The Long Islander Review

You Gotta Love ‘Elf, The Musical’

November 29, 2018
By: Sophia Ricco

It’s certainly true that “the best way to spread holiday cheer, is to sing it loud for all to hear”, which is exactly what the cast of Elf: The Musical did.

The beloved holiday film hit the stage of the John W. Engeman Theater to the delight of kids of all ages. With catchy original songs, intricate choreography and many famous quotes from the movie, the musical could put anybody in the holiday spirit, including audience member, Michele Donaldson who came all the way from Connecticut for the performance.

“It was amazing,” Donaldson said. “I thought it was definitely full of Christmas cheer, something we all need nowadays.”

Based on the 2003 holiday hit movie, Elf starring Will Ferrell, the 2010 musical found major success on Broadway. It tells the story of Buddy the Elf, a human orphan boy who crawls into Santa’s bag and is taken back to the North Pole, where he is raised by the elves.

In search of his father, Buddy travels to New York City where he encounters a world without holiday cheer and a father who never knew he was born. His adventures in the city are comical and accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack. No one could deny there was something magical happening on stage during “Sparklejollytwinklejingley,” “A Christmas Song” and “The Story of Buddy the Elf.”

“It was very good, I liked it,” audience member Peter Bono, of Northport, said. “They’re very talented people. It started off a little slow, but then as you got to know the cast it was great.”

This holiday production is directed by Matt Kunkel and choreographed by Mara Newbery Greer. The skilled cast didn’t miss a beat and performed sophiscated choreography that involved lifts, tap dancing and even ice skating. During the song, “Nobody Cares About Santa,” Santas of all kinds find camaraderie on Christmas Eve in a tap dancing number that makes you want to get out of your seat and dance along.

“I thought it was right on target. It was super fun and full of talent,” Donaldson said.

Buddy the Elf is played by Erik Gratton, the perfect fit for the jolly elf with a huge heart and little common sense. His rendition of Buddy, a character so many know and love from the original movie, is spot on.

There is no shortage of laughs during the production as Buddy makes his way around the city, bumbling around with a smile on his face the whole time.

“My favorite part was the whimsical nature of the show,” Donaldson said. “Just how nieve and happy Buddy was, I think we should all be that way.”

The rest of the cast were also sensational, and each had their moment in the spotlight.

Buddy’s love interest Jovie, played by Caitlin Gallogly, stole the show with her vocals in “Never Fall in Love”. The rest of Buddy’s family, Walter Hobbs, performed by Joe Gately, Emily Hobbs by Christianne Tisdale, and Michael Hobbs, by Zachary Podiar, each have their heartwarming moments that gave the show a touch of humanity.

 

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The Long Islander Review

‘Newsies’ – A Tale For The Times At Engeman Theater

August 2, 2018
By Janee Law

Engeman Theater’s newest production, “Newsies,” is filled with passion, inspiration and energy.

Last Thursday night at the Northport Village theater, Woodmere resident Tina Millman was among an audience that was captivated from start to finish. “I think they did a nice job with the scenery, everyone had a terrific voice and the dancing was great.”

The production takes the audience to lower Manhattan and back in time to the newsboys’ strike of 1899. The story follows charismatic newsboy Jack Kelly (portrayed by Dan Tracy), the strong and courageous leader of a ragged band of teenaged ‘newsies.’

“Newsies” is based on a 1992 Disney film of the same name that was written by Bob Tzudliker and Noni White.

Engeman’s production is directed by Igor Goldin and choreographed by Sandalio Alvarez. It features a score by eight-time Academy Award-winner Alan Menken and Jack Feldman that includes powerful numbers like “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “King of New York” and “Santa Fe.”

Last week’s performance had many in the audience grinning ear-to-ear from the start. “Carrying the Banner” sets the tone early on in the show’s runtime, delivering a number that’s action-packed and lively, and that gives the audience a taste of the high-energy performances to come.

Engeman’s ensemble takes things up a notch with exciting dance number “Seize the Day,” to which the crowd couldn’t help but clap along to.

Unlike the film, the musical takes a different approach to the role of the reporter by casting a woman, Whitney Winfield, who portrays Katherine. Winfield’s portrayal of the character is mesmerizing. She delivers a strong and empowering message regarding a woman’s drive to break into a male-dominated field in “Watch What Happens.”

Her journey parallels that of male lead, Jack Kelly, as both characters take a stand against an unjust society and fight for their dreams.
Audience member Alice Tibbert, of Queens, said after the show the two characters were her favorite, praising their chemistry and love story.

Tibbert also noted her satisfaction with the production, adding, “It was full of action, had fantastic dancing, and the songs were great.”
Tracy said after the show that Jack Kelly’s journey is inspirational.

“Jack is the leader, but I don’t think he sees himself as that, he’s like the glue,” Tracy said. “I think the cool part about the show is the journey he takes from a kid who doesn’t know how important he is to a man who understands that he has a voice and can make an impact in the world.”
Tracy added that “Santa Fe” is his favorite number to perform, but also enjoys “The World Will Know” and “Seize the Day,” during which the cast comes together and unites as a powerful front.

“That type of stuff with all the boys is so fun, and I think that a lot of the kids in this ensemble are going to be on Broadway very soon,” he said. “This cast is worth seeing.”

 

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The Long Islander Review

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ Makes Big Splash at Engeman Theater

May 31, 2018
By Janee Law

Engeman Theater’s latest production is making a big splash with audiences.

The May 19 showing of the Northport Village theater’s “Singin’ in the Rain” production, with its high-energy tap-dancing numbers and comedic performances, was met with a standing ovation.

Audience member Lisa Malaszczyk, of Garden City, called it “pure fun” and praised its spectacular dance numbers.

Engeman’s production is directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey, with musical direction by Jonathan Brenner.

The production is an adaptation of the hit 1952 musical film of the same name, a romantic comedy that starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor and Jean Hagen.

Mirroring that of the film, the ensemble for Engeman’s production is talented and agile, producing lively tap dancing sequences that had audience members beaming with delight from start to finish.

Danny Gardner portrays the charismatic Don Lockwood and is unforgettable and alluring in the role, embodying a young Gene Kelly, who played the character in the film.

Gardner’s solo performance of title number “Singin’ in the Rain” dazzles as he passionately taps across the stage, making a splash in the process, while showing off his huge grin.

The number went over swimmingly with audience member Skip Laisure, of Garden City, who called it his favorite number of the night. “There was real rain on the stage. You don’t see that all the time,” he said.

Along with “Singin’ in the Rain,” tap dancing numbers “Fit as a Fiddle,” “Moses Supposes” and “Good Mornin’” kept audience members’ eyes glued to the stage.

Along with Gardner’s, mesmerizing performances are dealt out by Tessa Grady, who plays the charming and feisty Kathy Selden; and Brian Shepard, who depicts the energetic and comical Cosmo Brown.

Laughter intensified whenever Emily Stockdale walked on stage, as her high-pitched voice and spot-on portrayal of Lina Lamont had the audience howling throughout the show.

The fun-filled dance number “Good Mornin’” sees Gardner, Grady and Shepard take the stage together, and the trio’s chemistry is alluring.

The number is Shepard’s favorite, he said after the show, praising his fellow cast members.

For Shepard, performing in the show is a personal accomplishment, he said, as it was the 1952 film that first inspired him to join the entertainment industry.

“I saw ‘Singin in the Rain’ when I was 12 years old and it ultimately was the reason why I went and took a dance class,” Shepard said. “I was obsessed with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner, I wanted to be those guys.”

As Cosmo, who was played by O’Conner in the film, Shepard tackles song-and-dance routine “Make ’Em Laugh,” a high-energy and hysterically-exhausting performance in which he performs several stunts and gags to incite laughs from the crowd.

On the role as a whole, he said, “It’s interesting finding the right balance of clowning, zaniness and being truthful. That’s what’s fun for me and maybe a little bit challenging, trying to stay real and stay really heightened, while emulating Donald O’Connor.”

Performances of “Singin in the Rain” continue at the 250 Main St. theater in Northport Village each Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 p.m.; through July 1. There are also select Wednesday, 8 p.m. and Sunday, 7 p.m. shows.

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Long Islander Review: Northport Heads West With ‘Oklahoma!’

The Long Islander

Janee Law

May 22, 2017

 

John W. Engeman Theater’s “Oklahoma!” delivered a strong cast, catchy tap dancing, beautiful melodies and fits of both comedy and drama that kept the audience laughing and singing along Thursday night in Northport Village.

Audience member Abbey Slawitsky, of Central Islip, said loved both the cast and set designs.

She added, “I loved the costumes and I thought the orchestra was really great too. A lot of people don’t even notice that.”

“Oklahoma!” set the standard for all future musicals by incorporating music, lyrics and dance numbers into a well-crafted story. It follows two sets of love triangles amid a high-spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys in the Indian territory of Oklahoma.

Engeman’s production is produced by Richard T. Dolce, producing artistic director; directed by Igor Goldin; and choreographed by Drew Humphrey.

The cast is led by Bryant Martin (as Curly), Kaitlyn Davidson (as Laurey) and Nathaniel Hackmann (as Jud Fry). Supporting cast members include Jane Blass (as Aunt Eller), Chris Brand (as Will Parker), Brianne Kennedy (as Ado Annie Carnes) and Danny Gardner (as Ali Hakim).

Blass delivers authenticity to the story, while Hackmann delivers intense drama, and Gardner never fails to draw laughs whenever he’s onstage.

The intense love triangle between the three lead characters, Curly, Laurey and Jud, continues to grow throughout the production. However it’s balanced out by another, comedic love triangle between Will Parker, Ado Annie Carnes and Ali Hakim.

One of the most memorable scenes in the production is “Out of My Dreams-Ballet.” The cast takes audience members on a journey through Laurey’s subconscious that’s topped off with an intense, romantic dance number.

Although this isn’t his first “Oklahoma!” production, Brand said this is his first time playing a lead role in the play. He added that Engeman’s “Kansas City” number, which delivers a high-energy tap dancing, is his favorite to perform.

“I always love singing ‘Oklahoma,’ but this is maybe my favorite ‘Kansas City’ that I’ve seen or heard,” he said. “The guys are great dancers, the choreography is really great and it tells the story clearly. It’s just fun to feel something come together organically.”

When putting the play together, Brand said, the creative team was focused on “telling an honest, real and entertaining story to make these characters relatable and real people.”

“That’s been a really good experience,” he added.

“Oklahoma!” is showing Wednesdays, Thursdays, and 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 ($71-$76) are available at the 250 Main St. box office or Engemantheater.com.

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/northport-heads-west-with-oklahoma

The Long Islander: Huge Support Voiced For Inn Plan

May 18, 2017

By Janee Law

jlaw@longislandergroup.com

Northport Village Hall was packed Tuesday night with supporters, and at least one dissenter, of a plan to bring a boutique inn to Main Street.

The support was voiced during a public hearing on a proposal made by trustees to add a “Hotel/Inn” designation to village code, paving the way for the plan to move forward. Trustees are waiting on county and village planning department approval before voting on the change.

In the meantime, Trustee Ian Milligan said he wasn’t surprised by the support.

“I think that people really want this, and we certainly need it, but we also definitely need to listen to the concerns of neighbors,” Milligan said. “We have to weigh that out.”

This inn is planned by John W. Engeman Theater co-owners Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce, who proposed the three-story Northport Village Inn in February. They want to build it at 255 Main St. in the building that was formerly Danyell’s Kitchen, footsteps away from their theater.

Milligan added, The “key is that someone’s willing to put such a huge investment to help build the infrastructure of the village. You have to recognize that as a positive.”

The proposed multi-million-dollar inn would span around 22,000 square feet. Along with 22-24 guest rooms across the two upper floors, they also want to have space for a restaurant on the first floor.

O’Neill said after the hearing that he was pleased with the warm reception. He said he thinks residents are in support of it because of the lack of lodging in the village.

“I’m very satisfied,” he said. “It sounds very well received.”

Kevin Lawlor, a Lisa Drive resident, one of 21 people to voice support during the public hearing, said he thinks the inn would “be a boon to this town.”

“I do think the place needs a facelift,” Lawler added. “It will be a boon to the establishments, the businesses that are in this town and it’ll put us on the map.”

Bruce Adams, an Ocean Avenue resident, said he’s thrilled with the plan.

“When you want to put people up, it is alwaysvery difficult to find a decent hotel,” Adams said. “We’ve had hotels here in the past, but they were all torn down and there’s still a need.”

An opponent of the proposal, JoAnne Hall, said she thinks the inn would bring more congestion to the village.

“There is no parking here at all. People park on my street and I can’t get out of my driveway,” Hall, of Woodbine Avenue, said. “There’s going to be additional traffic on that street and noise with people coming up the hill and coming down the hill… It’s a reality. I think the idea is lovely, but not for here.”

The focus of Tuesday’s hearing was a local law that would allow a business owners to operate their building, so long as it is smaller than 12,000 square feet, as a hotel or inn with sleeping accommodations for paying, transient customers.

The proposal would also allow such buildings to house a bar and restaurant, and other typical hotel features, such as a spa.

Northport officials will send two draft zoning resolutions, one to the Suffolk County Planning Commission and the other to the Northport Village Planning Board, before scheduling a vote.

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/the-long-islander-archives/huge-support-voiced-for-inn-plan

The Long Islander: Engeman Owners Unveil Parking Plan For Inn

April 20, 2017

Long Islander News photo/Janee Law Kevin J. O’Neill, co-owner and managing director of the John W. Engeman Theater, presenting the tentative parking plan for a proposed three-story Inn to be built on Main Street in Northport Village.
LONG ISLANDER NEWS PHOTO/JANEE LAW KEVIN J. O’NEILL, CO-OWNER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE JOHN W. ENGEMAN THEATER, PRESENTING THE TENTATIVE PARKING PLAN FOR A PROPOSED THREE-STORY INN TO BE BUILT ON MAIN STREET IN NORTHPORT VILLAGE.

By Janee Law
jlaw@longislandergroup.com

Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce, co-owners of the John W. Engeman Theater, presented the tentative parking plan for their proposed three-story, Northport Village inn at Tuesday’s trustee meeting.

The plan calls for a total of 54 parking spaces — 30 of which will be new — across two Woodside Avenue lots, which will be expanded and renovated as part of the plan. The lots sit behind the 225 Main St. plot eyed, up on the hill along Woodside.

O’Neill and Dolce, managing director and producing artistic director of Engeman Theater respectively, plan to expand the two parking lots 15 feet to the east into a wooded area. O’Neill said they also plan to take the lower lot and move it back while moving the upper lot forward so that is upper lot is suspended over the other. There will be separate entrances for both lots, avoiding the need for a ramp between the two, which O’Neill said would take up parking spaces.

In addition to renovating the parking lots, O’Neill said he will also help resolve the rapids in Northport by installing drainage and dry wells under the lower lot to catch water coming down from the upper lot, preventing roof water from running onto Main Street.

In January 2016, both O’Neill and Dolce bought the building, which is across the street and few steps west of their theater.

A rendering of the proposed inn depicts it as a three-story building that would total approximately 22,000 square feet, O’Neill said. Dubbed as The Northport Inn, the building was inspired by The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, he added.

The multimillion-dollar project also calls for restaurant on the first floor. The upper floors would be a mix of around 22-24 rooms, and would also have some office space for management.

Dorothy Walsh, Northport resident and recording secretary for the Northport Chamber of Commerce, read a statement from members of the chamber at Tuesday’s trustee meeting.

“We receive calls all the time from residents and out of towners looking for accommodations for their friends and relatives, visiting for weddings and other events. Unfortunately, we have to suggest accommodations far from Northport,” Walsh said. “Kevin and Richard have certainly demonstrated in the past their concern for the quality of life in the village and have brought such a beautiful venue in the John W. Engeman Theater on Main Street. The Northport Chamber of Commerce wholeheartedly supports their project.”

Village officials are currently mulling a proposal to alter village code to allow for the land to be used for the inn. They plan to propose the resolution at their May 2 meeting, and will set a public hearing on it May 16.

If approved, O’Neill said, he’d like to break ground in October. Since they haven’t gone into detail with planning, he added, O’Neill wouldn’t be surprised if the project is pushed to the start of 2018.

In the meantime, he said, “The mayor and the trustees have all been very receptive to the concept and we’re happy to provide them with whatever they need to continue to make this project advance.”

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/the-long-islander-archives/engeman-owners-unveil-parking-plan-for-inn/

The Long Islander: Engeman Owners Plans Main Street Inn

March 02, 2017
By Janee Law

jlaw@longislandergroup.com

A rendering by Hoffman Grayson Architects, LLP, pictures the development of a proposed three-story inn on Main Street in Northport Village.

The minds behind Northport Village’s John W. Engeman Theater unveiled last week plans to create an inn with a restaurant on Main Street in the village.

Owners Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce, managing director and producing artistic director of the theater respectively, presented the plan to Northport Village trustees during their Feb. 21 public meeting.

Plans call to take over 225 Main St., across the street and a few steps west of the theater, which was previously home to now-closed Danyell’s Kitchen and is now used for office space.

“It’s a very unique piece of property and it offers the ability to provide onsite parking,” O’Neill said in an interview Tuesday. He did not specify how many parking spaces could be provided. “The concept is to develop this building into a beautiful inn with a restaurant.”

The building currently scales the hill along Woodside Avenue and has half of a Dutch Colonial home peeking out its top.

“That house is just sticking out of the top of the rectangular roof — it’s cut off at the waist, basically. It’s in disrepair,” O’Neill said, adding that he wants to “renovate this building in a serious way.”

Northport Village Trustee Ian Milligan said Wednesday that the inn would be a good addition to the village.

“Years ago, there were many hotels in Northport, so I don’t think that it’s not in keeping with the feel of the village,” Milligan said. “Judging by Mr. O’Neill’s past projects, we know that he’s going to do a good job with a renovation like that.”

O’Neill said that both he and Dolce bought the building in 2016.

A rendering of the proposed inn depicts it as a three-story building inspired by The American Hotel in Sag Harbor. What’s been dubbed The Northport Inn would total around 20,000 square feet.

O’Neill said the first floor of the building would house a restaurant. The upper two floors would be a mix of rooms, and some office space for management.

“We’ll have much greater detail available as time goes on,” O’Neill added. “We’ll continue to work with the village on whatever they need from us to hopefully complete this.”

In order for the plans to move forward, village trustees need to adjust current commercial codes to accommodate inns and hotels, according to Milligan.

He added that the board is looking into making a change and the potential impact it could have.

“We’re going to see what we need to do to carefully move forward and do something that’s in the best interest of everyone,” Milligan said.

At their March 7 meeting, village trustees plan to schedule a public hearing on the potential code change for March 21, according to Milligan.

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/the-long-islander-archives/engeman-owners-plans-main-street-inn/

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