The Long Islander Review

Audiences ‘Rave On’ For Engeman’s Buddy Holly

January 25, 2019
By Janee Law

It’s no surprise that the John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “Buddy–The Buddy Holly Story” received a standing ovation from the audience during its Jan. 19 showing, as cast members kept the crowd moving and singing to the songs from start to finish.

Audience member Teresa Oliver, of Huntington, said this is a production that can’t be missed.

“Everything was excellent,” she said. “It got everybody moving, everybody dancing, and everybody was getting involved. I loved it”

The audience journeys back to 1957 to witness the true story of American musician Buddy Holly (Michael Perrie Jr.) and his historical raise to fame until his tragic death less than two years later. Instead of leaving the crowd with the sadness over the singer’s sudden death, the production focuses on pulling the audience in to celebrate his life and musical brilliance. Throughout the production, the ensemble also brings the crowd to act as a live audience for Buddy’s concerts and performances.

Audience member Frank Carino Jr., of Huntington, said the cast’s interaction with the crowd was awesome and everyone from his group “lost their voices during the show.”

“It was definitely an entertaining evening for all age groups,” Carino said. “It was honestly better than some of the Broadway shows I’ve seen, hands down.”

Engeman’s production is directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, with musical direction by Angela C. Howell. The ensemble had the audience grooving and rocking to more than 20 of Buddy Holly’s greatest hits, including “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Everyday,” “Oh Boy,” “Not Fade Away,” “Rave On” and “Raining In My Heart.”

In act one, Buddy Holly & the Crickets’ performance of “Oh Boy” will have the crowd saying “oh boy” as cast members energetically strum the chords and use their instruments as a bass—no pun intended—for entertaining stunts.

During the productions electrifying finale, which features Buddy’s “Johnny B. Goode,” Ritchie Valens’ (Diego Guevara) “La Bamba” and The Big Bopper’s (Jayson Elliot) “Chantilly Lace,” the energy from the audience was in full force, singing, clapping and dancing to each number.

Leading the stamina on stage is Michael Perrie Jr., who portrays the corky and ambitious Buddy Holly. Perrie brilliantly embodies Buddy’s musical talents and unwavering drive to follow his dream.

After Saturday’s show, Perrie said having the opportunity to play Buddy has always been a dream for him.

“I love playing Buddy Holly because he was a genius and he was a great inspiration for me,” Perrie said. “This was the first show I ever saw as a kid that got me into theater and so it’s very full circle for me to come back and do it.”

He added that every show brings a new discovery in his role as Buddy. “This production and this cast are phenomenal. They make me feel like there’s a new Buddy in there that I’m finding every time. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Other leading cast members include Sam Sherwood as Joe Maudlin, Armando Gutierrez as Jerry Allison and Eric Scott Anthony as Norman Petty.

 

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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

‘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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