins heals the family. I don’t want to give too much away for anybody who hasn’t seen it, but it is about the family.”

Although he is not on stage for it, Mr. Schmittou said his favorite part of the show is Step in Time. “I stand in the wings and watch it every night. That is truly a show stopping number,” he said.

“If my wife and I were season ticket holders here and we came to see this show, the first thing we would do is call my brothers and sisters and say get all of the children, nieces and nephews, and take them to see this show,” said theater owner Kevin O’Neill. “That’s what this should be. This is a family show if ever there was one.”

“It’s not a Christmas oriented show, it’s not a holiday show, but overall it’s a show for family that’s tough to beat,” Mr. O’Neill said. “We’re bringing our booster seats out, because the little ones are coming.”

Katherine LaFountain, of Bayport, who plans Jane Banks, one of the children in Mary Poppins’ care, said it has been inspirational to work with Ms. Leaming. “She has done things on Broadway and she is a great role model for me,” Katherine said.

“I think it went very well, and I love this show so much,” Katherine said.

Like many of the others, Katherine said Step in Time is her favorite part of the show. “It is the most beautiful thing to watch and I love tap-dancing,” she said. “So, it’s so fun.”

Christopher McKenna, of Syosset, who plays Michael Banks, said he is really excited to be in the cast because it is his first big role. “My favorite part is Perfect Nanny because it’s me and Jane’s song. I just loved it because it’s our first big scene,” Christopher said.

While Step in Time was a show stopper and an audience favorite, another audience favorite, mine as well, is Feed the Birds, a duet by Ms. Leaming, as Mary Poppins, and the Bird Woman, played by Suzanne Mason. Although this is her only song in the show, Ms. Mason makes it something very special with her angelic voice that shines in concert with Ms. Leaming.

While Step in Time and Feed the Birds are audience favorites, Mary Poppins at the Engeman captures, with great authenticity, the iconic classics in this magical fairy tale. It’s a must see, another stellar example of how the Engeman brings Broadway to Main Street.

For tickets, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport, call the box office at 631-261-2900 or order online at engemantheater.com.

 

 

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: ‘Mary Poppins’ is the spoonful of sugar we all need right now

Times Beacon Record

November 23, 2016

Melissa Arnold

 

Sometimes, looking at life through a child’s eyes again makes everything better.

That’s exactly the opportunity you’re given in “Mary Poppins,” which kicked off a six-week run at the John Engeman Theater in Northport this week. And boy, is it a treat.

The Engeman Theater has a reputation for pulling out all the stops for its shows, and “Mary Poppins” definitely reaps those benefits with a stunning, colorful background, detailed scenery and a cast of seasoned professionals, many of whom spent time on Broadway.

Directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey, this show is a Disney classic, with all the heartwarming moments and magical touches you’d expect. Set in early 1900s London, “Mary Poppins” gives a glimpse into the lives of the wealthy Banks family — workaholic husband George, his doting wife Winifred and their adorable-yet-mischievous children, Jane and Michael.

Try as they might, the Bankses can’t seem to find a nanny who will stick around – it might have something to do with the kids’ constant pranks and stubbornness. But Jane and Michael meet their match when Mary Poppins shows up from who knows where. Without any negotiation, she invites herself into their home and begins to work some real magic. Along the way, she introduces them to a host of quirky, mysterious characters that teach them about what’s really important in life.

The story’s unofficial narrator is Bert (Luke Hawkins), a charming chimney sweep with a deep affection for Mary Poppins and the Banks children. Hawkins will have you smiling the minute he takes the stage, and his appearances will tug on your heartstrings throughout the show. His tap dancing skills in “Step in Time” will leave you breathless. Mary Poppins is played by Analisa Leaming, a newcomer to the Engeman stage with several Broadway credits under her belt. Leaming plays Poppins with all the poise and grace the role demands, with lovely, light vocals even on the highest notes. She also deserves a nod for the slight-of-hand tricks she performs throughout the show, maintaining character even during a rare moment when her props won’t cooperate.

Katherine LaFountain and Christopher McKenna play the Banks children with endless enthusiasm and joy. Both have an obvious love for the stage and there is nothing forced about their performances. You’ll fall in love with them both during “The Perfect Nanny” and “Practically Perfect,” two examples of their fantastic teamwork.

The special effects in “Mary Poppins” are what make the show truly great. Children in the audience might actually believe that Mary’s bag can fit anything, that she can instantly make sandwiches from a loaf of bread, or that she can even fly. Seeing her take flight with that famous umbrella is the highlight of the show.

The show’s set can rotate, expand and retract, which allows for easy transitions between several unique locations. The background is perhaps the most eye-catching element, however, with the London sky in silhouette and a colorful, illuminated sky that can create sunsets, nightscapes and even some psychedelic schemes.

Many of the supporting cast members are also worth a mention. In particular, George Banks’ childhood nanny Miss Andrew (Jane Blass) commands the stage during her brief performance. She has so much swagger and authority that when she’s called “the holy terror,” you’ll believe it in an instant. Also, the “bird woman,” played by Suzanne Mason, delivers a performance of “Feed the Birds” that’s both touching and haunting.

The ensemble has a huge role to play in “Mary Poppins.” Whether they’re seamlessly helping with set changes as chimney sweeps, tap dancing or serving as any number of whimsical creatures, they are an essential part of the show and every bit as talented as the lead actors. In fact, their performance in “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious” and “Step in Time” are among the most impressive of the entire show. The two children’s ensembles, which will rotate throughout the show’s run, should be commended for their hard work and flawless routines.

While the band isn’t visible or credited at any point in the show, they do a flawless job in presenting songs from the original movie as well as many that were written for the stage version. Under the direction of Michael Hopewell, the band consists of keyboard, bass, drums and a variety of woodwind and brass instruments.

All told, “Mary Poppins” is exactly the joyful, inspiring tale so many of us seek out during the holidays. While it’s not a holiday-themed production, the theater is beautifully decorated for the season, and you can enjoy the occasional Christmas song and a festive drink at the piano bar before showtime.

Take a few hours this holiday season to leave your cares behind and gather the family for a night of laughter. You’ll be glad you did.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Mary Poppins” through Dec. 31. Run time is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. Ticket prices vary from $71 to $76. To purchase tickets, call 631-261-2900.

Read online: www.tbrnewsmedia.com/mary-poppins-is-the-spoonful-of-sugar-we-all-need-right-now/

 

Smithtown Matters Review: MARY POPPINS

Smithtown Matters

November 21, 2016

Jeb Ladouceur

 

Sooner or later, it seems, every theatrical organization gets a crack at ‘Mary Poppins’—and now through New Year’s Eve, it’s The Engeman’s turn. Actually the timing couldn’t be more fortuitous for locals, because with the exception of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ (currently playing its standard holiday gig forty minutes east in Port Jefferson) the whimsical story of the magical nanny created on film by Julie Andrews might be the perfect show for kids of all ages during the holiday season!

If that sounds like overstatement, theatergoers simply have to see the enchanting Analisa Leaming for themselves. If ever a stage actress was perfectly cast as the ultimate au pair, it’s Leaming!

We all know the story immortalized by the 1964 Disney movie … governess-type Mary Poppins shows up at the privileged London home of little Jane and Michael Banks, where she wows the obstreperous children by introducing them to amazing chimneysweeps, mind boggling shopkeepers, dancing statues, and other unforgettable characters who quickly win the youngsters’ hearts.

The film about kids largely denied affection by their father (a la ‘Sound of Music’) was a natural for the stage, thus it opened on Broadway in 2006 … and ran there for seven years!

Granted, ‘Mary Poppins’ is not a jolly holiday show in the manner of ‘White Christmas’ or Dickens’ classic story fashioned around old ‘Ebenezer Scrooge,’ but it’s an appealing tale of childhood whimsy nonetheless, and as such, the narrative qualifies as an appropriately festive offering at this celebratory time of year.

Mary is named ‘Poppins’ because she just shows up magically from time to time—that is to say, she just ‘pops in’—get it? And though she’s the undisputed star of the show, ‘Bert,’ the wonderful singing, dancing Chimneysweep, who essentially is the musical’s narrator, complements the dazzling Mary expertly with clever and revealing dialogue. In fact ‘Bert’ (Luke Hawkins) delivers one of the most spot-on lines in the play when he tells Mary, “You’re a sight for sore eyes.” Because Leaming sure is, folks! The slender, statuesque woman is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s difficult to imagine any young lady looking better in an Edwardian outfit. Those stunning turn-of-the-20th century walking suits and high-button shoes seem to have been designed with Analisa Leaming in mind.

Striking, too, are all of the ensemble’s colorful pastel costumes designed by Kurt Alger. Mary stands out, of course, in her red, blue, white, or black outfits (she seems to change every ten minutes or so), and even the drab clothing of the dowdy ‘Bird Woman,’ (so poignantly interpreted by Suzanne Mason,) is appropriate in its dreary contrast to the leading lady’s finery.

The starring children in this play are ‘Jane and Michael Banks,’ played by Katherine LaFountain and Christopher McKenna. They are on stage virtually non-stop, and do a fine job in their taxing roles. One notable youngster, who appears less frequently, is Sophia Eleni Kekllas. She plays a come-to-life doll named ‘Valentine.’ Sophia exhibits all the tools necessary for future stardom; indeed her superb stage presence is obvious despite her brief role and tender years. Someone has guided the gifted child’s early career with first-rate insight.

There are two magnificent production numbers in this endearing musical, and they are entirely different in style and execution. One is the tongue-twisting ‘Super-cali-fragilistic-expiali-docious,’ (hyphens added here) which is skillfully sung, and cleverly choreographed with colorful alphabet blocks. The other is ‘Step In Time.” It’s a show-stopping piece wherein ‘Bert,’ ‘Mary,’ and the ‘Banks Children’ join fifteen ‘Chimneysweeps’ in a rousing, perfectly timed tap dance extravaganza.

If there’s anything not to like in this Drew Humphrey-directed show, I don’t know what it would be. Maybe a few encores could be added. That would have delighted the sold-out crowd who stood and cheered last weekend … as Mary Poppins flew down from the midnight London sky with her umbrella … and took her well-deserved bows.

 

Read online at: www.smithtownmatters.com/long-island-theater/

DC Metro Theater Arts Review: ‘Mary Poppins’ at The John W. Engeman Theater

DC Metro Theater Arts

November 21, 2016

Kristen Weyer

 

Everyone’s favorite high-flying nanny has landed at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport! Mary Poppins will be playing until the wind changes on December 31, 2016. The script, based on both the books by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Disney movie, was written by Julian Fellowes, whose repertoire also includes Downton Abbey. Directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey, Mary Poppins is sure to delight audiences of all ages.

The endearing storyline of Mary Poppins is a familiar one to most of us. The Banks family requires a nanny for their two rambunctious children, but gets more than they bargained for in Mary Poppins. She proceeds to not only take care of the children, but to fix the entire family. Few, besides the very young, have not heard of the magical flying nanny who can fix any problem with a “Spoonful of Sugar” and a spit-spot!

Intriguingly, the underlying tone of this play is slightly darker than its movie predecessor. The members of the Banks family are here portrayed as realistic people with actual, serious problems. While previously, Jane (Katherine LaFountain) and Michael (Christopher McKenna) were merely attention starved children with an unfortunate penchant for mischief, here they are frequently selfish and rude.

Mr. Banks (David Schmittou) who we all knew as distracted and overworked, is now a truly angry man wounded by the scars of his own childhood. Also is our lovable, if air-headed suffragette, Mrs. Banks (Liz Pearce). In her place is a competent, intelligent woman struggling with her desires to be a caregiver to her own children, and how to best help a husband who doesn’t see what she is capable of. Don’t let this alarm you. What this does is add a substance to the plot that wasn’t there before. If anything, the added solemnity makes for a more heartwarming ending as we see the journey they were on to become a true family, as she sings in the very moving “Being Mrs. Banks.” Not to worry, all of your favorite aspects are still present, dancing penguins included.

And then there is scene-stealer Jane Blass, as the very scary and hilarious Miss Andrew, who wreaks havock as she tries to replace Mary Poppins. Her showstopping “Brimstone and Treacle.”

The cast does marvelously in every aspect. The talented ensemble twirls, taps, and sings their way through number after number with never flagging energy. Analisa Leaming is the perfect Mary Poppins, as we hear from her opening number “Practically Perfect.” Her beautiful voice and on-point characterization are everything you hope for from the iconic flying nanny.

Luke Hawkins makes a charming Bert, and brilliantly performs an impressive tap number during “Step in Time.” David Schmittou and Liz Pearce have a nice chemistry together, portraying believable emotion and giving the audience a couple worth rooting for. Katherine La Fountain and Christopher McKenna both impress as Jane and Michael. They are each fantastic young actors with delightful voices. An added comedic bonus are the household servants Mrs. Brill and Robertson Ay, humorously played by Linda Cameron and Danny Meglio.

The cast are certainly not alone in deserving accolades. With his practical, yet whimsical set design, Jason Simms adds to the fun and magic of the plot.  Likewise, Kurt Alger’s stunning and intricate costume designs continually impress.

The band, under direction from Michael Hopewell, beautifully performed tunes both familiar and new. While each recognizable song was eagerly anticipated, the unknown newer pieces were also very enjoyable. In fact, along with classics from Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman such as “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” come a whole cluster of new songs. Written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the new additions to the score will have you humming all the way home.

With its soaring melodies, enthusiastic dances and ultimate messages of love and perseverance, Mary Poppins is a must see for the whole family.  It reminds us that “anything can happen if you let it.”

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Mary Poppins plays through December 31, 2016, 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 at: www.dcmetrotheaterarts.com/mary-poppins/

Long Island Press Review: 1776: Hit Musical About Birth of Our Nation Opens at Northport’s Engeman Theater

The Long Island Press

October 8, 2016

Elise Pearlman

 

Expect to be thoroughly entertained by an enthralling slice of American history set to music as 1776, the multiple Tony Award-winning musical about the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which recently opened at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater.

The show spans the summer months of its title year. It’s uncomfortably hot in the fly-plagued Philadelphian Hall that is home to the Second Congressional Congress, and business is moving at a snail’s pace. John Adams, the Massachusetts delegate, is deeply frustrated because Congress has not moved forward on his proposal that the American colonies break free from British rule. In fact, a year has trickled through the hourglass, and Adams has earned the reputation of being obnoxious and disliked because of his persistence.

This was a rebellious act that no other British possession had ever dared contemplate. Yet life in the colonies had given rise to a new breed, less refined than the British perhaps, yet tantalizingly bold. Delegates teetered on the decision to brave “the sea in a skiff made of paper” for three sweltering months.

Eventually, when delegates do commit to a “yea” or “nay,” a deadlock emerges, with the South pitted against the North. To make matters more difficult, John Hancock, Congressional President, rules that the decision for or against independence must be unanimous, so “no colony be torn from its mother country without its own consent.”
Adams calls for a postponement and suggests that a document clarifying the reasons behind the break from Great Britain be drafted. Hence the Declaration of Independence would be written.

Jamie LaVerdiere, who boasts Broadway, national and international tour credits, previously appeared in Engeman’s The Cottage and Sweet Charity. He excels as Adams, the principled idealist and passionately annoying squeaky wheel who refuses to be silenced. Adams and his wife, Abigail, had a deep bond nurtured by written correspondence. Their responses to each other’s missives are depicted in the show. Jennifer Hope Wills, who has appeared on Broadway and regionally, does full justice to the role of Abigail. Their voices blend in sweet harmony in the songs, “Until Then,” and “Yours, Yours, Yours.”

Adams’ primary supporters in the fight for independence are Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. In his Engeman debut, Michael Glavan is superb as the taciturn Jefferson, who possessed the written eloquence needed to compose the Declaration of Independence.

David Studwell endows Franklin with both wisdom and a keen comic flair, the latter of which is showcased in the clever repartee that takes place when Franklin and Adams run into Martha Jefferson. She has been sent for by Adams because Jefferson has been pining for his wife. When asked by Franklin how the inordinately quiet Jefferson managed to snare such a comely bride, Martha (Adriana Milbrath) responds with “He Plays the Violin,” a saucy song full of innuendos and double entendres. It makes for delightful levity.

At the end of Act I, a bedraggled courier (Matthew Rafanelli), who silently trudges into Congressional Hall bearing messages from George Washington, surprises the audience with a song, “Momma Look Sharp.” It is a poignant and heartbreaking reminder of the true cost of war and Rafanelli renders it to perfection.

South Carolina’s Edward Rutledge (Peter Saide) similarly delivers a wake-up call about the North’s hypocrisy with respect to slavery. “Molasses to Rum” is a stunningly dramatic number about the harsh realities of triangular trade.

The action really heats up in Act II and its songs like these two that kept me glued to my seat.

Expect to experience an engrossing behind-the-scenes look into the personalities who catapulted America into revolution. You might be reminded, as I was, of another spellbinding Engeman hit, 12 Angry Men, where there is similar deliberation. However, in 1776, the destiny of not just one man, but of an entire nation hangs in the balance. We identify with the characters’ moral and philosophical quandaries because the Founding Fathers are depicted, not as demigods, but as flawed and all too human.

The show is a deeply thought-provoking one. Given the present political climate, I felt wistful about the spirit of moral integrity that permeated Congressional Hall. Despite fundamental differences, in the final analysis, the delegates listened to others and were open to compromise, which was, at times, hard wrought.

Director Igor Goldin has been at the helm of many of Engeman’s finest productions, including Memphis, West Side Story, South Pacific, and, of course, 12 Angry Men. His astute direction and attention to detail is outstanding, making for ensemble work at its best. He once again delivers a theatrical masterpiece.

One of the first things that I noticed was the authentic period costumes, in keeping with the persona of each character. Major kudos to Kurt Alger for his costume and wig design, which delight the eyes. Compliments also to the five piece band led by Music Director Eric Alsford.

I would be remiss if I did not call attention to the playbill, which is something of a keepsake. It contains an image of the original Declaration with its signatures. There is a picture of each delegate, the actor that plays him, and fascinating details about the men who shaped history.

1776 runs through Nov. 6. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, by calling 631-261-2900 or visiting www.engemantheater.com

 

Read online: https://www.longislandpress.com/1776-hit-musical-about-birth-of-our-nation-opens-at-northports-engeman-theater/

Long Islander Review: ‘1776’ Packed With Historical Drama

The Long Islander

October 6, 2016

Janee Law

 

Audience members were taken back to the 1700s Thursday night, when John W. Engeman Theater’s production of musical “1776” hit the stage and told the intense and courageous tale of how the founding fathers declared independence from Great Britain.

 The Tony Award-winning musical covers a three-month period during the hot summer months in Philadelphia. Actors incorporate drama into the story, with occasional moments of comic relief, leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

With a talented creative design team, and director Igor Goldin, the stage opens in the chamber of the continental congress on May 8, 1776. With several tables scattered among the stage holding feather pens, actors are finely dressed in 18th century wings, neck cravats, suits, stockings and buckle shoes.

The 25 cast members embody each of their characters, and embrace the time period through mannerisms, speech and poise.

Captivating in his performance as found father John Adams, Jamie LaVerdiere is intense, passionate and persistent in his efforts for independence.

LaVerdiere said after the show that it is a “great deal of fun” to play his role.

“It’s an inspiring story. It was a brand new thing and he was a visionary,” LaVerdiere added. “It’s a dream role of mine. I’ve worked out here a couple times and I’m just so honored for the opportunity to be doing it anywhere that this will always be a special experience in my career.”

 In addition, his performance with Jennifer Hope Willis (Abigail Adams) gives a beautiful rendition of the letters that John and Abigail wrote to each other while John was away in Philadelphia. As the actors sing to each other in “Yours, Yours, Yours,” they deliver heartbreaking yearning as John confides in Abigail during stressful times.

In other numbers, like “Cool, Cool Considerate Men,” led by Benjamin Howes (as John Dickinson), actors take the stage in a powerful performance as men standing their ground to remain loyal to the crown.

With each passing ‘day,’ the story intensifies, as characters entice one another and make unwanted sacrifices for the colonies to officially declare independence.

Audience member Lynn Ratner, of Merrick, said after the show that she enjoyed the production.

“We weren’t sure what to expect from a Long Island theater,” she added. “It’s a very impressive group, very talented people. The voices were wonderful and it’s a wonderful story.”

Showtimes for “1776” at the John W. Engeman Theater (250 Main St., Northport) are 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 are $71-$76 and can be purchased at the box office, or at Engemantheater.com.

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/1776-packed-with-historical-drama

Programming Insider Review: ‘1776’ is Alive and Well at the John Engeman Theater

Programming Insider

October 6, 2016

Marc Berman

 

If you happen to be a history buff who likes musicals, or vice versa, and you don’t feel like spending that proverbial “arm and leg” for a Broadway production, I have a solution. The show is called “1776,” which runs until November 6. The outlet is the landmark John W. Engeman Theater in the picturesque town of Northport, New York. And the experience, unless you are a past attendee at this regional playhouse, will leave you wondering why it took you so long to discover this memorable outlet.

“1776,” for course, is no stranger to anyone who fancies themselves as a musical theater aficionado. The 1969 Tony Award winning production, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and book by Peter Stone, is based on the events surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It dramatizes the efforts of frustrated John Adams (played here by Jamie LaVeriere, who adeptly mixes angst and moments of comedy and romance) to persuade his colleagues in the thirteen colonies to vote for American independence and to sign the document.

Naturally, writing history can be a painstakingly serious task. But as representatives of the colonies gather for the rousing first number, “For God’s Sake, John, Sit Down,” the mixture of drama and a good dose of humor becomes the inherent path for this two-hour production. And the arrival of Jennifer Hope Wills as Abigail Adams, the wife of John (and one of only two females in the entire show), displayed his softer, showcasing what life was like at that time for anyone of a female persuasion. A shining moment was Wills belting out “Yours, Yours, Yours.”

John Adams was not alone in his history making efforts, and credit, in particular, goes to David Studwell as fatherly Benjamin Franklin, the voice of reason, and Michael Glavan as Thomas Jefferson. As Jefferson yearns to see his wife Martha (Adriana Milbrath), the result is the truly glorious rendition of “He Plays to Violin” with LaVerdiere and Studewell.

Position mention also goes to the cluttered cast, who housed in that painfully warm room bickering about the Declaration of Independence manage to each have a standout moment…or two. In particular is Peter Saide as Edward Rutledge, who belts out “Molasses to Rum” with gusto. But it is young Matthew Rafanelli as the Courier, whose emotional rendition of “Momma Look Sharp,” which details the loss of the boys in the battlefield that leaves the audience in tears before intermission.

A sharp contrast to the glorious sing-along “Mamma Mia!” this past summer, the arrival of “1776” and upcoming “Mary Poppins” proves there is something for every member of the family at the John Engeman Theater.

 

Read online: http://programminginsider.com/miscellaneous/1776-alive-well-john-engeman-theater/

Smithtown Matters Review: ‘1776’

Smithtown Matters

October 2, 2016

Jeb Ladouceur

 

When ‘1776’ opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 1969, its producers were well aware that the show was about to establish a number of significant ‘firsts.’ Especially interesting is the odd fact that during its three-year run (when the play moved to the St. James, and ultimately the Majestic Theatre) ‘1776’ became the first Broadway musical ever, wherein theatergoers witnessed a full half-hour of continual performance in the middle of Act I, during which no songs were offered! Indeed, until ‘1776’ came along, it was established tradition that instrumentalists were prohibited from leaving their orchestra pit in the course of an act … but this show became the exception. Thirty minutes was simply too long to sit and do nothing, it seems.

One can only suppose that the musicians’ union had something to say about the undoubtedly welcome verdict.

Even today, some forty-five years and one fairly successful revival later, theater impresarios are divided in their opinions as to whether this story about the signing of the Declaration of Independence should be a musical at all!

Those who favor the purely dramatic approach may have a point. For this reviewer, the most riveting segments of the lavish production are those defined by dialogue, rather than lyricism.

This is not to say that ‘1776’ deserves no place in the annals of musical theater … it is every bit as good as most efforts in the melodic genre … in fact, it should be noted that in its current format the show was nominated for five Tony Awards, winning three, and one of those three was for ‘Best Musical.’ Go figure.

Jamie LaVerdiere is superb in the starring role of John Adams, and Jennifer Hope Wills acquits herself admirably as the legendary Abigail who ultimately became America’s stunning First Lady. Together, she and LaVerdiere form an exquisite team. Wills’ extensive Broadway resumé is evident in this characterization; the part seems tailor-made for the widely-traveled star. Not to be overshadowed, however, is David Studwell playing the irrepressible Benjamin Franklin. He has some of the best lines in ‘1776,’ and deservedly so, if the history books (and hundred-dollar bills) are to be recognized as appropriate salutes to his persona.

Regular attendees at the Engeman will recognize Michael Glavan and Tom Lucca who turn in a believable Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock respectively. And Broadway standout Benjamin Howes delivers a splendid interpretation of the lesser-known John Dickinson, while James D. Schultz also shines in the somewhat more obscure role of Dr. Lyman Hall.

The actors playing the other dozen-or-so Declaration signatories also do a bang-up job, befitting their inclusion in the excellent company in which they find themselves.

As always, The Engeman has supplied its sterling cast with all the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from the Northport company. This naturally begins with veteran Director Igor Goldin. He never, ever, disappoints!

Any critic would be remiss were they to overlook Kurt Alger’s wonderful costumes (including the powdered wigs, naturally) of the Revolutionary War era. Throw in Stephen Dobay’s wonderful set, and one can easily conclude that no cast anywhere was ever given such remarkable tools with which to execute their craft.

Chalk up another hit for The Engeman!

 

Read online: www.smithtownmatters.com/long-island-theater/2016/10/2/theater-review-1776.html

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: Cast of Engeman’s ‘1776’ brings history to life

Times Beacon Record

September 20, 2016

Rita J. Egan

 

With talented actors, period-appropriate costumes and a detailed set, a theatrical production can make audience members feel as if they have traveled back in time. This is certainly the case with the John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “1776,” which opened last week.

Before there was “Hamilton,” there was “1776.” The classic musical, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone, debuted on Broadway in 1969 and was turned into a movie in 1972. Dramatizing the efforts of John Adams to persuade his fellow delegates of the Second Continental Congress to vote for American independence, “1776” focuses on the last weeks leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The first lines by Adams, played by James LaVerdiere, help to set the tone for the musical: “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace — that two are called a law firm — and that three or more become a Congress.” With this quote as well as the opening number “For God’s Sake, John, Sit Down,” the audience discovers that while the musical discusses a serious matter, it is delivered with a sense of familiarity and a good dose of humor.

LaVerdiere perfectly captures the frustrations and persuasiveness of Adams, who his fellow delegates describe as obnoxious and disliked. The scenes between him and Jennifer Hope Wills, who plays Abigail Adams, where the Massachusetts delegate imagines conversations with his wife, allow the audience to learn of the struggles of the women who were left at home dealing with sick children and failing farms and business. During Act 1, the two deliver a sweet and touching version of “Yours, Yours, Yours,” and we discover a softer side of Adams.

When Thomas Jefferson, played by Michael Glavan, yearns to go home to see his wife, we meet the second of only two female characters, when Adams sends for Martha to come to Philadelphia while Jefferson works on the Declaration of Independence. Portrayed by Adriana Milbrath, the actress delivers a delightful “He Plays the Violin” with LaVerdiere and David Studwell, perfectly cast as the charming and witty Benjamin Franklin. Glavan is a strong vocalist, too, who audience members have the pleasure of hearing during “But, Mr. Adams” and “The Egg.”

A surprise standout performance comes from Matthew Rafanelli, playing the disheveled courier delivering messages from George Washington. In the beginning of the play, it’s understandable if one thinks he has a small part, but by the end of Act 1, Rafanelli delivers a perfectly executed “Momma Look Sharp.” His heart-wrenching vocals on the song, which details the loss of young boys on the battlefield, left many with tears in their eyes during the press opening last Saturday night.

It should also be noted that Robert Budnick playfully portrays a cheerful Stephen Hopkins, and Tom Lucca perfectly captures the authoritative nature of John Hancock. Special mentions should be made of Jon Reinhold (Richard Henry Lee) who plays the cocky Virginian with a great deal of humor, Benjamin Howes (John Dickinson) who provides strong lead vocals on “Cool, Cool Considerate Men,” and Peter Saide (Edward Rutledge) who delivers a powerful “Molasses to Rum.”

Igor Goldin has expertly directed the cast of 25 actors, who should all be commended for their strong vocals and mastering of a great amount of dialogue. Due to the craftsmanship of all of those involved in Engeman’s “1776,” the dreams of our country’s forefathers come to life once again.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, presents “1776” through Nov. 6. Tickets range from $71 to $76. For more information, call 631-261-2900, or visit www.engemantheater.com.

 

Read online: www.tbrnewsmedia.com/cast-of-engemans-1776-brings-history-to-life/

The Observer Review: History comes alive on Engeman Stage with 1776

The Observer

September 29, 2016

David Ambro

 

If presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump want to get it straight, they should have driven from the Hofstra University auditorium to the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport.

The Broadway musical hit 1776 opened at the Engeman and it’s a hit, certainly more entertaining politics than the show Hillary and Donald performed at Hofstra Monday.

Presenting one of the larger casts to take to the Engeman stage, 1776 is a look back at the drama of the Founding Fathers from the original 13 colonies forging the United States Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1776.

After some starts and stops down the road to independence from England, a story told in classical songs and dialogue steeped in history, a rift between the North and the South leaves the fledgling United States deadlocked. To rekindle the quest for independence, Massachusetts Congressman John Adams, played by Jamie LaVerdiere, and Benjamin Franklin, played by David Studwell, broker an agreement for Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia, played by Michael Glavan, to write the Declaration under the condition that it must be unanimously approved.

After days of amendments and compromise, the Declaration close at hand, the Congress is once again deadlocked when South Carolina Congressman Edward Rutledge, played by Peter Saide, objects to language penned by Jefferson that would free the slaves.

It doesn’t come until Act II, but Saide is powerful as Rutledge with his Molasses to Rum solo and Glavan explodes out of the shadows as Jefferson in his performance of The Egg with LaVerdiere and Studwell. These guys can sing and they bring the Engeman alive with music while they deliver the story line familiar to us otherwise only through textbooks.

If history class could only be like this.

An Act I favorite is The Lees of Virginia, a song in which LaVerdiere and Studwell, as Adams and Franklin, convince Congressman Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, played by Jon Reinhold, to go home and convince his state legislature to support independence from England.

1776 is a show that features mostly male voices, with a sprinkling of the feminine touch, and at the Engeman that sprinkle is a highlight of the performance. Jennifer Hope Wills as the Congressman’s wife Abigail Adams, and Adriana Milbrath, as the Congressman’s wife Martha Jefferson, are both talented singers with beautiful voices that balance the masculine storytellers.

With all its powerful voices of skilled acting, 1776 lives up to the Engeman motto: “Bringing Broadway to Main Street,” but it is also much more. 1776 is a musical look back at the history of America which has given rise to the political discord of the day, in what has become the greatest country on earth. It’s an interesting juxtaposition with Hillary and Donald.

1776 is another one of those must see performances at the Engeman. Don’t miss it.

1776 will be playing through November 6, two days before Election Day. For tickets call 631-261-2900, or go online to engemantheater.com or visit the theater box office at 250 Main Street in Northport Village. Tickets are $76 on Saturday evenings, $71 all other performances.

 

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