Delightful, unforgettable, and immensely enjoyable—A Christmas Story, The Musical, is the most fun at the theater you’ve had all year. You will laugh; you will cry; you will want to return for more. The John W. Engeman Theater’s production, in Northport now through January 4, 2015, is directed and produced by Richard T. Dolce, the theater’s Producing Artistic Director. It’s simply wonderful!
We all remember the holiday movie set in 1940—the Parker family; the young boy Ralphie’s desperate quest for the Official Red Ryder ® Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle; the leg lamp; and the bar of soap used as punishment. The iconic movie is brought to life on Engeman’s stage and set to music written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul with the book by Joseph Robinette.
The talent is extraordinary with the remarkable Ethan Eisenberg leading the way as Ralphie Parker and a memorable children’s cast of girls and boys who play his friends, cheering him on. “I have enjoyed the whole Christmas Story experience from rehearsals through bringing the show into production,” says Eisenberg. “I love acting so much that a production is fun with any cast, but it enhances the experience when the cast is as amazing to work with as they are in this group.”
Eisenberg hopes to return to the Engeman Theater as an actor and has thoroughly enjoyed working with the great creative team. He has been acting since he was five years old, when his parents believed it would help him overcome his shyness. What did he learn in acting class? “I learned that acting is not what a lot of people think it is,” notes Eisenberg. “Acting is really just living in a character and bringing yourself into the character. The Gateway Acting School is where I learned this important technique.”
For Eisenberg, Ralphie was an easy character to bring himself into. “I am also energetic, persistent, and certainly a dreamer like Ralphie.”
He is joined on stage by the talented actor Steve Luker, as his Old Man, and fabulous Gina Milo, as his Mother, along with another newcomer to the Engeman stage, Griffin Reese, as brother Randy. They show us on stage what Christmas is really all about—what life is all about—family and love, and that no matter what happens, this is what is most important.
“It is really about family, and no matter what the circumstances you can always be happy when you have your family,” adds Eisenberg. “I can relate because my family is supportive and very important to me.”
Eisenberg is a newcomer to the Engeman stage with Regional credits in The Addams Family, Mary Poppins, and Beauty and the Beast.
The hilarious Luker, who plays Ralphie’s father with the perfect comedic touch, has appeared in A Christmas Carol at Engeman Theater. Broadway credits include42nd Street and tours of 42nd Street and Footloose.
The enormously talented Milo has appeared at Engeman Theater recently in Plaza Suite, Hairspray, and Little Shop of Horrors. Other credits include Broadway: Les Miserable, as Eponine, and National Tours of Les Miserables, Annie, Best Little Whorehouse.
Milo lends just the right motherly feeling to her beautiful solo, “What a Mother Does,” which any mother in the audience can relate to wholeheartedly—“the homework, PJs, get the kids to bed,” and all the work that goes into making Christmas the very best Christmas each year. “But a mom has her ways, a mom knows her kid, she’ll get him to eat without knowing he did….that’s what a Mother does.”
Another beautiful and poignant moment in the show is when Milo sings “Just Like That” in Act 2. “Notice how the world keeps turning, life goes on, the moment comes, the moment goes, and just like that, the moment’s gone.” The message: there are difficult moments in life, and soon you’re back to jumping, laughing, you’ve moved on, and life goes on.
Also, leading the way as the teacher Miss Shields, is actress Kathryn Markey, whose brilliant performance in “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” along with the children’s cast, is memorable. Markey is new to the Engeman stage and has appeared on Broadway in 3 From Brooklyn, Off-Broadway and Regional in many theaters, and in TV and film including SVU, Law and Order, and All My Children.
David Schmittou, who narrates the entire production, is fantastic as Jean Shepherd. He has appeared in Regional theater in Mary Poppins, Lend Me A Tenor, and The Sound of Music, among many others.
The children’s cast are a wonderfully talented group and appear throughout Act 1 and 2 in: “It All Comes Down to Christmas (Reprise)” at the Higbee Department Store, and most notably in “When You’re A Wimp;” “Ralphie to the Rescue;” “Sticky Situation;” “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out;” the hilarious “Up on Santa’s Lap,” where the kids sit on Santa’s lap and then, go down a slide; and my favorite, when they appear in Ralphie and Randy’s room and envision Santa and his reindeer “Somewhere Hovering Over Indiana.”
The children’s cast are LAUREL CARUSO, CHRISTOPHER DARRIN, KATIE DOLCE, EVAN FLANNERY, VINCENT GERARDI, ERIN HAGGERTY, SHELBY HERLING, JAKE KALINOWSKI, MEAGHAN MAHER, SHANE MCGLONE, RYAN MCINNES, MICHAEL MENESHIAN, MCKENZIE ANN MULLAHEY, MICHAEL SPENCER, JAMES MAXWELL TULLY, ALEXANDRA VALLEJOS, THERON VILJOEN and CHLOE WHEELER.
The adult ensemble includes ALYSON CLANCY, EMILY ESPOSITO, CHAD JENNINGS, LARRY A. LOZIER Jr., SUZANNE MASON, LIZZIE PORCARI, MICHAEL QUATTRONE, CHARLOTTE VAUGHN RAINES, CHRISTOPHER TIMSON and VIET VO, who also plays the waiter in the restaurant scene.
The spectacular choreography is by ANTOINETTE DIPIETROPOLO (Engeman Theater: Evita, The Music Man, South Pacific, Hairspray, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, and Nunsense. Off Broadway: With Glee. National Tour:How The Grinch Stole Christmas) and wonderful Musical Direction by JONATHON LYNCH (The City Club, Finding Neverland; original compositions include Lunacyand SLAM!). Lynch plays piano and conducts; trumpet by Joe Boardman; trombone, Brent Chiarello; bass, Russ Brown; percussion, Josh Endlich; and reeds, Michael Kendrot.
The design team is JONATHAN COLLINS (Scenic Design), TRISTAN RAINES (Costume Design), DRISCOLL OTTO (Lighting Design), CRAIG KAUFMAN (Sound Design), BRANDALYN FULTON (Hair and Wig Design) and WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING, LLC (Casting Director).
A CHRISTMAS STORY will play the following performance schedule: Wednesdays at 8:00 pm, Thursdays at 8:00 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Tickets are $69 and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, going online at EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport. For complete show schedule, visit the website.