NEWSDAY Review: ‘The Producers’ at Engeman review

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT “The Producers”

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

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

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

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

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

By Charles J. Morgan     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cast also includes: PIM VAN AMERONGEN, EMILY BLAKE ANDERSON, ABBY BARTISH, MOLLY JEAN BLODGETT, MARY CALLAHAN, MICHAEL J. FARINA, CARL DEFOREST HENDIN, JEFFREY JOHNSON II, LARRY A. LOZIER Jr., SUZANNE MASON, LAURA OTREMBA, CALEB SCHAAF, ERICA WILPON.

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

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

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

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

The Long Islander Review: The Producers Demands A Standing Ovation

By Phil Caycedo

info@longislandergroup.com

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

JOEL NEWSOME AND STUART ZAGNIT STAR AS LEO BLOOM AND MAX BIALYSTOCK IN ENGEMAN THEATER’S “THE PRODUCERS.” (PHOTO BY MICHAEL DECRISTOFARO)

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2: Hire the worst director in town

Step 3: Raise two million dollars.

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

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

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

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

IAN KNAUER AND CHRISTOPHER SLOAN ARE A HILARIOUS DUO AS ROGER DEBRIS AND CARMAN GHIA. (PHOTO BY MICHAEL DECRISTOFARO)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Goldin also loves how the play is structured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smithtown Matters Review: “The Producers”

SUNDAY, MAY 31, 2015 AT 6:52 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . a crazy, sidesplitting musical.

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

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

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

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

Advisory: Sexual themes, and cursing.

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

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

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

A classic fairy tale waltzes into the Engeman

by Heidi SuttonApril 7, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BWW Reviews: The Engeman’s Sensational A CHORUS LINE

BWW Reviews: The Engeman’s Sensational A CHORUS LINE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo

Maria Cristina Slye plays Diana Morales. CreditMichael DeCristofaro

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

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

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

Photo

Danny Wilfred, center, plays Richie Walters. CreditMichael DeCristofaro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advisory: Mature audiences – Cursing and many sexual references.

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

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

 

by TBR StaffApril 1, 2015

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

By Charles J. Morgan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smithtown Matters: Theater Review – “A Chorus Line”

THEATER REVIEW

“A Chorus Line”

Produced by: The John W. Engeman Theater – Northport

Reviewed by: Jeb Ladouceur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Huntingtonian: Review of A Chorus Line at Engeman Theater

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment,Local News |

Chorus Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Long Island Press: A Chorus Line Still Kicking After 40 Years

by Jaime Zahl on April 7, 2015

For an artist, the craft can come easily. It’s getting the gig that’s the hard part.

In 1975, “A Chorus Line” showed audiences just how excruciating the audition process could be. Forty years later, the stakes and sacrifices continue to be just as palpable at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, where the show opened late last month and runs through early May.

The musical takes us into the world of a Broadway dance audition. The show begins with a large group of dancers rehearsing their new steps—the original Michael Bennett choreography recreated here by choreographer Dena DiGiacinto.

But once the director, Zach (James Ludwig), narrows the chorus down to 17 dancers, the show turns into a psychological character study and a pseudo-therapy session.

On the literally glowing white line on the stage, the actors physically become their respective characters through signature poses and costumes perfectly styled to match the original 1975 Broadway production. Despite mirroring the original, these actors were able to make the roles their own.

Kelly Sheehan reveals a visceral vulnerability as the cynical Sheila, a dancer who makes it clear she is more woman than girl. In her “At the Ballet,” she is forced to come to terms with an upbringing of infidelity and domestic abuse. Sheehan allows us to feel for her anti-hero, but not so much that we lose Sheila’s scathing sense of humor.

That humor still feels as fresh as it was in ’75. Andrew Metzgar slays in his few, but memorable lines as Bobby, a sly character who recalls growing up gay in hellishly conservative Buffalo in the mid-20th century. He lightly reveals that he dreamed up many “spectacular” ways to kill himself, but then he realized that “to kill yourself in Buffalo is redundant.”

Rachel Marie Bell and DJ Petrosino also serve as comic relief as married couple Kristinie and Al, who constantly finish each other’s sentences. Kristine reveals that while she may be a skilled dancer, she can’t sing a note on key—resulting in Al’s having to be her melodic partner.

As the stories wind down, Zach confronts the shy, but skilled Paul (Omar Garibay). Garibay performs the show’s celebrated monologue with a perfect balance of apprehension and desperation to let his secret out. He recalls his parents finding out he was working in a drag show after they showed up to wish him goodbye. In a tearful release, Paul is alone on stage at his most vulnerable state until Zach comforts him.

Until the end, we know very little about the flawless blonde dancer in the red leotard known as Cassie (Jessica Lee Goldyn). But it is revealed that she had tried to make it in Hollywood as an actor. Then, after a series of rejections, she realized she was meant to be a dancer. Zach had been in a relationship with Cassie that ended in anger and packed bags. Here, he tells her that she is “too good for the chorus,” and she can’t blend in. In an act of desperation, Cassie performs the penultimate number, “Music in the Mirror.”

Goldyn, who played Val and understudied Cassie in the 2006 revival on Broadway, shows a radical maturity in embodying the despondent Cassie. Her dancing is stronger than ever as she seamlessly slips through the shadows of the stage, confronting herself in the mirrors.

Each character in “A Chorus Line” knows they all have something to lose or gain. When Paul twists his ankle while rehearsing a tap number, the dancers come to the realization that their careers could end at any point.

Still, they wouldn’t choose any other path because this is what they love, what motivates them to get up in the morning, and what keeps them alive.

John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport. engemantheater.com $69. Times vary. Through May 10.

The Village Tattler: One Spectacular Sensation: A Chorus Line at Northport’s Engeman

One Spectacular Sensation: A Chorus Line at Northport’s Engeman

The cast of A CHORUS LINE at The Engeman. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

This is one sensational show; get ready to be mesmerized by A Chorus Line at Northport’s Engeman Theater. Not only are the actors in top form, but everything about the show is faultless—from the spectacular dancing and the memorable songs (I Hope I Get It, I Can Do That, Nothing, One, What I Did For Love), to the poignant vignettes shared by each dancer. As the audience, we get a window into each dancer’s soul. Some share more than others, but by the end, we feel we know something about each one. And this theater experience is truly a sensation in movement, in song, and in memorable moments.

A Chorus Line, with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and a book by James Kirkwood, Jr., and Nicholas Dante, became the longest running musical in New York theater history until surpassed by Cats. It won nine Tony Awards, seven Drama Desk Awards, the New York Critics’ Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The musical will run at The John W. Engeman Theater through May 10, 2015, and plays the following performance schedule: Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $69 and may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900 or online atEngemanTheater.com, or at the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

The setting is the bare stage of a Broadway theater in 1975, where director Zach, played by James Ludwig, is casting for a new musical and will need to narrow down the contenders to four men and four women, out of 17 dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line. As an audience, we feel like we are spying—we aren’t meant to be here—and this aspect has the audience glued to their seats.

Ludwig has credits that include Broadway: Spamalot, Little Shop of Horror; Off Broadway: Two Point Oh, Blue Man Group, Bubbly Black Girl; Tours: Spamalot, 101 Dalmatians; Regional: Period of Adjustment, Raisin Cycle, God of Carnage, A Man’s a Man, A Christmas Carol, The Full Monty; Film/TV: News to Me, Lipstick Jungle, Chappelles Show, Ghost Town.

We not only get a rare glimpse into a Broadway audition, but also the lives of those auditioning that unfold before us. The opening number, “I Hope I Get It,” shows how much each one wants the job, and the pressure is palpable.

The director goes a step beyond the “typical” audition that usually requires dancing and/or singing proficiency. They must perform the right dance sequences, but they are also asked to be vulnerable and share something about their lives so the director gets to know them better.

So, as the stories unfold, we hear about young girls who had a need to escape their lives, “At the Ballet.” The characters of Sheila, Bebe, and Maggie are played by Kelly Sheehan, Courtney Moran, and Abby Church, respectively. We hear about broken marriages, too much drinking, infidelity, difficult childhoods, and absent parents—and young girls who want to grow up to be dancers and for whom this audition is a key to transforming their lives. “But everything was beautiful at the ballet; I was happy at the ballet,” they sing. “I was pretty, I was  happy, I would love to…at the ballet.”

The dancers tell us that this audition is the chance of a lifetime, the opportunity to do what they have always dreamed about and worked so hard for their entire dancing lives. We learn about adolescence, “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,” and homosexuality, being too short, and plastic surgery (“Dance: Ten; Looks: Three”).

And we learn about veteran dancer Cassie, played by Jessica Lee Goldyn, who played the same part in the revival of A Chorus Line on Broadway. Other credits include at the Engeman: Damn Yankees; Broadway: A Chorus Line, On the Town, ADM21; National Tour: Fosse; Regional: Tuck Everlasting, South Pacific, Young Frankenstein, Chicago, Peter Pan, Crazy for You, Legally Blonde; Film & TV: Every Little Step, Smash.

Cassie has had some success already as a dancer and a history with director Zach. He tells her she is too good to be in the chorus, to which she replies, “I need this job.” Goldyn dances brilliantly in the passionate “The Music and the Mirror,” and Zach lets her continue with the audition.

The next dancer, Paul, is called by Zach to share his story privately and we hear a tearful, emotional journey with painful childhood experiences. Actor Omar Garibay is memorable in this role. During a subsequent tap sequence with the rest of the group, Paul falls and injures a bad knee. He is carried off to the hospital, ending his audition. The dancers all realize how careers can end in an instant. If today were the day you had to stop dancing, how would you feel? asks Zach. Maria Cristina Slye, who is perfectly cast as Diana, answers with the beautiful song “What I Did For Love,” communicating that she will have no regrets, and the rest of the dancers join in. “Kiss the day goodbye and point me toward tomorrow. We did what we had to do. Won’t forget, can’t regret, what I did for love.”

"One": the cast of A CHORUS LINE at The Engeman. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Engeman’s dazzling show is full of so much talent and the casting team of Scott Wojcik and Gayle Seay deserves applause, too. Director Drew Humphrey has executed a musical masterpiece; he returns to the Engeman Theater with previous credits as director of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and 42nd Street. Broadway credits for Humphrey: Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

Choreography is by Dena DiGiacinto, who has an extensive history with A Chorus Line, having played several roles in various productions, including the Broadway revival. Musical director is James Olmstead, who recently directed Evita at Engeman, as well as The Music Man, White Christmas, Sweet Charity, and South Pacific.

The cast also includes:

Sheehan as Sheila, whose credits include Broadway: Irving Berlins White Christmas, 42nd Street. Other Credits: No, No, Nanette, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Singing in the Rain, Lady, Be Good, Bye, Bye, Birdie.

Church as Maggie, Broadway: How to Succeed, Irving Berlins White Christmas.  Tours/NY: Billy Elliot 42nd Street, City Center Encores, Irish Repertory Theatre.  Regional: Crazy for You, world premiere of Holiday Inn, Kennedy Center, NSMT, Atlanta TOTS, Hangar Theatre.

Alexzandra Sarmiento as Connie: Regional & Tours: A Chorus Line (multiple including the West End Revival at the London Palladium), Cabaret (UK Tour),Fame (UK Tour).

Michael Warrell as Don: Broadway/Workshops: All That Glitters. Tours: SpamalotFAMEGrease. Regional: On the TownGrease , Mary Poppins , Hello! My Baby.

Other characters are Patrick Ball as Frank, Rachel Marie Bell as Kristine, Sissy Bell as Judy, Nic Casaula as Roy, Hayden Clifton as Greg, Matthew Couvillon as Larry, Courtney Fekete as Vicki, Omar Garibay as Paul, Francesca Granell as Tricia, Eric Greengold as Mike, Stephanie Israelson as Valerie, Andrew Metzgar as Bobby, Courtney Moran as Bebe, Pj Palmer as Mark, Dj Petrosino as Al, Sari Weinerman as Lois, and Danny Wilfred as Richie.

Village Tattler’s Review : Escape With Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Northport’s Engeman Theater

 Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play, by award winning playwright Christopher Durang ,Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike runs through March 8, 2015, at The John W. Engeman Theater and you don’t want to miss it. This is a comedy that enthralls its audience with hilarious moments and equally serious undertones that reflect on themes from playwright Anton Chekov’s plays. The humor in Vanya colors the despair of the situations these three middle-aged siblings find themselves in as they reflect on their lives, past and present. If you are familiar with Chekov, you will recognize the names of the characters and references to his plays such as the play’s setting in a cherry orchard and references to The Seagull, but the familiarity is not necessary to enjoy this play. Performances of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike are on Thursdays at 8:00 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm.

A hilarious, almost 10-minute long, monologue by brother Vanya brings the play into modern times, touching on global warming and the way electronic devices now control everyone’s lives, as compared with the past when we “had to have patience; when we had to lick postage stamps.” While certainly funny, Vanya’s monologue is also sad as middle-aged and older audience members reflect on how disconnected human beings have become now that there’s texting, twitter, and Facebook rather than shared experiences playing board games such as Scrabble and Monopoly, as noted by Vanya. Actor Kevin Pariseau is fabulous as Vanya. His credits includeBroadway/Off-Broadway: Show Boat (in concert with the NY Philharmonic), Legally Blonde the Musical, The Explorers Club, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh; Film/TV: Boardwalk Empire (series finale), Tower Heist, Morning Glory; and Regional: Nerds (Philadelphia Theater Company), It’s a Wonderful Life (Bucks County Playhouse), 1776 (Paper Mill Playhouse), and Santa in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Grand Ole Opry).

There are many memorable moments. Highlights include the first scene when we are introduced to Vanya and his sister Sonia, who are living in their parents’ home where they grew up in Bucks County, PA. “I had a bad dream last night that I was 52 and not married,” laments Sonia. Queries Vanya, “Do you dream in the documentary form?”

Sonia continues, “We took care of our elderly parents while Masha (their sister) carried on with her successful acting career.” Sonia’s world is tedious and full of self-pity; she is the only one to have been unadopted and she is unsure why they ever wanted her; she is unmarried and 52 and has lived in the same house all her life, never really leaving the house. “Our lives are over, aren’t they?” she asks Vanya several times. She is almost paralyzed by her circumstances until she comes alive for a costume party, to which Masha has invited her siblings. Laurie Dawn adds just the right elements of tragedy and comedy to her character Sonia. Credits include Off-Broadway: Strictly Personal; Regional highlights: Last Of The Red Hot Lovers (New Harmony); Good People (Public Theatre); Always… Patsy Cline (Ivoryton Playhouse – Broadway World Nomination); Faith Healer (Riverside Theatre – Broadway World nomination), and several productions of Steel Magnolias; Television: Boardwalk Empire, Law & Order: Svu and Broad City; and Film: The Adjustment Bureau, Revolutionary Road and 8:46: A 9/11 Tribute Film.

Instead of “I am a seagull,” (from Chekov’s The Seagull), Sonia repeats, “I am a wild turkey,” which brings laughs and lightens the heavier mood.

After a long opening scene, largely filled with doom and gloom, while Vanya and Sonia discuss their situation, we are introduced to Cassandra, the cleaning lady. Cassandra offers more comic relief with her zany predictions of the future that oddly come true. And then, with a surprise visit, in walks Masha, the sibling who has been out in the world living life as a successful actress, with her latest boyfriend Spike. At first it seems as if Masha has returned to attend a costume party at a nearby house, where Dorothy Parker lived and committed suicide. Then, we learn that Masha wants to sell the family house and has contacted a realtor; she has been supporting her siblings by paying for all the house bills all these years while Vanya and Sonia have not contributed anything since they aren’t employed.

The character of Masha is brilliantly acted by Sean Young, a famous actress playing a famous actress. We all know Young from films such as Bladerunner, Dune, Stripes, Wall Street, No Way Out, A Kiss Before Dying, Fatal Instinct and Ace Ventura. Young has numerous film, television, and stage credits to her name including Starlight with Toni Tenille and Hinton Battle at the Wilshire Theatre in Los Angeles. The most enjoyable Masha scenes are when she insists that her family and boyfriend dress for the costume party as characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs since she has chosen to go as Snow White. Vanya prefers to go as Doc instead of Grumpy, but plays along with her wishes, while Sonia rebels and refuses to go as Dopey. Instead, she dresses up as The Evil Queen as portrayed by actress Maggie Smith on her way to the Oscars. In the end, Sonia steals the show at the costume party with people not recognizing Masha as Snow White and instead thinking she is a hummel figure or Little Bo Peep. Sonia even meets a man named Joe, who later asks her for a date.

Another comedic highlight is the reverse striptease by actor Stephen Mark Lukas who plays Spike, Masha’s boy toy of the moment who enters her life after her fifth marriage has failed. Lukas is fantastic as Spike. Credits include Broadway: The Book of Mormon; National Tour: Little Women: The Musical (Laurie); Regional: Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees (Goodspeed), Curly in Oklahoma!, Cable in South Pacific, George Musgrove in Little Me, Link Larkin in Hairspray, Marius in Les Miserables and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella starring Leslie Uggams; and Television: Gossip Girl.

The character of Cassandra played by Isabel Santiago once again lightens the mood that has darkened when Vanya and Sonia realize that Masha really plans to sell the house. She hangs up on the realtor who calls a few times. She creates a voodoo doll of Masha, attempting to convince her not to sell the house and the scenes she is in are convincing and entertaining. Santiago’s credits include Off-Broadway: Giant (Petra); First National Tour: In The Heights (Daniela); Regional: Giant, Little Shop Of Horrors (Audrey), Vanya, Sonia, Masha, Spike (Cassandra), Show Boat (Julie), West Side Story (Maria), And Guys And Dolls (Sarah Brown); Select New York Credits: If/Then (Cathy), Bizet’s Carmen(Micaela); and National TV: A Gifted Man, So You Think You Can Dance, Lopez Tonight.

Young and pretty Nina, portrayed by Megan Yelaney, attracts the attention of equally young and pretty Spike, but she also becomes friendly with Uncle Vanya, as she calls him, and convinces him to let her star as a molecule in a play he has been secretly writing. When Spike starts texting during the reading of the play, Masha is horrified and Vanya begins his monologue on present times. Yelaney’s credits include Regional: Godspell (Totem Pole), VSMS (Flat Rock), Memphis and Chasing the Song workshop (La Jolla), Jo in Little Women opposite Donna McKechnie, Beehive and Hair (TheatreZone-Florida).

The entire cast makes its Engeman debut under the admirable direction of Richard T. Dolce, the Producing Artistic Director at Engeman. The set by Jonathan Collins is wonderful.

Tickets are $59 and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, going online at EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

BWW Reviews : The Engeman’s VANYA & SONIA & MASHA & SPIKE

Christopher Durang’s Tony winning play Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike is certainly one for the books for Northports’s John W. Engeman Theatre. The gorgeous Long Island venue has mounted a wonderful incarnation running through March 8th and boasts an extraordinary cast.

Leading the superb Richard T. Dolce directed company are Laurie Dawn as Sonia, Stephen Mark Lucas as Spike, Kevin Pariseau, as Vanya, and film and television star Sean Young as Masha.

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The zany story revolves around siblings Sonia and Vanya who still live in their childhood home and reminisce how they really haven’t lived. Their parents are gone and it’s just the two of them. Their actress sister Masha, on the other hand, travels the world and lives glamorously. They are all around fifty years of age, but Masha ends up in a relationship with twenty-something Spike. Hilarity abounds when Masha and Spike visit Vanya and Sonia unexpectedly.

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Dawn is brilliant as Sonia exuding a sassy yet juvenile aura. Mr. Lukas is very funny as Spike with a self-indulgent vibe. Mr. Pariseau is excellent as Vanya particularly during his understandable, but intense monologue in Act Two. And Ms. Young was stunning as Masha with her entertaining snooty demeanor. Everyone’s performance was truly marvelous.

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Also a highlight – and rounding out the cast – is Isabel Santiago (Cassandra) and Megan Yelaney (Nina). Cassandra is Vanya and Sonia’s part time gypsy like housekeeper. Ms. Santiago was hilarious in her wild clothes – Tristan Raines does the costumes for this production – and gives her “doom is imminent” predictions. Ms. Yelaney is adorable as Nina with a more subtle but effective comedy.

Additionally, Jonathan Collins’ set is outstanding. The tale takes place in the living room of their house. A blue hue with lots of décor dressings makes a homey, suburban feel. This is enhanced beautifully with Kate Ashton’s lighting and Laura Shubert’s spot-on sound design.

And so, Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike is indeed another hit for the John W. Engeman Theatre. Even though the characters are somewhat gloomy, this is a comical story and a production with a divine cast. Don’t be a “turkey” and miss this show.

Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike is presented by the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through March 8th. By Christopher Durang, Directed by Richard T. Dolce, Scenic Design by Jonathan Collins, Costume Design by Tristan Raines, Lighting Design, Sound Design by Laura Shubert, Wig Design by J. Jared Janas, Prop Design by Bryan Prywes, Casting by Joy Dewing & Holly Buczek, Production Stage Management by Bethany Sortman. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (631) 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

The NY Times: Yearning for a BB Gun and a Happy Family

Ethan Eisenberg plays Ralphie Parker in “A Christmas Story: The Musical.” Credit Michael DeCristofaro

Don’t expect the Ghost of Christmas Past, or any other ghost, to pop up in “A Christmas Story: The Musical.” The entertaining show playing at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is nothing like “A Christmas Carol,” the dark-tinged tale by Charles Dickens that also became a musical. “A Christmas Story,” based on the popular 1983 film narrated by the humorist and radio personality Jean Shepherd (who also wrote the book that inspired the movie), is a sunnier Christmas yarn, centered on a child’s concern that he won’t get the present he wants.

The show, directed with warmth and buoyancy by Richard T. Dolce, is a mild-mannered, nostalgic look at a Midwestern family during the month of December in 1940. Young Ralphie Parker — splendidly played by Ethan Eisenberg — longs obsessively for a Red Ryder BB gun, which looks like a rifle. Nearly every adult in the story dismisses the 9-year-old’s request, telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” but the warning is turned into a running joke rather than explored seriously.

Griffin Reese plays Ralphie’s younger brother, and Steve Luker and Gina Milo his parents.CreditMichael DeCristofaro

Theatergoers with misgivings about BB guns in the hands of children just have to suspend their queasiness. It helps that the music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are light and pleasant and that the book by Joseph Robinette deftly hits the major sweet spots relished by fans of the movie, which has become a cult favorite, frequently shown on television. Even someone who doesn’t know the movie might recognize the story’s resonant elements that are now regarded by some as iconic, like an intractable snowsuit and a tongue getting stuck to a lamppost. The musical, praised for some splashy production numbers when it came to Broadway in 2012, was a big hit — successful enough to be reprised a year later at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

The more intimate show at the Engeman is enhanced by a cast filled with very personable actors, led by the talented Mr. Eisenberg, who has a strong voice and charming presence. David Schmittou, as the narrator (named after the story’s author, Mr. Shepherd), sets the tone from the beginning with a low-key directness.

Ralphie’s parents are identified as Mother (a softly radiant Gina Milo) and the Old Man (subtly portrayed by Steve Luker as endearingly misguided). Ms. Milo beautifully sings two of the show’s most touching songs, “What a Mother Does” and “Just Like That.” Mr. Luker, whose Old Man often seethes with insecurity, leads a rollicking song titled “A Major Award” after he wins a ridiculous lamp shaped like a woman’s leg in a crossword contest, which he sees as evidence of his intellectual prowess and importance in the world.

Charlotte Vaughn Raines and Larry A. Lozier Jr. are elves and Chad Jennings is Santa. CreditMichael DeCristofaro

The flashiest adult role, however, belongs to Kathryn Markey, who plays Miss Shields, Ralphie’s no-nonsense teacher. She gets to take on sexier personas in Technicolor fantasy sequences that illustrate some of Ralphie’s musings. In “Ralphie to the Rescue!” she’s part of a Wild West scene in which Ralphie imagines himself thwarting bandits and performing other heroic deeds while brandishing the BB gun he covets. Later, Ms. Markey sports a slinky red dress with side slits up to her thighs (more comical than suggestive in Tristan Raines’s witty costume design) as she stars in a dance number built around “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” (with lively choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo).

The sets, designed by Jonathan Collins, flow seamlessly from modest Parker home to classroom to the land of imagination.

Many numbers, including one with a grumpy Santa (Chad Jennings), feature a bevy of children, most of whom alternate in their roles. (The program calls them the red cast and the green cast.) Of the group I saw, Evan Flannery stood out as a bully who terrorizes Ralphie, but all sang and danced well. Griffin Reese, who has a sweet voice, plays Randy, Ralphie’s younger brother, in all the performances.

Toward the end, the musical makes a couple of missteps — a jarringly prurient double entendre and, more disturbing, a joke involving the use of a racial stereotype. But then it shows Ralphie’s relationships with his mother and father deepen and grow. The play is, after all, about more than hankering for a gun. It’s also about yearning for a happy family.

The Examiner: ‘A Christmas Story – the Musical’ a plum treat at Engeman Theater

‘A Christmas Story – the Musical’ a plum treat at Engeman Theater (REVIEW)

December 20, 20143:59 PM MST
Ethan Eisenberg as Ralphie Parker in 'A Christmas Story - the Musical' at the Engeman Theater.

Late humorist Jean Parker Shepherd likely never imagined his tale of youthful yearning set to music, yet the solidly crafted “A Christmas Story – the Musical” delivers holiday magic for all ages. The musical, set in 1930s Indiana, remains as timeless as the 1983 “A Christmas Story” film and can be experienced now through January 4, 2015 at the John W. Engeman Theater inNorthport.

Ethan Eisenberg, Steve Luker, Gina Milo, Griffin Reese in 'A Christmas Story - the Musical' at the John W. Engeman Theater through January 4, 2015.

Michael DeCristofaro

I will admit to some skepticism when initially considering a musical treatment of a classic movie like “A Christmas Story“, but as soon as David Schmittou took the stage as Jean Shepherd (a.k.a. adult Ralphie) and began his narration, any doubts I had vanished. Schmittou is an excellent choice to play the folksy Shepherd, with an earnestness and self-deprecating manner that lends warmth and credibility to the narrator role.

The beloved theme of the original “A Christmas Story” is intact. Protagonist Ralphie Parker dreams of getting a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun (“with a compass in the stock, and this thing that tells time”) for Christmas, and his journey is fraught with obstacles in pursuit of his goal. The film’s famous visual plot devices, such as the sexy leg lamp, the absurd pink bunny pajamas, and the frozen flag are all present. And of course, much of the hilarious dialogue of the film is reprised, including the constant refrain of “you’ll shoot your eye out!”

The undeniable star of the show is Ethan Eisenberg as lead character Ralphie Parker. When Eisenberg lets his soaring vocals loose during the very first scene (“It All Comes Down to Christmas”), his talent is front-and-center for the rest of the show. Eisenberg has poise and stage presence that belies his age. Keep an eye on this young man; Eisenberg is a perfect casting choice for Ralphie and you can’t help but root for his character all the way through the play.

In addition to what you would expect of a classic retold, the music and accompanying musical numbers that make up the meat of “A Christmas Story – the Musical” are phenomenal. There isn’t a dud in the bunch, and each song will play in your head all over again if you glance at the titles in the playbill. With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, choreography by Antoinette DiPietripolo, and directed by Richard T. Dolce, “A Christmas Story – the Musical” has a cast that boasts an abundance of talent: in addition to Schmittou and Eisenberg are veteran performers like Steve Luker as The Old Man, Gina Milo as the Mother, and Kathryn Markey as Miss Shields; an adept ensemble led by Dance Captain Larry A. Lozier Jr.; adorable redheaded Griffin Reese as little Randy Parker; and a wonderfully animated group of Kids as Ralphie’s friends and classmates, portrayed by the Red Cast the night of my viewing.

“A Christmas Story – the Musical” is thoroughly enjoyable and just the ticket to get you in the holiday spirit. If you are anywhere near Long Island I urge you to see this soon-to-be-classic musical. As always, the experience at John W. Engeman is delightful. Have a drink in the festive piano bar and enjoy the legroom in the stadium style theater. There is not a bad seat in the house, and tickets are reasonably priced.

Tickets are on sale and can be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, by visiting the online box office, or stopping by the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is Long Island’s only year-round professional theater company, casting their actors from the Broadway talent pool. The renovated Theater offers stadium-style seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, a full orchestra pit, and a classic wood-paneled piano lounge with full bar. For a complete show schedule and more information contact the theater directly at 631-261-2900, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visitwww.EngemanTheater.com.

©Pat Ryder, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior written permission and consent from the author or AXS Digital Group LLC, DBA Examiner.com.

The Times Beacon Record: ‘A Christmas Story’ comes to Long Island

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Photo by Michael DeCristofaro
December 09, 2014 | 09:55 AM

Just in time for the holidays, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport brings us “A Christmas Story — The Musical,” through Jan. 4, a logical choice given that the village already boasts its own Christmas Story leg lamp in the window of the Northport Hardware Company on Main Street.

The show, directed by Richard T. Dolce, is based on the 1983 holiday favorite of the same name and is a down-memory-lane tribute to the reminiscences of Jean Shepherd concerning his Indiana boyhood — the winter of 1940 in particular. Based on the book by Joseph Robinette, with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the story follows a 9-year-old boy, Ralphie, who tries to convince his parents, and Santa, to get him an official Red Ryder® carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle for Christmas.

 

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Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

David Schmittou plays the role of Shepherd. Tall and bespectacled, he is the narrator who gives adult perspective to Ralphie. Schmittou’s lines are rife with elevated, embossed, almost Falstaffian wording, but are also incisive and intelligible. Ralphie is faultlessly played by 13-year-old Ethan Eisenberg, a rising star making his Engeman debut. Eisenberg has massive talent not only in delivery and singing voice, but also in that sine qua non of comedy — timing. He is one to watch in the future.

Ralphie’s parents, Mother and the Old Man, are played by Gina Milo and Steve Luker. Their complementarity relationship was magnificently shown in their duets as well as in their solos. Milo’s solo, “What a Mother Does,” was a paean to motherhood from an era long broken and forgotten. She has a smooth and motherly voice – more than adequate for the part. Luker was paternalistic and blustering, coming out with blistering obscenities disguised as barely intelligible English words. His singing is strong, as apparent in “A Major Award,” and when necessary, growling — very effective!

Kathryn Markey is Miss Shields, Ralphie’s teacher. Here is an example of variety, range and comic ability. In a fantasy sequence, she appears in a burgundy, side-slit dress and sings and dances to “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” regarding Ralphie’s Christmas wish for a BB gun. In a previous scene, in the classroom, she is the starched disciplinarian, but takes part in “Ralphie to the Rescue!” a fantasy sequence that has Ralphie getting his BB gun.

The talent doesn’t stop there. The children’s ensemble, who alternate in the red and green cast, are terrific, especially during the musical numbers “When You’re a Wimp” and “Somewhere Hovering Over Indiana” – referring to Santa and his sled and reindeer — beautifully executed.

Choreography was handled neatly by Antoinette DiPietropolo, who is nothing short of a genius. Her creation of complex convolutions by an ensemble of about 10, including children, is nothing short of incredible. Her talents have been previously evident in “Evita,” “The Music Man” and “South Pacific.” She is a force to be reckoned with at the Engeman. Every possible dance style was used by both solo performers and the ensemble, with the latter, highly disciplined, précised crew coached to perfection by Ms. D. Her work was the armature of the show — the diamond axis around which the whole show revolved.

 

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Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Music was live and featured Jonathan Lynch on piano; Joe Boardman on trumpet; Brent Chiarello on trombone; Russ Brown on bass; Josh Endlich on percussion and Michael Kendrot on reeds. This outfit was powerful and pertinent, especially Chiarello’s full-throated trombone. Lynch had his men pointedly rehearsed. Scenic design was a mobile masterpiece by Jonathan Collins. Scene changes, prop placement and the rolling kitchen set were engineered with noteworthy skill.

Diehard fans of the movie — the 15th annual 24-hour marathon will return to television this Christmas Eve on TBS — will not be disappointed. All the memorable scenes with the leg lamp, the bad-tempered Santa (You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!), the bully, the pink bunny suit and even the tongue getting stuck to the lamppost – they are all there. Northport’s Engeman has generated another hit show and the perfect holiday treat for the whole family.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present ‘A Christmas Story – The Musical” through Jan. 4. Tickets are $69. For more information, call 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Newsday: ‘A Christmas Story: The Musical’ review

For some, the holiday would be incomplete without “A Christmas Story” the 1983 movie based on Jean Shepherd’s tale of a boy whose sole wish is for a Red Ryder BB gun. I’m among those who don’t get why this quirky piece of nostalgia rates a cable marathon every Dec. 24 and 25.

But “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” making a very merry Long Island premiere at the Engeman Theater, may change my mind.

Key plot elements remain. Besides Ralphie’s BB obsession, there’s the kid goaded into sticking out his tongue against a freezing flagpole, the sleazy department store Santa and the Old Man’s crossword contest prize — a slinky leg lamp. As directed by Richard Dolce, the musical makes all those scenes funnier. I dare you not to laugh out loud to “A Major Award,” which I won’t describe so as not to spoil its exquisite sight gag.

Steve Luker is a loudmouth softy as the Old Man, a gruff match for Mother, played with understated wile by Gina Milo. As Ralphie’s teacher, Kathryn Markey is vampishly delightful in “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” echoing Mother’s favorite line. And you’ll want to muss the hair of adorable Griffin Reese as Ralphie’s kid brother who must be tricked into eating.

David Schmittou narrates as grown-up Ralphie. But the show belongs to Ethan Eisenberg as the kid whose glasses are thick enough to thwart BBs. He sets the comic-fantasy tone in “Ralphie to the Rescue” and never loosens his boyish grip. Jon Collins’ domestic set and Tristan Raines’ period costumes epitomize midcentury America, while Jonathon Lynch’s orchestra paces every step in Antoinette DiPietropolo’s crisp choreography.

Be careful. You may laugh your eyes out.

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BWW Reviews: A CHRISTMAS STORY at the Engeman

BWW Reviews: A CHRISTMAS STORY at the EngemanWhen you see a Christmas show at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theatre, you are in for a special treat. The busy street is bustling and the stunning Long Island venue goes all out with the decorations for a festive atmosphere. Their offering this season is fan favorite A Christmas Story, based on the 1983 movie, running through January 24th.

As we know, the tale, set in the 1940, centers on nine-year-old Ralphie Parker and his one desire for a Christmas present; a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun. Joseph Robninette definitely wrote a heartwarming book. You will find this story is reminiscent of the days before the over commercialization of Christmas where you fixate on that one perfect Christmas present.

Richard T. Dolce directs the large cast who are truly outstanding. Superbly portraying Ralphie is Ethan Eisenbergmaking his Engeman debut. You will find the talented Ethan has a wonderful voice for the Benj Pasek/Justin Paulscore and keeps up with the best of them in the dance numbers choreographed by Antoinette DiPietropolo.

Amongst Ralphie’s family is his father – “The Old Man” as he is referred to – portrayed strongly by Steve Luker(Broadway: 42nd Street), Ralphie’s caring mother portrayed by Gina Milo (Broadway: Les Miserables), and younger brother Randy portrayed by Griffin Reese. Additionally, two sets of children are cast to make up Ralphie’s classmates. I had pleasure of seeing the captivating “Red” cast and I am certain to say that the alternate “Green” cast delivers the same spectacular performance.

Also a highlight is Jonathan Collins‘ fantastic – yet again! – set. Rolling pieces and smart arrangements abound with stunning props designed by Bryan Prywes. Driscoll Otto‘s lighting and Craig Kaufman’s creative sound touches splendidly enhance the stage and Tristan Raines‘ costumes are stunning. Now top that off with a brilliant live orchestra fantastically led by Musical Director Jonathon Lynch.

And so, A Christmas Story is certainly another hit for the Engeman. This is a show for the family or a great holiday date night. A great cast and a favorite movie come to life make for a thrilling night of theatre.

A Christmas Story is presented by the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through January 24th, 2015. Book by Joseph Robinette, Music & Lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, Directed by Richard T. Dolce, Scenic Design by Jonathan Collins, Costume Design by Tristan Raines, Lighting Design by Driscoll Otto, Sound Design by Craig Kaufman, Hair & Make-Up by Brandalyn Fulton, Casting by Wojcik/Seay Casting, Choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo, Musical Direction by Jonathon Lynch, Stage Management by Naomi Anhorn. For more information and to purchase tickets please call 631-261-9720 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photo by Michael DeCristofaro. Ethan Eisenberg (bottom, left), Steve Luker (top, left), Gina Milo (top, right) and Griffin Reese (bottom, right).

NY Theatre Guide: Theatre Review ‘A Christmas Story The Musical’ at John W. Engeman Theater

Posted By: Kristen Weyer on: November 24, 2014

Ethan Eisenberg, Steve Luker, Gina Milo and Griffin Reese. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

“You’ll shoot your eye out!” This classic line has entertained audiences for decades. Ever since the motion picture A Christmas Story was released in 1983, it has been a Christmas favorite for many. A Christmas Story: The Musical is just as much fun, if not more. With a book by Joseph Robinette, who faithfully follows the original, and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, you’ll find yourself enjoying both favorite moments and new delights.

…superb from beginning to end.

Its 1940, and all Ralphie Parker (Ethan Eisenberg) wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun. That’s not so much to ask is it? The problem lies in convincing his parents (Gina Milo, Steve Luker), or anyone else who might be able to help, how much he really needs one. He has one month in which to accomplish this, all the while juggling friends, bullies, school and the infamous leg lamp. Can he do it? Well, he’s certainly going to try his best.

The John W. Engeman Theater’s production of this show is superb from beginning to end. Directed by Richard T. Dolce, A Christmas Story: The Musical will make you smile, laugh and root for Ralphie the whole way through. Ethan Eisenberg is incredible. Not only is he a wonderful young actor with timing and expression, but his singing will blow you away. Jean Shepherd, our story’s narrator, is perfectly portrayed by David Schmittou. His non-chalant, storytelling adds charm and humor at just the right moments. Ralphie’s short-tempered father is played by the immensely talented Steve Luker, while Mother is played by the lovely Gina Milo. Both give believable performances with pleasing voices and convincing characterization. Griffin Reese is adorable as Ralphie’s younger brother Randy, while Michael Spencer and Theron Viljoen as Ralphie’s best friends are the perfect little imps.

The entire cast and ensemble of this production are fantastic, but perhaps the kids are the most surprising. Their level of talent and professionalism is astounding. There are two alternating casts of children for this production, the red cast and the green cast. The red cast is comprised of Christopher Darrin, Erin Haggerty, Shelby Herling, Jake Kalionwski, Shane Anthony McGlone, Mckenzie Ann Mullahey, Michael Spencer, Theron Viljoen and Chloe Wheeler. The green cast consists of Laurel Caruso, Katie Dolce, Evan Flannery, Vincent Gerardi, Meaghan Maher, Ryan Mcinnes, Michael Meneshian, James Maxwell Tully and Alexandra Vallejos.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the most impressive set I have yet to see at this theater. Brilliantly designed by Jonathan Collins, it consists of multiple rolling pieces, sliding architecture and clever arrangement. With great props, and time period appropriate costuming by Tristan Raines the visual effect was complete. Amusing sound effects designed by Craig Kaufman, and choreography by Antoniette DiPietropolo completed the feel of the show.

A Christmas Story: The Musical is a delightful evening for the whole family. Whether you are young or old, there is something in this show for you to enjoy. A magical look at the ordinary lives of a family at Christmas.

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

A Christmas Story: The Musical is playing at John W. Engeman Theater at Northport through January 4th, 2015. The theater is located at 250 Main Street, Northport NY. For tickets call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or click here.

The Northport Daily News: A Christmas Story: The Musical opens at the Engeman Theater

The musical version of “A Christmas Story” has  opened  at the John W. Engeman Theater. Based on the film  which debuted in 1983,  this coming-of-age saga set to song follows the adventures of Ralphie Parker, a nine-year-old who  yearns for a very specific Christmas gift- a Red Ryder BB gun.  It’s December 1940.  Based on the remembrances of  storyteller and humorist Jean Shepherd,  who boasted a long career in radio, the story is a fictionalized account of his boyhood in Hammond, Indiana.

“A Christmas Story” is a very light and fanciful musical trip down memory lane. Under the direction of Richard Dolce, the musical invites us to shake that snow globe of time and journey into the home of the Parkers, a lower middle class family struggling with their share of furnace and automobile problems during the Depression Era.   A tantalizing spark of nostalgia is immediately  ignited as the family rushes into town where local children have gathered to gaze into the gaily decorated window of Higbee’s Department and dream of   Tinkertoys ( which first appeared on the scene in 1914) and Radio Flyer wagons under the Christmas tree. Just the mention of the names of these toys of days gone-by jogs memories.

In this place of the heart which could be any small American  town,  life is not always rosy-colored.  Bullies rule the playground at recess; a neighbor’s unruly hounds harass Mr. Parker whenever he arrives home.  Despite the march of the decades, human nature and family dynamics have not changed much, and perhaps that is what has always made  ‘A Christmas Story’ so endearing. The glimpse in the idiosyncrasies of this particular nuclear family reminds us of ourselves and our relationships with our own loved ones.

Yes, the peer pressure of a triple dog dare will cause someone’s tongue to get stuck to a flagpole one frigid Indiana day.  And the Old Man (Steve Luker) will finally win one of the contests for which the Depression Era became known, although the Leg Lamp—a kind of sleazy prize– will not bring him the recognition he hoped for. And Ralphie  will miserably don a pair of  pink bunny pajamas received as a present from his Aunt Clara. The adorable little brother, Randy Parker (Griffin Reese) will suffer in his unwieldy snowsuit.  Yet  although we know the storyline, this is the kind of show where everyone comes away with something different.

Jean Shepherd (David Schmittou), the older and wiser “Ralphie,”  does a great job of cementing us in the present as the narrator /commentator on the goings-on.  Ralphie (Ethan Eisenberg),  making his Engeman stage debut after appearing in regional theater, exhibits poise and  a singing voice rich beyond his years.

I was particularly moved by Ralphie’s evolving interaction with his mother, played by Gina Milo, whom I loved as Muriel in Plaza Suite.  Her song, “What a Mother Does,” is a beautiful ode to the stay-at-home mothers of decades past.  “Just Like That,” which she sings to Ralphie after he plummets a bully and fears that he had thrown away his last chance for that longed for rifle, touched my heart. It was simplicity and profound truth all in one.

I got a particular kick out of the fantasy sequences. Kathryn Markey, who plays the teacher, Miss Shields, has a gift for physical humor. I was delighted by her performance in the fantasy sequence and song, “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” for which she dons a slinky red gown and really pulls out all the stops.

“A Christmas Story”  runs through  January 4.  The Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport Village. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

The Village Tattler: Engeman’s A Christmas Story, The Musical: Unforgettable Theater

Ethan Eisenberg leads the way as Ralphie Parker in A Christmas Story, The Musical, at The John W. Engeman Theater. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Delightful, unforgettable, and immensely enjoyable—A Christmas Story, The Musical, is the most fun at the theater you’ve had all year. You will laugh; you will cry; you will want to return for more. The John W. Engeman Theater’s production, in Northport now through January 4, 2015, is directed and produced by Richard T. Dolce, the theater’s Producing Artistic Director. It’s simply wonderful!

We all remember the holiday movie set in 1940—the Parker family; the young boy Ralphie’s desperate quest for the Official Red Ryder ® Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle; the leg lamp; and the bar of soap used as punishment. The iconic movie is brought to life on Engeman’s stage and set to music written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul with the book by Joseph Robinette.

The talent is extraordinary with the remarkable Ethan Eisenberg leading the way as Ralphie Parker and a memorable children’s cast of girls and boys who play his friends, cheering him on. “I have enjoyed the whole Christmas Story experience from rehearsals through bringing the show into production,” says Eisenberg.  “I love acting so much that a production is fun with any cast, but it enhances the experience when the cast is as amazing to work with as they are in this group.”

Eisenberg hopes to return to the Engeman Theater as an actor and has thoroughly enjoyed working with the great creative team. He has been acting since he was five years old, when his parents believed it would help him overcome his shyness. What did he learn in acting class? “I learned that acting is not what a lot of people think it is,” notes Eisenberg.  “Acting is really just living in a character and bringing yourself into the character. The Gateway Acting School is where I learned this important technique.”

For Eisenberg, Ralphie was an easy character to bring himself into. “I am also energetic, persistent, and certainly a dreamer like Ralphie.”

He is joined on stage by the talented actor Steve Luker, as his Old Man, and fabulous Gina Milo, as his Mother, along with another newcomer to the Engeman stage, Griffin Reese, as brother Randy. They show us on stage what Christmas is really all about—what life is all about—family and love, and that no matter what happens, this is what is most important.

“It is really about family, and no matter what the circumstances you can always be happy when you have your family,” adds Eisenberg. “I can relate because my family is supportive and very important to me.”

Eisenberg is a newcomer to the Engeman stage with Regional credits in The Addams Family, Mary Poppins, and Beauty and the Beast.

The hilarious Luker, who plays Ralphie’s father with the perfect comedic touch, has appeared in A Christmas Carol at Engeman Theater. Broadway credits include42nd Street and tours of 42nd Street and Footloose.

The enormously talented Milo has appeared at Engeman Theater recently in Plaza Suite, Hairspray, and Little Shop of Horrors. Other credits include Broadway: Les Miserable, as Eponine, and National Tours of Les Miserables, Annie, Best Little Whorehouse.

JWE A CHRISTMAS STORY Press Photo 17-1

Gina Milo as Mother with Ethan Eisenberg as Ralphie. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Milo lends just the right motherly feeling to her beautiful solo, “What a Mother Does,” which any mother in the audience can relate to wholeheartedly—“the homework, PJs, get the kids to bed,” and all the work that goes into making Christmas the very best Christmas each year. “But a mom has her ways, a mom knows her kid, she’ll get him to eat without knowing he did….that’s what a Mother does.”

Another beautiful and poignant moment in the show is when Milo sings “Just Like That” in Act 2. “Notice how the world keeps turning, life goes on, the moment comes, the moment goes, and just like that, the moment’s gone.” The message: there are difficult moments in life, and soon you’re back to jumping, laughing, you’ve moved on, and life goes on.

Also, leading the way as the teacher Miss Shields, is actress Kathryn Markey, whose brilliant performance in “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” along with the children’s cast, is memorable. Markey is new to the Engeman stage and has appeared on Broadway in 3 From Brooklyn, Off-Broadway and Regional in many theaters, and in TV and film including SVU, Law and Order, and All My Children.

David Schmittou, who narrates the entire production, is fantastic as Jean Shepherd. He has appeared in Regional theater in Mary Poppins, Lend Me A Tenor, and The Sound of Music, among many others.

Ethan Eisenberg, center, with the Red Cast of Children from left to right: Shane McGlone, Shelby Herling, McKenzie Mullahey, Erin Haggerty, Michael Spencer, and Chloe Wheeler. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The children’s cast are a wonderfully talented group and appear throughout Act 1 and 2 in: “It All Comes Down to Christmas (Reprise)” at the Higbee Department Store, and most notably in “When You’re A Wimp;” “Ralphie to the Rescue;” “Sticky Situation;” “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out;” the hilarious “Up on Santa’s Lap,” where the kids sit on Santa’s lap and then, go down a slide; and my favorite, when they appear in Ralphie and Randy’s room and envision Santa and his reindeer “Somewhere Hovering Over Indiana.”

The children’s cast are LAUREL CARUSO, CHRISTOPHER DARRIN, KATIE DOLCE, EVAN FLANNERY, VINCENT GERARDI, ERIN HAGGERTY, SHELBY HERLING, JAKE KALINOWSKI, MEAGHAN MAHER, SHANE MCGLONE, RYAN MCINNES, MICHAEL MENESHIAN, MCKENZIE ANN MULLAHEY, MICHAEL SPENCER, JAMES MAXWELL TULLY, ALEXANDRA VALLEJOS, THERON VILJOEN and CHLOE WHEELER.

Ethan Eisenberg, bottom center, with the green cast: Alex Vallejos, Meaghan Maher, Katie Dolce, Laurel Caruso, Ryan McInnes (standing), and James Maxwell Tully and Vincent Gerardi, kneeling. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The adult ensemble includes ALYSON CLANCY, EMILY ESPOSITO, CHAD JENNINGS, LARRY A. LOZIER Jr., SUZANNE MASON, LIZZIE PORCARI, MICHAEL QUATTRONE, CHARLOTTE VAUGHN RAINES, CHRISTOPHER TIMSON and VIET VO, who also plays the waiter in the restaurant scene.

The spectacular choreography is by ANTOINETTE DIPIETROPOLO (Engeman Theater: Evita, The Music Man, South Pacific, Hairspray, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, and Nunsense. Off Broadway: With Glee. National Tour:How The Grinch Stole Christmas) and wonderful Musical Direction by JONATHON LYNCH (The City Club, Finding Neverland; original compositions include Lunacyand SLAM!). Lynch plays piano and conducts; trumpet by Joe Boardman; trombone, Brent Chiarello; bass, Russ Brown; percussion, Josh Endlich; and reeds, Michael Kendrot.

The design team is JONATHAN COLLINS (Scenic Design), TRISTAN RAINES (Costume Design), DRISCOLL OTTO (Lighting Design), CRAIG KAUFMAN (Sound Design), BRANDALYN FULTON (Hair and Wig Design) and WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING, LLC (Casting Director).

A CHRISTMAS STORY will play the following performance schedule: Wednesdays at 8:00 pm, Thursdays at 8:00 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Tickets are $69 and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, going online at EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport. For  complete show schedule, visit the website.

The Long Islander: ‘A Christmas Story’ Brings Holiday Magic To Engeman Stage

By Mary Beth Casper

info@longislandergroup.com

Chad Jennings, Vincent Gerardi, Kathryn Markey, Larry A. Lozier, Jr. and Viet Vo in a famous scene from “A Christmas Story.” (Photo: Engeman Theater).

CHAD JENNINGS, VINCENT GERARDI, KATHRYN MARKEY, LARRY A. LOZIER, JR. AND VIET VO IN A FAMOUS SCENE FROM “A CHRISTMAS STORY.” (PHOTO: ENGEMAN THEATER).

Holiday stress got you down? Do you want to fall in love with this special season all over again?

If so, head over to the John W. Engeman Theater to catch a performance of “A Christmas Story: The Musical.” It will make you feel good about the holidays again.

Based on the popular l983 film of the same name – which was based on the hilarious, heart-felt stories of legendary radio personality, Jean Shepherd – the theatrical production is perfect for audiences of all ages.

The story takes place in a small town in Indiana in l940 – just weeks shy of Christmas. The play’s narrator, Jean Shepherd, played with warmth and humor by David Schmittou, explains to the audience that he is eager to tell a story about his favorite Christmas of all times. That holiday was all about little Ralphie Parker and his family – (Could Ralphie actually be Shepherd?) – as they got ready to celebrate the holidays at a time when America had yet to enter World War II and the Depression still had a hold on the nation.

Ralphie and his little brother, Randy (Griffin Reese), are oblivious to the financial challenges their parents face.  It was a kinder, gentler time in America. An era when children did not curse – or, if they did, they found themselves undergoing the horror of having their mouths washed out with soap – it was also an era when moms stayed home to care for their kids and dads were usually the sole breadwinners in the family. No TV, no video games. Just the radio for home entertainment, as well as hours and hours of imaginative childhood play.

Act One opens less than a month before Christmas, and little Ralphie Parker is determined to wear down his parents with his unpopular choice of a Christmas present.   All Ralphie wants is a bee bee gun. Not just any bee bee gun, but “an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle.” He’ll stop at nothing until he’s assured it will be under his tree on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, his parents think it’s an unwise choice. “You’ll shoot your eye out,” he’s constantly told every time he approaches the subject.

With a vivid imagination and spunky optimism, Ralphie spends every waking hour trying to ensure holiday success!

This production shines with the performances of a remarkable cast. Director Richard T. Dolce has beautifully guided his ensemble of children and adults allowing them to capture the simple and magical quality of l940s America. The actors are delightful. The singing and dancing are equally solid. Credit choreographer Antoniette DiPietropolo and Music Director Jonathon Lynch for taking a lackluster score (oh, no, you won’t remember a single tune when you leave the theater) and turning it into a delightful romp that mesmerized the audience.

The set design by Jonathan Collins and the costumes by Tristan Raines are spot-on replicas of the pre-World War II era.

This is essentially Ralphie’s story and LI professional actor Ethan Eisenberg is a delight to watch. Wearing a pair of over-sized eye-glasses, Ralphie and little brother, Randy, delightfully played by Reese, and their friends are self-proclaimed “wimps,” always being threatened by the neighborhood bullies. Eisenberg takes center stage from the get goes and never relinquishes his starring role. He has a great stage presence. Boy, can he sing and dance! And, what great comedic timing he has.

He envisions himself in all types of situations in which a gun will come in handy to protect his family, his neighborhood, his classmates and teacher. Some of the most outstanding moments of the evening come in the musical numbers in which he and his fellow students and Miss Shields (the comedic talent, Kathryn Markey), are part of his dreamy efforts to write a winning essay titled “What I Want for Christmas” that Ralphie believes will win him an “A + + + + + + +” and convince his parents that he must have the gun. In reality, none of the hero antics he imagined (rescuing his teacher from a villain who tied her up on a railroad track or deterring a bank robbery and saving the lives of tellers and bank patrons), ever make it into the essay. All the child is able to write is the often repeated mantra which is the description of the gun he wants.

Anyone who has ever seen the film version of this play knows there are several subplots that are equally fun for the audience. The children’s father, “Old Man Parker” is an ornery, over-worked, under-paid guy who dreams of a better life for himself and his family. When not alienating his neighbors for their inability to keep their dogs off his property, Mr. Parker is also the angry owner of an old house with a furnace that is always on the fritz. Parker dreams of winning $50 thousand in a national Crosswords Puzzle Sweepstakes. His efforts are bolstered by his wife, who really appears to be the “brains” of the family.

When he does win a prize, it’s not a financial one, but rather a hideous lamp. The base of the lamp is a shapely woman’s calf encased in black fishnet stockings and a patent leather stiletto pump. The Old Man is delighted with the prize, treating it like a trophy. To his wife’s dismay he places it in the home’s front window for all passersby to see.

One of the show-stopping productions of the night featured the horror of neighborhood ladies and the delight of their husbands in response to the Parker’s lamp.  The men, wearing black fishnets and patent leather pumps, formed a Rockette-styled chorus line and high-kicked their way into the audiences hearts.

Of course, no production of “A Christmas Story” would be complete without the classic tongue stuck on the flag pole moment that occurred in the film. During a cold recess, Ralphie’s friend Flint is encouraged to put his tongue on the freezing flag pole and see if it sticks. The results brought the house down.

What makes “A Christmas Story” so successful is not just the humor of Ralphie’s tactics, nor his father’s obsession with the hideous leg lamp. The play gently reminds us of the love and care good parents give their children.

Gina Milo, who delighted Engeman audiences in “Plaza Suite” this summer, truly is the heart and soul of this production. Whether finding a creative way to get her fussy youngest son to eat his meals, or providing emotional support to Ralphie when he finally gives one of the school’s biggest bullies a run for his money, Milo’s solid acting and beautiful singing voice won major applause throughout the show.

A Christmas Story The Musical runs through Jan. 4, 2015. For ticket information visit www.EngemanTheatre.com or call 631-261-2900.

Newsday: ‘Evita’ review: The Peróns with passion

You’ll find few better opportunities to appreciate “Evita” than in this emotionally charged Engeman Theater reincarnation in Northport.

Don’t cry for Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sir Andy needn’t work a day the rest of his life. But while I don’t lose sleep over it, whenever “Evita” is revived, I wonder what might’ve been had he continued collaborating with Tim Rice.

We won’t cry for Sir Timmy, either. He went on to pen lyrics for “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.” Still, Webber never wrote a richer score than the last one he composed with Rice — “Phantom of the Opera” notwithstanding.

You’ll find few better opportunities to appreciate “Evita” than in this emotionally charged Engeman Theater reincarnation in Northport. Forget the 2012 Broadway revival with Ricky Martin as Ché or the dreadful 1996 Madonna movie — this “Evita” feels authentic. Never mind the poetic-license story line. The only evidence that Ché, the revolutionary martyr who narrates this life story of the ambitious poor girl Eva Duarte, later Perón, had anything to do with her is that he, too, was Argentine. But Ché, in the sardonic person of Aaron Finley, is the perfect critic of a junta opportunist who sleeps her way to the top.

Rice’s flamenco-to-classical operetta lyrics paint an Eva we can all relate to — if we’re shameless enough. Janine DiVita (rhymes with “Evita”) could be the pretty girl next door, except for her Latina chutzpah. In a macho society, she treats men like horses, riding them until they’re spent. Then she finds another mount. Her ambitions are captured in such feisty merry-go-round numbers as “Good Night and Thank You” (Ruben Flores plays her first casualty) and the musical-chairs masterpiece depicting Generale/El-Presidente-to-Be Perón’s ascension, “The Art of the Possible.”

Bruce Winant as Perón looks the part and sings it convincingly in “She Is a Diamond.” But without Eva, Perón would remain a soldier. Her ruthless humanity is encapsulated in perhaps the greatest number ever written for a minor character, identified only as “Mistress.” Eva reassures the girl she’s displacing in Perón’s bed, before Ashley Perez Flanagan sings with resignation for her dignity, “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”

Daniel Willis’ bi-level set and Kurt Alger’s costume and wig designs encapsulate time and place. Conductor James Olmstead and choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo keep the cast going with the flow. One complaint with director Igor Goldin’s casting: The adoring crowd beneath Eva’s balcony, where she pleads, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” is too sparse. DiVita’s Evita deserves legions.

WHAT EVITA’

WHEN l WHERE Weekly: Sun. 2 p.m.; Thu. 8 p.m.; Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat. 3 p.m., 8 p.m.Through Sun. 11/2. Additional dates: Thu. 10/23 2 p.m., John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St., Northport

INFO $69,  engemantheater.com, 631-261-2900

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Janine DiVita plays Eva Peron in "Evita," the Scenes from ‘Evita’ Janine DiVita stars as Eva Peron in the ‘Evita’ at the John W. Engeman Theater

Times Beacon Record: ‘Evita’ triumphs at Northport’s Engeman Theater

Readers be advised: This is going to be a rave review. This revival of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous hit “Evita” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport was so enthralling that your scribe has felt urged to abandon, temporarily, his inherited Welsh reserve and abhorrence of superlatives, and embrace the perpendicular pronoun.

I believe the musical about the rise and fall of the wife of dictator Juan Perόn of Argentina is more opera than musical comedy. Yet “Evita” stands as a monument to American theater, and was once banned in Argentina.

“Evita” traces the sordid, checkered past of young Eva Duarte from the small town of Los Toldos to become “first lady” of Argentina. She was a beacon to the women’s movement worldwide as she shared political power with her husband, the dictator, from 1948 to 1952, when she died of cancer at the age of 33.

Janine Divita plays the title role with glamour, grace and a strong, plangent soprano. Her stage presence, tall and angular, is captivating. Her role is varied as she sells out the life a poor teenager from the provinces to a career on the fringe of Buenos Aires life, small roles in radio and movies, until she meets Perόn at a fundraiser.

Divita engages in some trigger-tongue banter in Buenos Aires, but tops it all in her rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” which she sings stage center, elevated and in a strapless white gown. The only word to describe it was “impact.” She was at her near best as a dancer and integrated well into the evolutions of the finest choreography director in the six theater spots I am assigned to: Antoinette DiPietropolo. Divita’s “You Must Love Me,” sung to Perόn, and her “Lament” at the finale were penetrating.

Bruce Winant is Perόn. He is sturdy, truly in love with Evita and possessed of a fine tenor effective at mid and lyric range, but with outstanding power. His interfacing with Divita is carried off with highly professional quality. His “The Art of the Possible” was not only penetrating, but illustrative of his talent.

 

JWE_Evita_Press_Photo_1
Aaron C. Finley as ‘Che.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Then there is Aaron C. Finley as “Che.” He had virtually no exits and served neatly and incisively as a Greek chorus in song that guided the audience through the entire play. His opening number, “Oh, What a Circus,” and “Good Night and Thank You,” coupled with “High Flying, Adored” and “And the Money Kept Rolling In (and Out)” were a tribute to Finley’s extraordinary range.

A word about “Che”: It is an Argentine colloquialism meaning “Hey, you,” and marks the speaker as an Argentinian. However the real “Che” was Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a 24-year-old Argentinian Communist who migrated to Cuba to become Fidel Castro’s right-hand man. He never knew or met Evita or her husband. In 1967, in an attempt to foment revolution in Bolivia, he was cornered and gunned down by a Bolivian Ranger, thus ending the Castro-Mao brand of revolution.

Ruben Flores was Agust’n Magaldi, a two-bit tango singer who takes Evita to Buenos Aires and abandons her. His “On this Night of a Thousand Stars” is a neat takeoff on those Latin ballads that captivated Yankee audiences in the 1930s and ’40s, such as “You Belong to My Heart” or “Bahia.”

The “Company” deserves equal praise: Emily Esposito, Ashley Perez Flanagan, Ruben Flores, Megan Koumis, Justin Gregory Lopez, Erika Peterson, Ryan Rhue, Hallie Silverston and Gilbert Sanchez.

I place the music last for obvious reasons — it was the finest. Under the unerring direction of James Olmstead on piano, it featured the workmanship of Joe Boardman on trumpet, Marnie Harris on violin, Douglas Baldwin on guitar, Russ Brown on bass and Josh Endlich on percussion. Endlich had the lead in a number of Latin-beat numbers that rocked the house. This outfit anchored everything with nanosecond precision.

I hope that readers get the message that this “Evita” is the best “theatah” around.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Evita” through Nov. 2. Tickets are $69. For more information, call 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

The Northport Daily News: “Evita” wows audiences at the Engeman Theater: Prepare for a magical night

“Evita,” the musical about the rise and fall of Argentina’s most beloved (and controversial) First Lady has opened at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater.  Although more than 60 years have passed since her demise, the legend and mystique of Eva Perón lingers on. Was the woman affectionately referred to as Evita  truly a saintly champion of the masses– or  a savvy manipulator whose actions were fueled by greed and ambition?  The truth lies somewhere in-between.    In the hands of Director Igor Goldin and an exemplary cast, this historical saga revisited in song featuring lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber is a powerhouse of a production.  It draws you in, enthralls and leaves you wanting more.  You’ll find yourself humming one of the show-stopping songs, and seeking  additional information about the woman who rose from the slums of Argentina to reign as the country’s spiritual leader and  spokesperson for the President. Prepare for a magical night.

Eva Perón was one of five illegitimate children born to a wealthy rancher in a country that stigmatized such offspring. Juan Duarte abandoned his brood, plunging the family into dire poverty.  Yet Eva refused to let her circumstances extinguish her hopes, and  relentlessly pursued her dream to escape to Buenos Aires,  Argentina’s Big Apple.   Eva became an actress, and serendipitously met  Colonel Juan Perón  at a  charity benefit for San Juan earthquake victims.  This fortuitous meeting would set the stage for Juan’s presidency.

Sadly, for Eva Perón, her Cinderella story would be short-lived. The show opens with “Requiem,” a solemn ode to the First Lady whose death from cancer at age 33 brought Argentina to its knees.

The musical numbers which follow fill in the details of Eva Perón’s rags to riches story. Che (Aaron C. Finely) who espouses a critical view of Eva’s escapades, straddles the fourth wall, serving as the narrator/commentator while also joining in on the action.

The songs “Eva, Beware of the City” sung by Magaldi (Ruben Flores) and “Buenos Aires,” resonate with the desire of young Eva (Janine Divita), then a brunette, to escape to the town considered the ‘Paris’ of Argentina.

In her quest to rise to lofty heights, Eva became a blonde who was not above using her feminine wiles to obtain favors from prominent men.

Particularly entertaining and humorous is “Goodnight and Thank You,” in which Eva beds and discards a series of lovers while the sardonic Che looks on with disgust and comments accordingly.

Interestingly enough, the woman who seemed to have a hard time saying no took a different tactic when she ran into Colonel Perón (Bruce Winant).

“I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You,” Eva sings to Colonel Perón , and she turns out to be right. She hastily dispatches Juan’s young mistress, played by Ashley Perez Flanagan, the daughter of Senator John Flanagan.  This mistress is no hard-shelled Eva Perón, and  the young woman, who has been abruptly kicked to the curb, sees that she is becoming more vulnerable as each “love” affair draws to an end.  Her stunningly heartbreaking and poignant  “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” is a true delight that showcases Ms. Perez Flanagan’s considerable gift for acting and song.

Perhaps the pinnacle of the show occurs when Juan Perón wins the presidency and Eva, dressed to the nines in a shimmering sequined white dress, addresses the crowd assembled below the balcony of the Casa Rosada.   We catch a glimpse of the perfectly coiffed golden-haired beauty as she strides by a translucent rounded top window. It is a magical prelude to Eva’s glorious rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”

As part of the quest of the Peróns to orchestrate a “New Argentina,” Eva establishes her charitable foundation. The highly engaging song, “And the Money Kept Rolling In,” suggests that some of the funds destined for the poverty-stricken might have been used to feather the Peróns’ own financial nest.

Evita is a winning production which runs the gamut from the humorous to the profoundly sad.  Kudos to Michael Cassara for the casting.  Janine Divita excels as Evita and Bruce Winant is a true talent who compliments her perfectly and as was pointed out to me, actually resembles Juan Perón. Aaron C. Finley adds just the right amount of spice as Che.

The dance moves (and there’s some dirty dancing) are beautifully choreographed by Antoinette DiPietropolo. The show is all about the music and once again, the band led by James Olmstead, whose work I have admired in the past, delivers the goods and then some.

With lighting by Zach Blane, Daniel Willis’ set takes on the humble aura of a tango café one moment and is palatial the next.

“Evita” runs through November 2. The Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport Village. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

The Long-Islander: ‘Evita’ Dazzles At The Engeman Theater

Janine Divita dazzles as Eva Peron in Engeman Theater’s “Evita.”

Don’t cry for her, Argentina!

The spirit of the legendary Eva “Evita” Peron is alive and well, and temporarily living in Northport at the John W. Engeman Theater.

“Evita,” the Andrew Lloyd-Webber-Tim Rice operetta, opened on Sept. 18 and runs through Nov. 2.

If you haven’t already purchased tickets, you should. The resounding reactions of early audiences should mean this production will soon sell out.

In Broadway’s original “Evita,” Northport native Patti LuPone’s portrayal of Eva Peron set the gold standard for anyone else who undertakes the role.

The beautiful Janine Divita’s performance of Evita at the Engeman is one that LuPone would applaud. Divita is the real deal. She becomes Evita with every breath she takes, every elegant move she makes, as well as with every incredible word she sings in a play that has no spoken dialogue.

Divita’s voice is glorious, filling the theatre with a majestic quality that captivates audiences just as the real Evita Peron captured the working-class hearts of Juan Peron’s Argentina during the World War II and post War era.

For those who aren’t familiar with the play, the story focuses on the meteoric rise to fame and fortune of Maria Eva Duarte Peron (“Evita”), who began life as a poor girl in the slums of Argentina, but with steely determination and the use of her sexual wiles, climbed the ladder of success to become a model and stage actress and then, First Lady of her nation.

Eva Peron may have been the first of many modern-day women who knew how to use the media to help build and maintain the image she wished to convey to her adoring public. While the working class loved her, she was ridiculed by the upper class.

Divita portrays Evita with a fire in her belly and sheer determination in her eyes.

The play is told with the use of a storyteller, Che (the rebel Che Guevara, one of Juan Peron’s political foes). Che is played by Aaron C. Finley. Finley’s stage presence is commanding, his voice astounding.

Evita begins as an audience of working place Argentines sit in a theater enjoying a film. A voice breaks in telling them their beloved Eva Peron has died. Deep shock and sadness ensue, and the people reverently sing a Requiem to their cherished Evita.

Che cynically dismisses all the mourning, singing, “Oh, What a Circus.”

In a few flashbacks in time, the audience witnesses the teen-aged brunette Eva, convincing a tango lounge singer to take her out of the slums to Buenos Aires, where she is determined to become a star. Che sings of her ability to hitch her wagon to the star of any man who can further her career. We see the young Eva sleeping her way up the ladder of success.

After an earthquake severely damages one Argentine city, the now blonde Eva attends a fundraiser hosted by military leader, Juan Peron. In a bold gesture, she seduces Peron by serenading him with “I’d be Surprisingly Good for You.” Peron agrees with her words. He takes her home with him, that night, where she immediately moves in, dismissing his current mistress.

Peron’s election and the success he and Evita eagerly embrace are ridiculed by Che in the song, “High Flying and Adored.”

In Act 2, the operetta’s amazing showstopper, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” has Evita singing to the masses of her willingness to leave her acting career behind and work with her husband to make their peoples’ lives better. Divita’s rendition of the song produced goose bumps and won resounding applause.

Throughout the rest of Act II, we see Eva planning a trip to Europe in order to bolster the image of the Peron presidency. She also starts a charitable foundation to help her beloved working-class citizens, but soon becomes so taken with her own fame that she falls victim to the lure of money and power. The saintly image, now tarnished, is lambasted by Che.

Sadly, Evita’s young, charismatic life is threatened by an advanced cancer, and she dies at the age of 33, leaving Peron and her people behind in deep mourning. Evita is a classic soap opera set to an exquisite score. The cast members embrace their roles fully.  Credit Director Igor Golden for eliciting believable performances from all – even the chorus members.

Aided by a beautiful set by Daniel Willis, amazing costumes by Kurt Alger, and excellent music direction (James Olmstead), choreography (Antoinette DiPietropolo) and lighting (Zach Blane), this production is nearly picture perfect.

Bruce Winnant is the proud President Juan Peron, whose dedication to his people and tender love for his Evita are presented beautifully.

One last shout out needs to go to young Ashley Perez Flanagan, who, in one brief solo, brought the house down. Flanagan plays the Peron mistress whom Evita dismisses on the night she moves in with Peron. Flanagan’s beautiful voice and tragic questioning, “Where will I go?” tugged at the heart strings of audience members. She definitely has a future!

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

Janine Divita as Eva Peron. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport continues its 2014/15 season with the Tony Award winning musical Evita.

A powerful show from the haunting opening to the poignant finale. 

Evita follows the life of Eva Perόn, the First Lady of Argentina from 1946-1952.  Born poor and working-class, Eva clawed and climbed her way up the social ladder.  Though she initially started with good intentions for social reform, her ego and ambition grew until her ineffectiveness unfolded to its heartbreaking conclusion.  With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, the score’s heavy reliance on sharps, flats and dissonance enhance the feeling of her struggling life.

An accomplished cast heightens the experience of any show.  Eva Perόn is played by Janine Divita with a remarkably convincing accent.  Her sharp and powerful voice supports the hard and stubborn personality of her character.  Bruce Winant superbly portrays Juan Perόn, military man and President of Argentina; his rich, full voice reaching impressive depths.  Ruben Flores’ wonderful voice rings out as the tango and milonga singer Agustin Magaldi.  Ashley Perez Flanagan was a joy to listen to as the Mistress.  Her sweet, clear voice soared over the audience with palpable emotion, and any future demonstrations of her talents would be most welcome.  Aaron C. Finely steals the show as Che, our guide through the musical who is part narrator and part Eva’s conscience.  Finely plays the bored/arrogant narrator perfectly.  His character’s all-knowing cynicism flows effortlessly with languid movement, apropos facial expressions and clear, pleasing vocals.

With direction by Igor Goldin, and scenic design by Daniel Willis, the use of the stage was astutely managed.  A clever scene of political musical chairs demonstrated Juan Perόn’s rise to power, while moving staircases and onstage costume changes deftly progressed the action.  Music Director James Olmstead and the band produced striking results from a challenging score.  Lighting by Zach Blane and costuming by Kurt Alger both aided in creating the atmosphere and mood of the show.

Evita may perhaps be best described as a political biography disguised as a musical.  While not happy by any means, it is a fascinating look at a short, bright life.  A powerful show from the haunting opening to the poignant finale.

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

Advisory: Adult themes, scenes and language throughout.

Evita is playing at The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, on Long Island until November 2nd, 2014. The theater is located at 250 Main Street, Northport NY.  For tickets, call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or click here.

BWW Reviews: An Enchanting EVITA at the Engeman

September 24, 2014 2:09 PM

The Engeman Theater has a hit with their vision of Evita.

As Northport’s John W. Engeman Theatre always does, they bring a touch of Broadway to Main Street and their current offering, the Tony winning musical Evita, is certainly no exception. The gorgeous Long Island venue executes an enchanting incarnation – running through November 1st – of the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber classic superbly directed by Igor Goldin.

The tale focuses on the life of Argentine force-to-be-reckoned-with Eva Perón centering on her rise through the political ladder to her untimely death. Exquisitely portraying Eva is Janine Divita (Broadway: Grease, Anything Goes, et. al.). The story shows Eva over a period of eighteen years; from when she was fifteen until her death at age thirty three. I really could go on and on about her stunning voice, gripping speeches to her “public”, and wonderful stage presence, but I’m just going to say that you will remember Ms. Divita’s Eva for quite some time. Eva meets and marries Colonel Juan Perón portrayed strongly by Bruce Winant (Broadway: La Cage Aux Falls, Phantom of the Opera, et. al). Ms. Divita and Mr. Winant’s voices complemented each other well and were believable as a married couple.

Additional highlights of the stellar cast include Aaron C. Finley (Broadway: Rock of Ages, Allegiance) and Ashley Perez Flanagan. Mr. Finley, as Che, serves as the show’s narrator and the packed audience gives a rousing round of applause to the extremely talented and handsome young actor. His performances of “Oh What a Circus” and “High Flying, Adored”, the latter of which he sings with Ms. Divita, is particularly well received. And you will be mesmerized by Ms. Flanagan, who portrays the Mistress, as her voice soars on her emotional performance of “Another Suitcase in the Hall”.

Besides the magnificent cast, you will become captivated by some of the most beautiful music that was created by Mr. Rice and Mr. Lloyd Webber. To be included with the aforementioned songs, Ms. Divita gives an outstanding rendition of the iconic “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” and the entire company is powerful on “Montage” at the end of Act Two. This music is spectacularly performed with the accompaniment of the live orchestra headed up by Musical Director James Olmstead. Additionally, Daniel Willis’ set is fantastically highlighted by Zach Blane‘s lighting, and Craig Kaufman’s sound design. Kurt Alger’s costumes are also top notch – particularly Eva’s “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” wedding gown inspired dress.

And so, it is quite clear that Northport’s John W. Engeman Theatre has a hit with their vision of Evita. An inspired cast, beautiful music, and the stunning John W. Engeman Theater make for a delightful night of theatre.

Evita is presented by the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through November 2nd. By Tim Rice (Lyrics) & Adrew Lloyd Webber (Music), Directed by Igor Goldin, Scenic Design by Daniel Willis, Costume & Wig Design by Kurt Alger, Lighting Design by Zach Blane, Sound Design by Craig Kaufman, Assistant Direction and Fight Chorography by Trey Compton, Chorography by Antoniette DiPietropolo, Musical Direction by James Olmstead. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Village Tattler: Evita Awaits You at Northport’s Engeman Theater

Janine Divita as Eva Peron in the musical production of Evita at John W. Engeman Theater. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

This production is a true example of Broadway on Main Street and a must-see for theater lovers of all ages.

The hauntingly beautiful musical production of Evita now awaits you at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater. A packed opening night drew standing ovations for Janine Divita who plays Eva Perón, Bruce Winant who plays her husband and president of Argentina Juan Perón, and the magnetic Aaron C. Finley who plays Che. Evita is considered one of the most passionate and colorful musicals in theater history and Engeman’s production does not disappoint. The cast is so talented, with multiple Broadway credits, and this production is a true example of Broadway on Main Street and a must-see for theater lovers of all ages. Performances will run through November 2, 2014, on Thursdays at 8:00 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm.

Some of the most beautiful songs in theater are in Evita, including the most well-known “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” here sung by the incredibly talented Janine Divita as Eva Perón. Divita is simply divine as Eva Perón, playing the powerful First Lady of Argentina who was adored by the people but became a tragic figure of greed and ambition and then, poor health–she died from cancer at age 33 (just 8 years after meeting Juan Perón). Perón at the time of their meeting is an ambitious military colonel who makes his way up the Argentine political ladder. Other songs of note are “Another Suitcase in Another Hall,” sung by Juan Perón’s mistress who is played by the beautiful and talented Ashley Perez Flanagan, and “High Flying, Adored,” sung by Aaron Finely as Che and Divita as Eva. There is an eclectic range of music in the show with a combination of ballads such as “Another Suitcase” and “High Flying” and more Latin-influenced songs such as “Buenos Aires,” “And the Money Kept Rolling in (And Out),” and “On This Night of a Thousand Stars” sung by Ruben Flores as Magaldi and moving on to more rock opera songs, such as “Oh, What a Circus” and “Perón’s Latest Flame,” both performed by Finley as Che along with the ensemble.

With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, Evita is produced by Richard T. Dolce, Engeman’s producing article director and features Janine Divita (Eva Perón); Aaron C. Finley (Che); Bruce Winant (Juan Perón); Ashley Perez Flanagan (Mistress); and Ruben Flores (Magaldi).

The story of Evita starts with Eva’s beginnings in the slums of Argentina (and her various lovers), told by a cynical Che who narrates the story. In “Oh What a Circus,” Che tells the story of the hysterical grief that gripped Argentina when Evita died. The story moves through Eva’s meeting with Juan Perón, “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You.” This is followed by Eva tossing out Juan Perón’s mistress, throwing her clothes out the French doors while at the same time feeling sorry for her and giving her a fur coat, a true example of the character of Eva. Ashley Perez Flanagan as the Mistress sings a beautiful “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”

We see Eva’s rise as a political leader in Argentina who is adored by the poor people, but is disregarded by the upper classes and the Argentine Army  (“Perón’s Latest Flame”). Perón is elected President in a sweeping victory in 1946, just two years after meeting Eva. Eva begins the Eva Perón Foundation to direct her charity work. Che narrates again the controversial charitable work, and possible money laundering in “And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out).” Notes Che,”And little has changed for us peasants down here.”

Eva is determined to run for vice president despite her failing health (“Dice Are Rolling”) but has to renounce when she realizes that she is dying. She swears her eternal love to the people of Argentina in “Eva’s Final Broadcast.”

Janine Divita as Eva Perón and Aaron C. Finley as Che in Evita. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Credits of this talented cast include: JANINE DIVITA (Eva) Broadway: GREASE, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, ANYTHING GOES; AARON C. FINLEY (Che) Broadway: ROCK OF AGES; BRUCE WINANT (Perón) Broadway: LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, CHICAGO, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, RAGTIME, MISS SAIGON, MY FAVORITE YEAR; RUBEN FLORES (Magaldi) Broadway: IN THE HEIGHTS; ASHLEY PEREZ FLANAGAN (The Mistress) started at The Engeman Theater as a hostess when she was in high school and went on to perform on stage in The Engeman production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC in 2010. She has since gone on to a successful career as a performer being featured in Diane Paulus’s production of PROMETHEUS UNBOUND (A.R.T.) and ONCE ON THIS ISLAND (Enlightened Theatrics). Ashley is the daughter of NYS Senator John Flanagan.

The cast also includes JUSTIN GREGORY LOPEZ, RYAN RHUE, GILBERT SANCHEZ, LARRY LOZIER JR., PAUL VELUTIS, MEGAN KOUMIS, ERIKA PETERSON, HALLIE SILVERSTON and EMILY ESPOSITO.

The Creative Team for EVITA is IGOR GOLDIN (Director) Engeman Theater: THE MUSIC MAN, TWELVE ANGRY MEN, SOUTH PACIFIC; Off-Broadway: YANK! (Drama Desk Award), WITH GLEE and NYMTF winner of Award for Excellence in Direction for CROSSING SWORDS, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and COMMON GROUNDS; ANTOINETTE DIPIETROPOLO (Choreographer) Engeman Theater: THE MUSIC MAN, NUNSENSE, SOUTH PACIFIC, HAIRSPRAY; Off-Broadway: WITH GLEE; National Tours: HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS; JAMES OLMSTEAD (Musical Director) Engeman Theater: THE MUSIC MAN, WHITE CHRISTMAS, SOUTH PACIFIC.

The Design Team is DANIEL WILLIS (Scenic Design), KURT ALGER (Costume and Wig Design), ZACH BLANE (Lighting Design), CRAIG KAUFMAN (Sound Design), MEAGAN MILLER-McKEEVER (Props Design), MICHAEL CASSARA (Casting Director), TREY COMPTON (Assistant Director).

Tickets are $69 and available by calling (631) 261-2900, visiting www.engemantheater.com, or stopping at the Engeman Theater Box Office, 250 Main Street, Northport.

Smithtown Matters: Theater Review – ‘EVITA’

Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 1:29AM

Theater Review “Evita

Produced by: The John W. Engeman Theater – Northport

Reviewed by: Jeb Ladouceur

 

It must have been a formidable challenge for Janine Divita to accept the title role in “Evita” at the Engeman Theater this fall. We make the observation, not because the Broadway-seasoned Ms. Divita is in any way unequal to the huge task (she’s more than capable) but for the simple reason that in Northport, of all places, anyone cast in the lead of this renowned show is bound to be compared to the proud old town’s favorite daughter, Patti LuPone.

With the possible exception of writer Jack Kerouac, it’s widely acknowledged that no other Northport celebrity involved in The Arts has garnered the international acclaim that Ms. LuPone has. And most of that recognition has accrued to the singer/actress because of her Tony Award winning work in the 1978 Broadway production of “Evita.” There, the musical ran for nearly four years—37th longest in history. Remarkably, it was nominated for 22 of theatre’s most prestigious awards (consider that the hugely successful “Hello Dolly” received only 13 such nominations). To put matters in further perspective, “Evita” gained no fewer than 11 Tony Award nods and won 7 of them; (decades earlier “My Fair Lady” won 6 of 10).

“Evita” is both inspiring and tragic in that it tells of Eva Peron’s unlikely rise from an Argentine slum, where she is the child of a single mother—to her career as an ambitious actress—and ultimately to her securing a place in the nation’s seat of power, the Presidential Palace. There, the once destitute girl who has become Argentina’s First Lady, wins the adoration of her people by displaying concern for the poor and disadvantaged, despite her own failing health. Eva’s inability to control her greed and ambition, however, lends an overriding element of Greek tragedy to the play, which nonetheless manages to work as a thoroughly absorbing, lyrical musical.

The multi-talented Ms. Divita is in good company among a cast of proven professionals, primarily in the person of ‘Che’ who serves effectively as the story’s narrator and pace-setter. Bruce Winant, playing Juan Peron, is the most widely traveled performer in the company, and his experience is evident. Winant is as silky-smooth as we expect the slick Argentine leader to be, and we get the impression that his very presence on stage is largely responsible for elevating the performances of his fellow actors.

Prominent among those accomplished players is Ruben Flores (Migaldi), whom many will recognize from ‘Law and Order’ though that is by no means chief among his many performing credits. They run the gamut from Shakespeare to “Beauty and the Beast” and attest to Flores’s obvious versatility. The inclusion of lovely Ashley Perez Flanagan, who plays Juan Peron’s mistress marvelously, should be an inspiration to all aspiring thespians who see her at the Engeman over the next six weeks. Ashley started her career as a hostess at JWE and has gone on to distinguish herself in more than a half dozen productions to date.

Credit director Igor Goldin for flawlessly guiding his charges in this musical which Patti LuPone claimed was the most unbearable experience of her theatrical life, stating that “The play was obviously written by a man who hates women. I screamed my way through the role of Eva Peron.” That said, Janine Divita and company give no hint of such distress. Indeed, everyone in this lush production contributes to another Engeman blockbuster that takes the often explosive Ms. LuPone’s early stomping grounds by storm.

Northport Daily News: Prepare to fall in love with ‘The Music Man’

April 2, 2014 at 7:30 pm by Elise Pearlman

The multiple award-winning musical, ‘The Music Man,’ opened at the John W. Engeman Theater last week.  Although more than 50 years have passed since its Broadway debut, the show has lost none of its magic, humor or ability to tug on our heartstrings.  Under the direction of Igor Goldin, the Engeman cast brings it all to fruition so beautifully and enthusiastically that they make it new again. Prepare to be bewitched, and to fall in love with the characters. You won’t want it to end.

Meredith Willson, who penned the book, music and lyrics for the show, was not only an extremely gifted composer, songwriter and playwright, but a man with a deep understanding of the dreams, hopes and wishes that are the province of the heart. The musical showcases his genius.

Carl Sagan once said that serendipity is the optimistic belief that there is something marvelous around the corner, something not yet discovered, yet magnificent. It is this feeling of hopeful anticipation that “Professor” Harold Hill, aka “The Music Man,” brings with him when he breezes into River City, Iowa.  Willson modeled River City after his hometown of Mason City, Iowa, a slice of small town America that he knew like the back of his hand.  Yet theatergoers will immediately be enchanted by Josh Zangen’s set which features a beautiful latticework-laced gazebo framed by trees is reminiscent of Northport Village Park.

The good professor is a smooth-talking con artist who has his act down to a science. Like Mr. Willson, he has an uncanny understanding of what makes people tick and he uses it to get the townsfolk  to fork over money for a children’s band. The only person immune to his charms and skeptical  about his motives is the comely but aloof town librarian, Marian Paroo, whom he’d actually like to get to know better.

Robert Gallagher, who previously played romantic leads in Engeman’s ‘South Pacific’ and ‘The Sound of Music,’ was born to play the title role of the traveling Pied Piper. He has a commanding presence, an astounding singing voice, and a great sense of comedic timing.  Kim Carson, who played opposite him in ‘South Pacific,’ stars as Marian Paroo. She has the voice of an angel and the face to match. Her rendition of the lovelorn lament, “Goodnight, My Someone” melted my heart.

The supporting cast assembled by Stephen DeAngelis is impeccable and audiences will be delighted as each one eventually takes his or her place in the spotlight. Ray DeMattis is wonderful as the verbally befuddled Mayor Shinn and Jennifer Tully, Engeman’s Artistic Administrator, is hilarious as his histrionic wife, Eulalie Mackecknie. Carlos Lopez, who plays Professor Hill’s wing man Marcellus Washburn, has a true knack for comedy, and really struts his stuff when he sings “Shipoopi.”

Winthrop Paroo,  an adorable boy whose lisp has rendered him painfully shy, was played by Jeffrey S. Kishinevskiy on the night that I saw the show. I predict great things for this little star who can really belt out a song.   Patti Mariano, who plays Marian’s very Irish, impulsively frank mother, garners a lot of laughs.  I loved the mellifluous crooning of the Barbershop Quartet made up of Richard Costa, Kenny Francoeur, Kevin Necciai and Kilty Reidy.

The show hits all the high notes in terms of the music. Director James Olmstead and his crew deliver the goods big time, making the unseen six piece pit band sound like a full piece orchestra.  With so many wonderful songs, it is hard to choose a favorite, but mine included “The Sadder-But-Wiser-Girl,” “Till There Was You,” and of course, the beloved classic, “Seventy-six Trombones.”

I heartily commend everyone involved with this production. Ryan Moller’s costumes are spectacular as is the hair and make-up design by Kurt Alger. You’ll see some of the fanciest footwork that ever graced the Engeman stage, thanks to Antoinette DiPietropolo’s fabulous choreography. Cory Pattak’s lighting augments the ambience.

‘The Music Man’ runs through May 18, but buy tickets early this family-friendly show could very well sell out! The Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport Village. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

Times Beacon Record: Seventy-six trombones lead the Engeman in ‘The Music Man’

Published April 07, 2014 | 04:39 PM

Meredith Willson’s 1957 great hit “The Music Man” recently opened at the Engeman Theater in Northport. Set in 1912 in Willson’s hometown, called River City, Iowa, in the show, it chronicles the plans of a con man/traveling salesman to bilk the city out of thousands and skip. All of the above were neatly integrated in the production.

It had all of the things a musical comedy should have: variety, exquisitely performed choreography, impressive singing and an engaging plot. The armature of the production was Antoinette DiPietropolo’s choreography. Yes, there was Rob Gallagher as Harold Hill, the “Music Man,” whose singing and dancing were extraordinarily powerful as usual; yet without DiPietropolo’s terpsichorean talent there would have been a weak spark in the nucleus of the visual entertainment.

The Engeman has a wide stage, and every square centimeter was used. Every aspect of dance was put into play: classical ballet, interpretive, modern and more. Directing was the job of Igor Goldin who was confronted by a massive responsibility of blocking and interpretation. His resume, loaded as it is with many awards, stood him in good stead to take on “The Music Man.” His stage skills had eminent success in this show.

Backing all of these rhythms was James Olmstead directing on piano, Joe Boardman on trumpet (whose skill your scribe has praised previously for his ability in the very upper register), Frank Hall on trombone, Mark Gatz and Marni Harris on reeds and Josh Endlich on percussion. Endlich had alot of march-tempo effort, and he made it sound like a platoon of drummers.

Gallagher was undoubtedly the star. His stage presence alone, along with his sense of timing, while integrating all this with singing and dancing, put him on the apogee of which there was no perigee.

Kim Carson, her tall angular beauty enhancing her plangent voice, teamed up with Gallagher both in “Shipoopi” and individually on “Till There Was You” with penetrating effect. There was plenty of comedy with Mayor Shinn (Ray DeMattis) and his wife, Eulalie (Jennifer Collester-Tully). His mangling of the English language culminated in (to his wife) “Not one poop out of you!!” to which she responds, “He means peep!” Then there was his incomprehensible simile, “like a buttonhook in a waterbucket.”

Collester-Tully was particularly sharp as the foil … er, wife. The diminutive dynamite of Carlos Gomez as Marcellus was effective as the comic Leporello. Since the setting was 1912, a barbershop quartet was featured, consisting of Richard Costa, Kevin Necciai, Kilty Reidy and Kenny Francoeur. Their really close harmony stood beautifully in contradistinction to the production numbers and solos.

In a well-played child’s part, Shane Anthony McGlone sang “Gary Indiana,” showing great promise. That made-for-the-stage character, portly Burl Ives look-alike Doug Vandewinckel was the lecherous Charlie Cowell. All he needs to do is walk on stage and the character he is playing comes to immediate life.

The ensemble members responsible for all the kudos for dancing were: Larry A. Lozier Jr. (dance captain), Nathan Applegate, Tara Carbone, Karli Dinardo, Danielle Mia Deniz and Chris LeBeau.

The happy coalescence of talent is what made this show a hit. However, talent is not a finished product — it needs coordination, training, rehearsing and support. This is what the Engeman brings together; a host of expertise in the aesthetic dimension with sharp skills in directing, choreography, singing along with those unsung backups like Costume Coordinator Ryan Moller, sound design by Craig Kaufman and lighting design by Cory Pattak. The result: great theatah.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “The Music Man” through May 18. Tickets are $60 to $65. For more information, call 261-2900 or visit engemantheater.com.

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