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.

 

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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.

Broadway World: BWW Reviews: The Engeman’s THE MUSIC MAN

April 3, 2014, by Melissa Giordano

All of the productions at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theatre are a special treat. Their current offering, Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, is certainly no exception. The fantastic production, running through May 18th at the gorgeous Long Island venue, boasts a top notch cast who deliver Broadway caliber performances.

The musical’s story revolves around con man Harold Hill, portrayed delightfully by Rob Gallagher, who pretenses himself as a boy’s band organizer/leader. He sells band instruments, instruction books, and uniforms to the naive Iowa townsfolk, but plans to skip town with their money without giving any music lessons. Mr. Gallagher receives roaring applause particularly with his spirited renditions of “Trouble” and the iconic “76 Trombones”. Additionally, Mr. Gallagher has great chemistry with co-star Kim Carson who portrays prim librarian and piano teacher Marian Paroo.

Perceptive Marian sees right through Harold’s scheme and is initially stand-offish toward the “masher” – we’re in the year 1912 here, folks. However, as Harold begins to help her younger brother – Winthrop, portrayed adorably by Jeffrey Kishinevsky – overcome his lisp and social awkwardness, Marian begins to fall for Harold. Ms. Carson’s strong voice is ideal for the demanding score and makes it a point to interact with pretty much everyone on stage with her. Additionally, she also receives praise from the audience with her stunning performances of “My White Knight” and “Will I Ever Tell You”.

Carlos Lopez is also part of the Igor Goldin directed cast as Harold’s longtime friend Marcellus Washburn. Mr. Lopez was especially fantastic leading a lively performance of “Shipoopi” in Act Two with Mr. Gallagher and the cast. Special kudos also to Nathan Applegate, Richard Costa, Kenny Francaeur, Chris LaBeau, Larry A. Lozier, Jr., Kevin Necciai, Doug Vandewinckel, and Kilty Reidy for a rousing opening number of “Rock Island”. This is a tricky song; you can’t miss a beat in the number and they delivered brilliantly. The rest of the large, talented, enthusiastic cast moves well to Antoinette DiPietropolo’s fun choreography highlighted by the wonderful orchestra headed up by James Olmstead. Ryan Moller’s costumes are stunning as well with a definite throwback feel to them.

As so the Engeman certainly has another hit with The Music Man. Predictable? Perhaps, but this classic from the golden age of theatre is one every theatre enthusiast should see. The Engeman’s incarnation delivers a great cast, wonderfully executed numbers, and, frankly, a smile on your face as you leave the theatre.

The Music Man is presented by the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through May 18th. By Meredith Wilson, Directed by Igor Goldin, Scenic Design by Josh Zangen, Costumes by Ryan Moller, Lighting Design by Cory Pattak, Sound Design by Craig Kaufman, Hair & Make-Up by Kurt Alger, Casting by Stephen DeAngelis, Music Direction by James Olmstead, Choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo, Stage Management by Naomi Anhorn. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photo by Michael DeCristofaro; Kim Carson and Rob Gallagher in the John W. Engeman Theatre’s The Music Man

New York Theatre Guide: Review, ‘The Music Man’

April 2, 2014 by Kristen Weyer

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport presents Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. This beloved classic opened last weekend, and is playing through May 18, 2014. Full of comical characters, enchanting musical numbers, and lively, jovial dance sequences The Music Man is a delight for all ages.
The Music Man follows con-man Harold Hill (Rob Gallagher) as he plans to take in the parents of a small town, River City, Iowa. He promises that in only four weeks, he can transform their sons into a boy’s marching band; though naturally through the purchases of musical instruments, uniforms and instructional booklets. The only problem is Harold doesn’t know the difference between a piano and a piccolo. Despite his musical ignorance, Harold manages to turn the town on its head with his fast talking, and slippery ways. However, not everyone is so easily swayed to believe in Harold’s enticing vision. The town librarian, Marian Paroo (Kim Carson), is also the savvy local piano teacher, who has some serious doubts about the authenticity of Harold’s claims. Meanwhile, Mayor Shinn (Ray DeMattis) and the school board (Richard Costa, Kevin Necciai, Kilty Reidy, and Kenny Francoeur) continually hound after him for credentials, causing Harold to reach deeply into his bag of distracting and humorous tricks. Before Harold can skip town with his collected money, he realizes his flirtations with Marian have turned into something that might be worth staying for.
The quality of this production is wonderful. Every aspect, from the acting and costuming, to the set design, works together for a stunning performance. Many of the actors have performed on Broadway and other stages, and the quality of their performances is noticeable. Even the young, new actors have impressive abilities. Jeffrey Kishinevskiy, one of the boys who plays Winthrop Paroo, shone in his performance of “Gary, Indiana” with a pleasant, clear voice. Rob Gallagher showed tremendous vocal ability and control with his fast paced talk/singing throughout the performance, and the beautiful, clear soprano of Kim Carson was a pleasure to listen to.

‘The Music Man’ is a delight for all ages.

The teenage love story sub-plot, was an added enjoyment to the performance. The workman’s son, Tommy Djilas (Justin Schuman), is in love with the mayor’s daughter Zaneeta Shinn (Heidi Friese), but the mayor only sees a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Take a peek at these two on the sides, even during the main action; they will put a smile on your face.
Marian’s spunky mother Mrs. Paroo (Patti Mariano) was a fantastic character. Her loveable portrayal, combined with humorous wishing for Marian to get married, and incredible Irish accent, made for a memorable performance. Ray DeMattis also deserves commendation on his performance as Mayor Shinn. The humorous, twisted lines were delivered to perfection, and the character’s frustration was palpable.
The six member pit orchestra, conducted by Music Director James Olmstead, provides all the music for the show with stunning success. From “Seventy-Six Trombone”s to “Till There Was You,” the composition comes across in such a way that you believe you are listening to a much larger orchestra. The School Board turned Barbershop Quartet, also benefited from Mr. Olmstead’s direction in impressive a cappella renditions of some of their songs.
A great show depends not only on the acting and singing, but also on the little details that make a show believable. The costumes were time period appropriate, down to the shoes and hair styles. Even minor characters had three costume changes. Different locations were portrayed with rolling set pieces, which also aided in changing the mood on the stage. The dance sequences were wonderful, full of intricate choreography, lively jumps and fast paced twirls. From the opening number to the closing scene, The Music Man will enchant all who attend.
Running Time: 2 ½ hours with a 20 minute intermission.
The Music Man is running at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport from March 27, 2014 – May 18, 2014. Shows are Wednesdays – Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $65, and available at the box office, by phone (631) 261-2900, or online www.engemantheater.com.

NEWSDAY ‘Irving Berlin’s White Christmas’ review: Merry indeed

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, you could do worse than a Vermont ski lodge. But beware. Few things in life are as variable as “Love and the Weather,” as the song goes:

Unpredictable, irresponsible

Unbelievable, unreliable

Ever since the world began

Are Cupid and the weather man

Yet, as with any holiday musical, the final scene of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” — receiving a full-throated reincarnation at Northport’s Engeman Theater — is entirely predictable.

Merry merry rules.

In case you don’t recall the Bing Crosby movies — “Holiday Inn” (1942) and “White Christmas” (1954) — on which the show is based, Bob and Phil, Broadway song-and-dance stars and World War II veterans, wind up on a train to Vermont with a sister act hired for a ski-resort gig. In a coincidence possible only in romantic musicals, the inn is owned by the general who commanded the boys’ division in Europe.

Cautious-in-love Bob, sung by Aaron Ramey with a booming leading-man voice, and Betty, frosty as played by Kennedy Caughell except while singing her torch duet with Bob (“How Deep Is the Ocean”), are paired with ladies’ man Phil (Drew Humphrey) and flirty Judy (Darien Crago), who are hot to fox-trot. They make a nimbly in-tune leading dance couple. (James Olmstead’s brassy orchestra accompanies Humphrey’s choreography.)

The boys conspire to save the general’s deeply unprofitable inn by throwing a Broadway-scale Christmas show and recruiting guys from the old division to fill the seats. But a misunderstanding involving the inn’s busybody concierge (Kathryn Kendall as a former Ethel Merman protege) sends Betty fleeing from Bob’s arms the morning after she was driven into them by a sweet “Count Your Blessings” lullaby he sang to the general’s granddaughter. Adorable Susan is played alternately by Katie Dolce and Claire Levasseur, both 10, while Drew Taylor soldiers on as the grandpa general.

Whenever the plot improbabilities threaten to derail “White Christmas” from its inevitable sing-along — you know the lyrics, don’t you? — director Mark Adam Rampmeyer cuts briskly to a flashy dance number, distracting us with color-coordinated, mid-20th century costumes of Ryan Moller’s design. Jonathan Collins’ rustic set brings to mind a Vermont barn when it isn’t disguised with sequined curtains for the Manhattan scenes.

Partying like it’s 1954 may not sound like a hoot, but at the Engeman, nostalgia brings a smile, and maybe even a tear.

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