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: 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

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