Long Islander Review: One Time Not Enough To Witness ‘Once’ At Engeman Theater

The Long Islander
Janee Law
February 1, 2018

The newest show at John W. Engeman Theater in Northport Village is taking audiences overseas, to the streets and green landscapes of Dublin, Ireland.

Starting off in an Irish pub, “Once” warms up the crowd with pre-show melodies of high energy that set the stage for what’s to come.

The tale that follows delivers a captivating love story that follows Dublin street musician Guy (Barry DeBois) and Czech immigrant Girl (Andrea Goss). The couple meets at a time when both their lives have “stopped,” but soon help each other push forward.

The cast delivers the beautiful narrative through acoustic, folksy music and choreography while adding a touch of comedy to the mix.

Together, the relatable characters share an inspirational message of pursuing one’s dreams and the music’s powerful ability to form connections among people.

“Once,” which at Engeman is directed and choreographed by Trey Compton, with musical direction by James Olmstead, and Natalie Malotke as associate director and movement consultant, is an adaption of the eight-time Tony Award-winning feature that rocked Broadway from 2012-2015.

At Engeman, the talented ensemble shows off several skills. Not only does the cast act, sing and dance, but they also play instruments — guitar, drums, violin, piano, bass, cello, accordion, mandolin and viola, just to name a few — live on stage.

Joanne Freiberger, an audience member at last Thursday’s show with her daughter Amelia, said her favorite part was a slow dance during which cast members also play their instruments.

Freiberger, of Huntington, added, “We think the cast was great, a really talented bunch of musicians. It was definitely an exciting and unique theater experience.”

Other highlights of the show include the fittingly-titled “Gold.” For the number, the ensemble fills the stage with a musical brilliance that made audience members yearn for an encore.

“Once” delivers, but with a twist as the reprisal of “Gold” sees the characters put their instruments aside for an acapella rendition.

Musical numbers “If You Want Me,” “Sleeping,” “When Your Mind’s Made Up” and “The Hill” also show off the ensemble’s breathtaking ability to unite through music.

Another audience member, Diane Wilenski, of Centerport, called the production amazing. “This is Broadway in Northport,” she said.

“I think what stands out for me are the two main characters. I liked how down to earth and natural they were,” Wilenski added. “I loved [Girl’s] zest for life and how she kind of brought that out in Guy.”

Goss, who portrays Girl and plays piano in the show, said the character’s energy is a quality she loves to play with. She also finds Girl’s passion for music and need to help others incredible.

Goss’ favorite number to perform changes show-to-show, she said, but last Thursday it was “When Your Mind’s Made Up.”

She continued, “There’s something about the musicality of it when everybody comes in and our minds focus all the energy on Guy. There’s something really special about that.”

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/one-time-not-enough-to-witness-engemans-once

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Smithtown Matters Review: ‘Once’

Smithtown Matters
Jeb Ladouceur
January 30, 2018

In March of 2012 the musical ‘Once’ opened on Broadway and stunned the theatrical world with an astonishing eleven Tony Award nominations … and eight wins! What’s more, those triumphs included Best Musical, and Best Actor. As proof of the fact that ‘Once’ was no flash-in-the-pan, the show also won 2012’s Drama Desk, and Drama Critics’ Circle awards for Outstanding Musical, and followed-up with the Drama League Award, as well as 2013’s Grammy for top Musical Theater Album.

It must have been some post-awards party!

The Boffo (if somewhat oddly-staged) Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová production closed in early 2015, following nearly 1200 performances on the Great White Way. With a simple set that mimics a soddy Irish pub, a rather one-dimensional book, and austere costumes … not to mention a scarcity of memorable songs (the unforgettable ‘Gold’ is the exception) … this show, in which the cast is also the orchestra, is not your typical big town extravaganza. Nor is the average ‘eager boy meets reluctant girl’ plot anything new. This is a ‘Musician’s Musical’ staged in Dublin with the usual ‘leaving home’ Irish plot.

It’s the story of a ‘Guy’ in his 30’s … a Dublin street musician played to near-perfection by Barry DeBois. He’s a singer-songwriter-guitarist by night, and a vacuum cleaner repairman (of all things) during the day, ‘Guy’ has recently been jilted by his iron-willed girlfriend. She’s forsaken him in favor of life in The Big Apple, leaving ‘Guy’ with a broken heart and a determination to forget about his soulful music altogether. He vows henceforth to stick exclusively to his regular job—fixing those kaput vacuum cleaners ‘…the ones that just won’t suck.’

Bidding adieu to the bar where he’s been singing and playing, ‘Guy’ has every intention of leaving his guitar and his sorrow behind in the on-stage pub; the romantic memories associated with the familiar instrument are just too painful to bear. But that’s when a delightful young Czech woman, referred to simply as ‘Girl,’ detects ‘Guy’s’ angst and, having fallen for his musicianship (and his sad tale of woe), ‘Girl’ ultimately reveals that she, too, has a balky vacuum … if ‘Guy’ can fix it, and keep on playing and singing, she’ll play piano accompaniment for him … gratis.

Deal? … okay, the deal is struck … strike up the band … etcetera.

We learn about a kindly banker … a change of heart for ‘Guy’ (and ‘Girl’ as well) … an overhauled Hoover or two … and the compulsory recording company that quickly spots ‘Guy’s’ talent … all fairly predictable, and not unpleasant stuff.

In the capable hands of Director/Choreographer Trey Compton, the Engeman audience is treated to a show that will strike a chord with every musically inclined troubadour (as some of us envision ourselves) … will resonate with anyone who has ever suffered the pangs of unrequited love (ouch!) … and will please the lucky patrons in our midst who have found serendipitous redemption from misfortune when and where they least expected it.

And speaking of serendipity, local theatergoers who never thought they’d be enchanted by a musical featuring such rarities as a soft-hearted financial loan officer (believe that or not), and a cupid-like thirty-something Mom with a daughter named Ivonka (I’m not kidding), are in for a huge surprise. Because thanks primarily to the multi-talented Barry DeBois (The Guy) and Andrea Goss (The Girl), the snazzy Engeman Theatre on Main Street in Northport is likely to keep those plush seats filled for the duration of this play’s fairly long run thru March 4th.

Some might even want to see ‘Once’ … ‘twice!’

Read online: http://www.smithtownmatters.com/long-island-theater/theater-review-once.html

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Village Tattler Review: Once Musical Captivates at Engeman Theater

The Village Tattler
Claudia Wheeler
January 28, 2018

Once more, Engeman Theater in Northport captivates audiences with its latest production of Once in which the cast also serves as the orchestra and a bar is set at center stage. I was truly blown away by the exquisiteness of the music and talent in this very special and unique production. Once runs through March 4, 2018, and if I am able I will see it more than once. It is a must-see theater experience, and when Engeman touts its productions as Broadway on Main Street, they really aren’t kidding; it’s evident with Once. As a ticket holder, you are invited for a drink up at the bar on the stage pre-show or during intermission, which has a delightful way of making you feel like you are part of the production.

Just like the 2007 movie by John Carney, music and lyrics for the musical are by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, including the Academy-Award winning song “Falling Slowly.” The book for the musical was written by Enda Walsh.

The incredible cast (several of whom also performed in Once on Broadway/National Tour) is directed and choreographed by Trey Compton. He has worked at Engeman as the Associate Director of Gypsy, Oklahoma, South Pacific, Twelve Angry Men, The Music Man, Evita, The Producers, West Side Story as well as Off-Broadway productions of YANK! and White’s Lies.

This production of Once, which I had the delight of experiencing on opening night, had the audience enthralled from the very first note on the violin. Winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Once is truly original theater—an atypical and complex love story. It feels more like seeing a live strings concert in a pub (that cozy, personal experience) than traditional musical theater. In the story, the main guy and the main girl connect through music but are bound to other partners. Somehow, despite being from very different worlds, they come together and remind everyone not to give up on your dreams, and that even when life is very complicated, there is still hope.

The cast of Once features Barry Debois as the Guy (National Tour: Once; NYC: The Shape of Things, The Wedding Singer, The Seed of Abraham, Pilgrims of the Night, Deployed; Regional: Midtown Arts Center, Media Theatre, The Armory Theatre, Players Guild Theatre, Cassidy Theatre, Kathleen Howland Theatre, Rivertree Players, Carnation City Theatre) Andrea Goss plays the Girl . Her credits include Broadway: Indecent, Cabaret, Once, Rent; National Tours: Cabaret (Sally Bowles); Regional: Baltimore Center Stage, TUTS, Alliance, McCarter, CTG/Kansas City Rep, North Shore, MUNY, Syracuse Stage; Film: “Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway.”

The amazing ensemble, who play their own instruments on stage, features: Billy Cohen, Annabelle Deaner, Elisabeth Evans, Ryan Halsaver, John Thomas Hays, Stephen Mcintyre, Rachel Mulcahy, Ryan Michael Owens, Terry Palasz, Bristol Pomeroy, Sam Saint Ours, Sophia Lily Tamburo, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman and Lauren Wright.

 

Read online: http://villagetattler.com/2018/01/28/musical-captivates-northports-engeman-theater/

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Observer Review: Three cheers to ‘Once’ at the Engeman

The Observer
David Ambro
January 25, 2018

The name certainly doesn’t define it because I would go see Once at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport again and again…

If you are Irish you’ll love this one. It’s brought out the McCooey in me (my mother’s Irish maiden name).

It is a groundbreaking performance on the Engeman Stage. In its 11th season, Once is the first Engeman show to have all of the music performed on stage, no instrumental accompaniment from the orchestra pit below. Cabaret and Rent had some music on stage, but there was an orchestra as well.

Once is all instruments played by the cast: a handful of acoustic guitars, two violins, three mandolins, an accordion, a cello and a piano. It’s an incredible experience. When some of the instrumentalists aren’t in a scene, they still sit in the wings on stage and provide musical accompaniment and it’s rousing.

Set in a pub in Dublin, Barry DeBois, making his Engeman debut, plays the lead role of Guy, a Hoover vacuum repair man in his father’s shop struggling to become a musician. He is about to hang up his guitar, but then he meets Girl, a Czech immigrant making a new home in Ireland, played by Andrea Goss, a Broadway veteran in Indecent, Cabaret, Once and Rent.

The plot of Once is straightforward, Guy and Girl fall in love but are committed to others, Girl to a husband still in her homeland and Guy to a girlfriend who left Dublin for New York City. Guy is about to give up his music, but Girl encourages him to continue, and he achieves stardom.

Ms. Goss and Mr. DeBois are wonderful together. They are both terrific singers, Ms. Goss even sings with the Czech accent, and she is wonderful on the piano and he is brilliant with an acoustic guitar. And, the ensemble joining them brings Broadway to Northport.

Song after song starts with an instrument or two, DeBois on his guitar, Goss on the piano, or both in duet, then it builds, a violin, then another, the cello, then a mandolin, and soon there are more than a dozen instruments playing together and it is uplifting. And, there are some great little ditties along the way, songs like Falling Slowly, Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy and Abandoned in Bandon.

DeBois shines in a scene where he plays at a live mike night at a local tavern, and in Gold to end Act I he is terrific. And Goss is spirited as she drives the story along. With lines to DeBois such as, “you are such a lovely person. I’m so glad my Hoover was broken,” she is engaging and makes this show fun. And, the cast is one like no other, which brings me to the other groundbreaking element of this show.

Since it is set in a pub, and since they did it on Broadway, the theater opens a half hour early and audience members are invited on stage to buy a pint of beer or a glass of wine. On opening press night Saturday, January 20, Managing Director Kevin O’Neill was the on-stage bartender manning the tap as the entire cast filled the stage and performed an impromptu concert with their instruments, folk songs mainly, with guitars, mandolins, violins and a cello.

That alone makes Once a must-see show at the Engeman, and maybe more than once. It’s like hanging out in the best pub in town with a wonderfully talented group of friends.

This one is fun. Mr DeBois and Ms. Goss are great to watch, and the rest of the cast, which includes Billy Cohen, Annabelle Deaner, Elisabeth Evans, Ryan Halsaver, John Thomas Hays, Stephen McIntyre, Rachel Mulcahy, Ryan Michael Owens, Terry Palasz, Bristol Pomeroy, Sam Saint Ours, Sophia Lily Tamburo, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman and Lauren Wright, really lifts the Engeman to a new level. Bravo.

Once will play through March 4. For tickets call the Engeman at 631-261-2900, order online at engemantheater.com or visit the box office at 250 Main Street in Northport Village.

 

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Times of Huntington-Northport Review: The Engeman delivers a musical and emotional powerhouse with ‘Once’

Times of Huntington-Northport
Melissa Arnold
January 25, 2018

If you’ve ever fallen in love, had your heart broken or faced unfulfilled passion, you’ll relate to “Once.” And even if you haven’t, the cast at the John W. Engeman Theater will still grab your heart and squeeze. The show, which is part of the theater’s 11th season, is both unique and compelling. It’s easy to see why “Once” grossed 11 Tony nominations and eight wins in 2012, its first year on Broadway. The show is a stage adaptation of the 2007 film of the same name that starred Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Both versions were written and directed by John Carney.

Under the direction of the Engeman’s Trey Compton, “Once” begins with a nameless street performer referred to as Guy (Barry Debois) singing a heartbreaking ballad about an ex-girlfriend. A bold and honest young Czech woman (Andrea Goss as Girl) overhears the song and immediately pesters him for the juicy details that inspired it. It turns out that Guy has lost his love of music since his old flame left for New York City. Performing just hurts too much, and he’s ready to throw in the towel on his dreams.

But Girl won’t hear any of that, and she’s convinced that he’d win his love’s heart again if he sang her that song. Their conversation is the beginning of an intensely passionate and emotionally raw week as the two write, rehearse and record songs together.

What makes “Once” stand out is its presentation, which you’ll notice before the show even begins. Get there early and you’ll find the cast on stage in the middle of a rocking pub party, Dublin style. They hoot and holler while they sing, play Irish tunes and dance on tables. The best part is that the audience is invited to go up and join them. The set includes a working bar that offers a single variety of beer, red wine and white wine for $10.

The musical performances in this show are also one of a kind, as there is no stage band providing accompaniment. Instead, each person in the 13-member cast also plays an instrument, and all of the songs are performed from memory, which is beyond impressive. To make it work, chairs are set in a semicircle around the perimeter of the stage. When a character exits a scene, he or she simply takes a seat, fading inconspicuously into the background.

They also function as their own stage crew, dancing and playing brief musical interludes as they carry props on and off the set. It’s a bit hard to describe in words, but the overall effect is visually compelling and speaks to the incredible talent of this cast.

Both Goss and Debois are no strangers to “Once” — she was part of its recent Broadway run, while he was the music captain of the 2016 U.S. national tour. They bring to the show an intense realism you can hear in every note they sing. Guy’s opening number, “Leave,” and Girl’s tearful performance of “The Hill,” will leave you awestruck.

The members of the ensemble, which include “Once” veterans Elisabeth Evans (Reza), John Thomas Hays (Billy), Stephen McIntyre (Bank Manager) and Bristol Pomeroy (Da) among others, are every bit as talented as Debois and Goss. They put out a powerful sound with rich harmonies and tons of energy. During their a cappella performance of “Gold,” you could hear a pin drop in the packed house. The standing ovation during the press night performance last Saturday night was well deserved.

Read online: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/theater-review-engeman-delivers-musical-emotional-powerhouse/

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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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Newsday: ‘Once’ review: Two lonely people make beautiful music together

Newsday
Barbara Schuler
January 23, 2018

The vacuum cleaner isn’t the only thing that’s stuck.

In “Once,” the seductively charming musical that opened last week at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, the same could be said of the characters known only as Guy and Girl, two lost souls who aren’t functioning much better than her broken Hoover.

The Dublin street singer and the Czech immigrant meet as he’s about to abandon his guitar on the sidewalk and give up on his music. She is a lonely pianist, struggling to raise her young daughter with a husband who’s not around. Guy, perhaps a little too conveniently, works in his father’s vacuum repair shop where her promise to pay by playing for him leads to a musical collaboration, a demo tape with major potential and the stirrings of romance.

Andrea Goss, who understudied the role on Broadway, gives Girl a quiet, commanding presence, able to make things happen with but a soft-spoken word. Or a glare. Barry DeBois is less assured as Guy, perhaps because of difficulties with the Irish accent. But both are glorious when singing the pop-folk music of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (stars of the 2007 indie film that the musical is based on), most notably in the haunting “Falling Slowly,” which won the original song Oscar.

Interestingly, while the show is an ode to the power of music (“Ya can’t have a city without music,” says one character), there’s no orchestra. Under Trey Compton’s direction, the actors portraying all the other characters — Girl’s Ma, Guy’s Pa, a ragtag bunch of musicians — double as musicians, playing more than competent guitar, violin, mandolin and the like whenever they’re not speaking. Much of the action takes place in a finely rendered Irish pub (set by Nate Bertone) where the audience is invited to buy a drink and mingle before the play starts.

There’s no happy ending, at least in the traditional sense, to this bittersweet love story, winner of the 2012 best musical Tony. But when tiny Sophia Lily Tamburo, playing Girl’s daughter, fetches a violin and joins in on the show’s last few notes, the message of hope soars with the song.

Read online: https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/once-review-two-lonely-people-make-beautiful-music-together-1.16317180

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The Theatre Guide Review: Once

The Theatre Guide
Kristen Weyer
January 23, 2018

The hit Broadway musical Once is now playing at the John W. Engeman Theater.  With book by Enda Walsh, and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová, Once is the winning recipient of 8 Tony Awards. Directed and choreographed here by Trey Compton, this touching musical will both tug at your heart strings and embolden your courage.  Its dual themes are intertwined into a beautiful, seamless whole as it stresses the importance of love, and refuses to let the fear of failure reign.

We begin in a pub in Dublin, and I really do mean “we” as this show does something very different from others you’ve probably attended.  Before the official start of the performance the actors (who are also the musicians), are having a jam session in the set pub and you the audience are more than welcome to come up on stage, watch, and grab a drink from the on-stage working pub bar.  This unique and uncommon occurrence, aids in setting a wonderfully distinctive feeling to the show.

Nate Bertone’s beautiful and charming set evokes the lush mystique of the Emerald Isle, and the cozy old world feel of the pub.  Once the audience members are in their seats, the cast transitions into the first number and the show begins. We meet a disillusioned musician (brilliantly played by Barry DeBois) who is about to give up and walk away from his guitar forever. However, just before he can actually leave, a beautiful stranger (the fantastic Andrea Goss) approaches him asking about his music and challenging and encouraging him to continue.  As her passion for life, love and music renew his own, we are taken along on their emotional journey.

This show is impeccably performed from every aspect.  As I mentioned earlier, the actors are also the musicians and all of the music for this show is performed live on stage as they are acting.  It is magnificent and very striking.  Their musicality is not alone in impressing however.  Vocal ability is fabulous, characterization superb, and comedic timing spot-on. The characters are both Irish and Czech and the consistent accents are quite pleasing.

Defining Once is quite a challenge, and I think, intentionally.  It is not a comedy, but has many funny moments; it is not a tragedy, and yet has bittersweet moments. A haunting love story to music that will leave you touched, wistful, and yet encouraged.

One word of warning however, don’t go if you’re sleepy.  It is a beautiful and sedate musical, the opening jam session is about as peppy as it gets.

A sweet and mellow tale of love and music, Once is a mosaic of many messages: never leave the doors behind you half ajar, finish what you’ve started, don’t give up, and most importantly don’t be afraid to begin.  An excellent production which should be added to your must-see list at Once.

 

Read online: http://thetheatreguide.com/2018/01/23/once-john-w-engeman-theater/

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