Broadway World Review

ELF THE MUSICAL at The John W. Engeman Theater At Northport

November 19, 2018
By Anthony Hazzard & Scott Stolzenberg

 

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, we’re telling you why, Buddy the Elf is coming to town! In fact, he just opened an effervescent production of “Elf The Musical” at the John Engeman Theater in Northport.

Based on the charming and popular film starring Will Ferrell, “Elf the Musical” has become the new holiday staple first staged on Broadway, then the Theater at Madison Square Garden, and now popping up everywhere. With swift direction by Matt Kunkel and fizzy choreography by Mara Newbery Greer, the Engeman’s “Elf” is spreading holiday joy and warming every heart.

The experienced Erik Gratton plays Buddy, the elf who accidentally went home with Santa one Christmas Eve and grew up at the North Pole until one day, he sets out for New York City to meet his birth father. Along his journey, he meets many interesting characters, some nicer than others, and just wants to make people happy. So the quirky elf puts syrup on spaghetti and is enthralled with the paper shredder that makes unlimited snow! He means no harm and only wants to be a platinum member of his human family.

Mr. Gratton’s fantastic Buddy takes us along his magical journey with pizazz. Each production number is a spectacle and Mr. Gratton relishes in the Christmas spirit right up to next Christmas. His father Walter Hobbs, played by the great Joe Gately, is definitely a softer soul than James Caan in the movie. Walter learns to love Buddy and reconnect with his distant family.

Broadway veteran Christianne Tisdale is a loving and endearing Emily Hobbs, wife of Walter, stepmother to Buddy, and mother to Michael played by the excellent Zachary Podair. Master Podair has an outstanding singing voice and gives us reason to believe that everything will turn out alright in the end.

Buddy’s love interest Jovie is played by the sweet Caitlin Gallogly who not only supports Buddy but proudly in act two ties up all loose ends. Standout performances include Nicole Hale as the wisecracking secretary, Richard B. Watson as scrooge Mr. Greenway, and Randy Donaldson as the energetic store manager. Other scene stealers include the magnificent Jacob Melssen and Matthew Varvar who appear in various roles throughout the production.

Finally, Gordon Gray is a perfect Santa Claus. How could we give Santa a bad review? He serves as the storyteller and we wish him the same merriment he presented to all of us. All the stellar cast members are fun and fabulous including Lauren Gobes, Trevor Michael Schmidt, Danielle Nigro, AJ Lockhart, Andrew Aaron Berlin, Sophia Deery, Kieran Brown, Tiger Brown, and Halle Mastroberadino. As the holiday season approaches, “Elf The Musical” reminds all of us that family is most important and makes us wish that Buddy the “sparklejollytwinklejingley” Elf was a part of our family!

 

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Broadway World Review

MAN OF LA MANCHA at the John W. Engeman Theatre lead by Janet Dacal, Richard Todd Adams, and Carlos Lopez

September 19, 2018
By Melissa Giordano

BWW Review: MAN OF LA MANCHA at the John W. Engeman Theatre lead by Janet Dacal, Richard Todd Adams, and Carlos Lopez

Northport’s gorgeous John W. Engeman Theatre does it again with a stellar showing of theatre staple Man Of La Mancha, the second show of their dazzling 12th Season. This incarnation of the Tony winner, running through October 28th, is excellently directed by Peter Flynn and boasts an extraordinary cast. Long Island is certainly lucky to have this production lead by Broadway vets Janet DacalRichard Todd Adams, and Carlos Lopez.

The tale follows Cervantes as he puts on “plays” – starring as crazy, old knight Don Quixote – as he and fellow prisoners await their hearings with the Spanish Inquisition. Fellow literary lovers will recognize the musical’s loose adaptation from Dale Wasserman‘s 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote of which was inspired by Miguel de Cervantesand his 17th-century novel Don Quixote. And you will also see that it is a very busy show, so it is best to stay as focused as possible as they flip back and forth between reality and fantasy (the “play”).

Mr. Adams makes a wonderful Cervantes/Don Quixote. The complexity and Mr. Adams‘ delivery of role really draws the audience in. Ms. Dacal masterfully portrays Aldonza (or Dulcinea in the fantasy). Indeed an audience favorite is her emotional performance of “What Does He Want Of Me” in act one and in the reprise of “Dulcinea” in act two. Mr. Lopez is also a standout as Sancho, Cervantes trusty assistant (and Squire in the “play” sequences), providing many “laugh out loud” moments. Overall, the large company is truly brilliant with pretty much everyone taking on multiple roles between the dungeon scenes and the “play”.

On Mr. Flynn’s creative team, Michael Bottari & Ronald Case design the superb set for the Long Island venue. An elevated, large stair case majestically falls to the prisoners below with the rest of the gloomy stage filled with a cinder block look. This is chillingly enhanced with Kurt Alger‘s clever costumes and Don Hanna’s sound design. Special kudos also to Alan C. Edwards for the top-notch lighting design especially for the “Knight of the Mirrors” number featuring the most amazing Knight costume. And, of course, it is always a treat to see a live orchestra. Headed up by Julianne B. Merrill, the band is flawless as they perform the iconic score.

And so, Man Of La Mancha is certainly another hit for Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theatre. An outstanding cast and the stunning John W. Engeman Theatre make for a magnificent night of theatre.

 

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Broadway World Review

NEWSIES Reigns ‘King of New York’ at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport

July 27, 2018
By Jaime Zahl

The second act of Disney’s “Newsies” opens with a show-stopping number titled “King of New York,” in which the Newsies celebrate their newfound celebrity in the press. The cast and production team of the John W. Engeman Theater’s stunning production have equal reason to celebrate. Bringing to life a spectacle of pure entertainment, they earn the title of “King of New York” – or Long Island, rather.

The musical began as a venture at The Papermill Playhouse, featuring emerging talents such as Jeremy JordanBen Fankhauser and Kara Lindsay. When the Broadway run was announced, Mr. Fankhauser – who originated the role of Davey- recalled in an interview that it was meant to be a limited run of approximately 100 performances. No one anticipated the cult following that would emerge, with self-proclaimed “Fansies” making their pilgrimage to New York City to see the musical adaptation of the live-action Disney musical film that captured their imaginations in 1992 and the years to follow.

It’s fitting that the musical has now become a regional theatre favorite, giving those “Fansies” the opportunity to see the show in their own towns. Engeman’s production may be the first of “Newsies” on Long Island, but it certainly won’t be the last.

The remarkable magic of Engeman’s production is that it cleverly combines the lively expanded and revised score and new book of the Broadway production with the delightful campiness of the 1992 film while also tossing in a few original strokes of creativity.

Set in 1899, the musical – based on actual events – tells the story of Manhattan newsboys facing off against newspaper giant Joseph Pulitzer after he raises the cost of selling “papes.”

BWW Review: NEWSIES Reigns 'King of New York' at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport
Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly

Leading the charge is Dan Tracy as the charismatic Jack Kelly. While many fans will find it hard to put Jeremy Jordan‘s tour de force in the Broadway incarnation out of their minds, Mr. Tracy shapes his own interpretation of the character with a balance of wise cracking charm and fighting spirit. Although it is clear his talents as an actor outshine his vocal abilities, Mr. Tracy still gives each number his all – especially in the conclusion of Act II with the powerful “Santa Fe.”

By his side is newcomer and brains of the newsboy strike Davey (Mike Cefalo), Davey’s young brother Les (Zachary Podair), and the tragically innocent handicap Crutchie (Nick Martinez.)

Mike Cefalo plays Davey with true vitality and provides some of the strongest vocals in the show, highlighted in the crowd pleasing “Seize the Day.”

While Mr. Podair’s Les certainly has pep and shows his promise as a performer, the character is written with such an overindulgence of cute that his presence becomes more of a hindrance than an asset.

BWW Review: NEWSIES Reigns 'King of New York' at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport
Nick Martinez as Crutchie

Meanwhile, Mr. Martinez comes close to stealing the show with his palpable vulnerability and wide-eyed hopefulness. His song “Letter From the Refuge,” written for the national tour and cemented in regional and community productions, is truly heartwrenching.

Fans of the film may not remember the character of Katherine Plumber, the plucky reporter covering the strike for The New York Sun. A hybrid of reporter Bill Pullman and Davey’s sister from the film, she provides a voice for the newsies in the headlines while also serving as a love interest for Jack. Whitney Winfield is perfectly suited for the role, shining brightly in “Watch What Happens,” a reporter’s anthem for writer’s block.

BWW Review: NEWSIES Reigns 'King of New York' at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport
Whitney Winfield as Katherine Plumber

Rounding out the cast is none other than Mr. Joseph Pulitzer himself, played menacingly by Tom Lucca in a brilliant, timely display of power thirsting authority. The musical also features the impressive Allyson Kaye Daniel as vaudeville songstress turned motherly mentor for the newsies.

However, audiences will likely remember the production for the sheer athleticism and skill exhibited by the chorus of newsboys. Although one could argue there are one too many choreographed reprises of the opening song “Carrying the Banner,” each and every leap, turn and backflip is awe-inspiring.

This is especially true in “King of New York.” Although originally presented as a tap number, choreographer Sandalio Alvarez breathes new life into the scene with dance breaks featuring Stomp-like moves with spoons and pots and pans.

The entire creative team is top-notch with both beautiful and movement-friendly period costumes by Kurt Alger and the impressive technical execution of Zach Blane‘s lighting design and Laura Shubert‘s sound design.

Additionally, scenic designer DT Willis has created a jungle-gym of rooftops and fire escapes to bring turn-of-the-century Manhattan to life on stage, bringing Igor Goldin‘s vision to life and complimenting his staging.

While Newsies may not be a profound experience for the high-brow set looking for the next “The Band’s Visit,” it is certainly a romping good time. Engeman’s production will surely ignite a repeat of opening night’s thunderous standing ovation for its entire run.

 

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Broadway World Review

The Classic SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN at The Engeman

May 23, 2018
By Melissa Giordano

Singin’ In The Rain, the classic Tony nominated musical based on the wildly famous MGM film, is certainly a must see among theatre attendees. With a Screenplay by Betty Comden & Adolph Greene and Music by Naico Herb Brown & Arthur Freedes, the incarnation at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theatre will surely have you leaving the theatre with a smile. Running through July 1st, closing out the Engeman’s dazzling 11th season, the delightful incarnation is strongly directed by Engeman vet Drew Humphrey.

The story, set in the 1920’s, follows silent film star Don Lockwood, charmingly portrayed by Danny Gardner, who barely tolerates his annoying and meddlesome “leading lady”, Lina Lamont, hilariously portrayed by Emily Stockdale. Laughter abounds throughout the show and we also see a budding relationship between Don and up-and-coming actress Kathy Selden, portrayed beautifully by Tessa Grady.

Mr. Gardner honors the Gene Kelly role well while truly making it his own. A great voice and classic look make him a natural for the part. Additionally, his fantastic rendition of the iconic “Singin’ In The Rain”, complete with sheets of rain coming down from the rafters, practically receives a standing ovation from the enthusiastic, sold out audience. As for Ms. Stockdale, her performance brings roars of laughter. While gorgeous for the big screen, Lina Lamont’s speaking – and signing – voice is less than desirable making her, shall we say, perfect for silent films.

And Ms. Grady is a fine Kathy. A quiet confidence and sass serves the role well. Indeed an audience favorite is her exquisite rendition of “You Are My Lucky Star” in addition to the well-known “Good Morning” with Mr. Gardner and and Brian Shepard who portrays Cosmo, Don’s best friend. Mr. Shepard is excellent as Cosmo who also serves as the fictional movie studio’s head musician. He and Mr. Gardner did some incredible tap numbers including “Moses” in Act One and “Broadway Melody” in Act Two.

In addition to the outstanding cast, the musical direction is superbly done by Jonathan Brenner leading a fantastic live orchestra with Kurt Alger‘s gorgeous costumes enhancing the visually stunning production. Yellow colored rain coats and umbrellas adorned the cast for the big final number and it is apparent that everyone in the company is enjoying Mr. Humphrey’s energetic choreography. As you can see, everyone on the cast and creative team is truly top-notch.

Indeed, you will be happily singin’ in any type of weather once you’ve seen this production. A wonderful cast, gripping story, and Long Island’s fabulous John W. Engeman Theatre prove a classic never goes out of style.

 

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Broadway World Review

IN THE HEIGHTS at The Engeman

By Melissa Giordano
March 21, 2018

When I attended the Broadway incarnation of In the Heights, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Accordingly, when they announced their current season, I had the utmost confidence that the showing at the gorgeous John W. Engeman Theatre was going to be just as stellar. Being The Engeman, I was proven right. The wonderful production runs through April 29th at the Northport venue masterfully directed by Paul Stancato.

The Best Musical Tony winner, conceived and scored by multiple Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda with the book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, tells the tale about the historic Washington Heights community in New York City. Explored are the people, the culture, and what it is like to live in the area. Several stories weave throughout the show that, at its heart, is about people simply trying to navigate life.

Excellently leading the cast as bodega owner Usnavi – Mr. Miranda’s role from the Broadway showing – is Spiro Marcos in his Engeman début. Mr. Marcos receives roaring applause and laughs for his natural wit and first-rate renditions of “96,000” and the show’s title number with the company. Also, Mr. Marcos’ performance of “Hundreds Of Stories” with Tami Dahbura, portraying Abuela Claudia, the town grandmother, is truly endearing and an audience favorite.

Also a highlight among the amazing cast (and in another Engeman début) is Cherry Torres who is terrific as Nina, a college student who has returned to the neighborhood. Nina’s passion to make sure she makes her parents proud, yet standing up for herself under the pressure, is relatable and Ms. Torres delivers admirably. Also enjoyable is Iliana Garcia – in yet another Engeman début – as salon worker Carla. Carla is a sweet and well-meaning woman, but, shall we say, a little slow and Ms. Garcia brings many laughs in addition to being a stand-out in many of the dance numbers.

In truth, I could go on and on about the brilliant cast, but I’ll sum up by saying that I could possibly see several of them in the Broadway production had it run longer.

On the creative team, the set, designed by Christopher Ash, is stunning and seemingly captures well the spirit of the Washington Heights community. Usnavi’s bodega, the salon, and the car service that Nina’s father owns are included as well as fire escapes above the bodega and car service. This is enhanced beautifully by John Burkland‘s lighting design and Christopher Vergara‘s costume design. Sandalio Alvarez’s choreography is also top-notch and well accompanies the score filled with hip-hop, salsa, merengue, and reggaeton which is performed by a thrilling live orchestra headed up by Music Director Alec Bart.

And so, In the Heights at The John W. Engeman Theatre is incredibly entertaining with an absolutely remarkable cast. This heartfelt story and well executed show make for a thrilling night of theatre.

 

Read at Broadwayworld.com

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Broadway World Review: ONCE at the John W. Engeman Theater

Broadway World
Melissa Giordano
January 24, 2018

One thing is certain: Northport’s stunning John W. Engeman Theatre never disappoints. This especially with their latest offering of the eight-time Tony winning musical Once. The absolutely exquisite incarnation, running through March 4th, is outstandingly directed by Trey Compton and boasts an incredibly gifted and beautiful cast.

Based on the 2007 movie, the story centers on a woman and a man (not officially named in the show) who, besides instant attraction, are drawn to each other by music. However, it is a complicated and heart-tugging situation.

Broadway vet Andrea Goss superbly portrays the woman, a young Czech mother in Dublin, Ireland. Indeed an audience favorite is her moving rendition of “The Hill” in act two. Ms. Goss and a charming Barry DeBois, who portrays the man, make a sensational team. His torment in choosing what do to – rekindling his romance with his longtime girlfriend who recently moved to New York or stay with his new found love – is well exude by Mr. DeBois. To really feel their journey, pay extra close attention to the gorgeous score by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová who are also the stars of the movie version.

The whole cast are also musicians even serving as what would be the orchestra in addition to their speaking parts. Ms. Goss on the piano, Mr. DeBois on the guitar, and there are drums, percussion, strings… it’s thrilling to see, really.

As for the set, a bar is the centerpiece. Several chairs are moved around consistently so when the cast is not “on stage”, they take a seat on the side. Also, before the show and during intermission, it is a working bar serving drinks to patrons while the cast performs. It adds immeasurably to the show when it is engaging and the audience is respectful. And above the bar section is a – if, perhaps, a little juvenile looking – hill where our leading players have a powerful conversation. The visually alluring show is strikingly enhanced by Mr. Compton’s choreography and Cory Pattak’s lighting design.

And so, Once is undoubtedly a must see for this season. An extraordinarily affecting story and a remarkable cast make for a great night of theatre.

Read online: https://www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Review-ONCE-at-the-John-W-Engeman-Theatre-20180124#

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Broadway World Review: ANNIE at The Engeman

Broadway World
Melissa Giordano
November 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

September 20, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Broadway World Review: GREASE at John Engeman Theater

Broadway World

July 16, 2017

Anthony Hazzard & Scott Stolzenberg

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Broadway World Review: RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S OKLAHOMA!

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

May 17, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Broadway World Review: JEKYLL & HYDE at the Engeman

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

March 22, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Broadway World

January 25, 2017

Melissa Giordano

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Broadway World

November 30, 2016

Melissa Giordano

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Broadway World Review: The Engeman’s 1776

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

September 28, 2016

 

In seeing the Tony winning Sherman Edwards/Peter Stone musical 1776, we get an interesting account of the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration Of Independence. It is actually uncanny – and kind of funny – how this story still resonates today; petty arguing amongst congress and how divided “leaders” can be are emphasized in this production. Obviously we’ve come far since then but, at the same time, it seems not far at all.

Running through November 6th at Northport’s dazzling John W. Engeman Theater, the largeIgor Goldin directed cast is headed up strongly by Broadway vet Jamie LaVerdiere excellently portraying John Adams. The tale centers on Adams’ efforts to convince his colleagues in Congress that the thirteen colonies should declare independence. This proves to be a challenging fete as his reputation as a nuisance – to say the least – precedes him; for the first number of the show, the cast sings to him “For God’s Sake, John, Sit Down”.

The entire cast is truly extraordinary. Highlights include David Studwell who makes a wonderfulBenjamin Franklin and Michael Glavan who is superb as Thomas Jefferson. Additionally, an audience favorite is indeed a charming Jon Reinhold as Richard Henry Lee who gives a spirited performance of “The Lee’s Of Old Virginia”. And Jennifer Hope Wills, another Broadway alum portraying supportive wife AbiGail Adams, gives a stunning performance of “Yours, Yours, Yours” with Mr. LaVerdiere. And special kudos to Matthew Rafanelli, portraying the Courier, whose rendition of “Momma Look Sharp” leaves the audience in tears.

As for Mr. Goldin’s top-notch creative team, Stephen Dobay‘s set is outstanding. Majestic Greenish/Greyish walls encompass the stage with several tables for each delegation. The President Of Congress, John Handcock portrayed by Tom Lucca, presides on an elevated platform and above him is a tall board which indicates how each delegation has voted. This is enhanced cleverly by Cory Pattak‘s lighting design and Kurt Alger’s costumes.

And so, 1776 is indeed another hit for the John W. Engeman Theatre’s electrifying 10th season. A stellar, Broadway caliber cast and fascinating story make for a wonderful night of theatre.

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1776 is presented by the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through November 6th. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (631) 261-2900or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Score by Sherman Edwards, Book by Peter Stone, Directed by Igor Goldin (Off-Broadway:YANK!, With Glee, A Ritual of Faith, Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice, Crossing Swords), Musical Direction by Eric Alsford (National Tours: Nunsense, Mamma Mia!, Off-Broadway:That’s Life, I Love You You’re Perfect…, Naked Boys Singing.), Scenic Design by Stephen Dobay, Costume & Wig Design by Kurt Alger, Lighting Design by Cory Pattak, Sound Design by Laura Shubert, Casting by Gayle Seay & Scott Wojcik of Wojcik/Seay Casting, Props Design byKristie Moschetta, Stage Management by Sean Francis Patrick

Starring Jamie LaVerdiere (Broadway: The Producers, The Pirate Queen, Motown), David Studwell (Off Broadway: Applause! NY City Center Encores!), Michael Glavan, Benjamin Howes(Broadway: Scandalous, Mary Poppins), Tom Lucca, Jon Reinhold, Peter Saide, Jennifer Hope Wills (Broadway: Phantom of the Opera, Wonderful Town, The Woman in White, Beauty and the Beast), Robert Budnick, Jim DiMunno, Christopher Wynne Duffy, Gordon Gray, Andrew Hendrick, Kevin Robert Kelly, Philip Paul Kelly, Leer Leary, Rick Malone, Adriana Milbrath, Wayne J. Miller, Jake Mills, Adam Mosebach, Matthew Rafanelli, James D. Schultz, Stephen Valenti, and Doug Vandewinkel.

 

Read online: www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Review-The-Engemans-1776

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