Music

By Heidi Sutton

February 3rd of this year will mark the 60th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s true pioneers who, in his short career, had a major influence on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Elton John.

Holly’s wonderful music, his lasting legacy to the world, is celebrated in Alan Janes’ “Buddy —The Buddy Holly Story.” The jukebox musical debuted in London in 1989 and arrived a year later on Broadway. The show opened at the John W. Engeman Theater last week and runs through March 3.

Directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, the show recounts the last three years of Holly’s life and rise to fame, from 1956 to 1959.

We first meet him as a strong-willed 19-year-old country singer (played by Michael Perrie Jr.) from Lubbock, Texas, and follow his journey with his band, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, as they venture into rock ‘n’ roll with hits like “That’ll Be the Day,” “Rock Around with Ollie Vee” and “Everyday.” 

The impressive sets by Jordan Janota and props by Emily Wright beautifully evolve with each scene while the stage features a permanent arch of gramophone records that light up individually as each hit is performed.

Touring the country in 1957, Holly and his band head to the Apollo Theater in Harlem where the audience is treated to a show-stopping rendition of the Isley Brothers’s “Shout” by Apollo performers Marlena (Kim Onah) and Tyrone (Troy Valjean Rucker) before enjoying “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy!” and “Not Fade Away.”

We are witness to when Holly meets his future wife Maria Elena Santiago (Lauren Cosio) for the first time and when he leaves a pregnant Maria in 1959 to go on the Winter Dance Party tour by bus to play 24 Midwestern cities in as many days after promising her he won’t get on an airplane.

The final scene is also one of the show’s finest as Holly’s last performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, with J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (Jayson Elliott) and Ritchie Valens (Diego Guevara) is recreated in a poignant tribute. The audience is transported back in time and become concertgoers enjoying  outstanding performances of “Chantilly Lace,” “La Bamba” and “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

The stage suddenly goes dark and a radio announces that all three singers were killed in a plane crash shortly after the concert. Richardson was 28, Holly was 22 and Valens was only 17. The tragedy was later referred to as “The Day the Music Died.” The lights come back on and the concert continues, bringing the packed house at last Friday’s show to their feet in a long-standing ovation.

By the end of the night, more than 20 of Holly’s greatest hits have been played live by the incredibly talented actors on stage, a fitting tribute to the Texan who got to play music his way.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” through March 3. Tickets range from $73 to $78 with free valet parking. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

Voices needed

Informal tryouts for the multigenerational chorus, The Silver Chords, will take place at the Eugene Cannataro Senior Center, 420 Middle Country Road, Smithtown on Saturdays, Jan. 19 and 26. Join them to warm up during rehearsal at 9:30 a.m. An informal audition with the director will be held at noon. For more information, call Caroline at 631-235-3593 or Carl at 631-379-7066.

Gina Mingoia performs during The Sal Mingoia Pet Adopt-A-Thon Sept. 22, an event renamed in her father’s memory, who died in 2017 following a battle with cancer. Photo by Alex Petroski

By David Luces

For 20-year-old Gina Mingoia, Shoreham resident and local musician, her selfless attitude, her willingness to extend a helping hand and her music have endeared her to so many in the community.

Whether it’s donating her time or gracing people with her voice, she has undoubtedly made a lasting positive impact on many people’s lives.

Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, can attest to that. 

“Gina is an all-around great person,” Ruberto said. “She is someone who is very committed to the community.”

Gina Mingoia performed in concert at this year’s Pet Adopt-A-Thon in honor of her father, Sal, who passed away in 2017. Photo from Mingoia family

Ruberto first met Mingoia through the civic association’s pet adopt-a-thon, an event that encourages responsible pet ownership and provides a place to help local animal welfare groups get animals adopted.

“After the first pet adopt-a-thon [in 2012], I began advertising it more,” she said. “I don’t know how they heard about the event, but her father Sal approached us and said, ‘We’re really committed to helping these animal welfare groups, and we would love to play at the event.’”

For the next five years, both Sal and Gina Mingoia donated their time and lent their musical talents to the event.

In 2015, Sal Mingoia was diagnosed with cancer. Despite that, when he heard the event was on the following year, he and his daughter made it a point to attend. 

In 2017, Sal Mingoia passed away, but his contribution to the event over the years left a lasting impact on Ruberto.

“I wasn’t sure if she was going to be involved this year,” Ruberto said. “I didn’t even approach her, but as soon as she heard that we were running the event, she contacted me, and she said, ‘I really want to be there. It was my dad’s and my favorite gig. I want to keep being a part of it.’

For this year’s event, the Sound Beach Civic Association changed the name to The Sal Mingoia Pet Adopt-A-Thon.

“Because they were so committed over the years, we changed the name in his honor, and we will continue to call it that,” Ruberto said. 

Music can create a special bond. That couldn’t be truer for Mingoia and her father. 

“She was meant to be in music and be on stage,” her cousin Jackie Mingoia said. “She’s a natural up there.”

Mingoia first joined her father on stage when she was 12. It was a perfect match, and over the years, she has been developing her craft with some help from her cousin. 

“The quality of music she was making was very good,” Jackie Mingoia said.

Sal Mingoia was a devoted family man to his daughters Samantha and Gina. Photo from Gina Mingoia

In 2017, Gina Mingoia won Long Island’s Best Unsigned Artist and got the opportunity to travel to Nashville.

Recently, Jackie Mingoia has helped her cousin as a fellow songwriter. She would assist with ideas or sometimes finish up a song with her in the garage studio Sal Mingoia made. 

One of those ideas turned into a song titled “New York,” which Gina Mingoia performed earlier this year.

When they’re not working on music together, Jackie Mingoia says her cousin has a funny side and is great to be around.

“Gina has a great heart,” Mingoia said. “She is a very giving person and always looking to help people however she can. She is the most selfless person I know.”

Kelli Cutinella has known Gina Mingoia for a long time and says she is a genuine, loving person who never asks for anything in return.

Cutinella got to know Mingoia through her son, Tom, and the two became close friends the summer before sixth grade.

“Tom always spoke very highly of her,” Cutinella said. 

In 2014, Tom passed away following a head-on collision during a football game. Almost two years later, Mingoia finished a song she dedicated to her late friend titled, “I Wish (Tom’s Song).” 

It was in October 2016 at The Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation Golf Tournament, a fundraising event started by his parents to honor his memory, that Mingoia shared her song with them for the first time. 

“It meant so much to us,” Cutinella said. “Words can’t describe it. It was a really special moment for everyone that was there. You could tell the song was special for Gina.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Mingoia’s willingness to donate her time to help others has made her a role model in the community.

“Gina is wiser beyond her years,” Bonner said. “She is an old soul, a sensitive and caring person.”

Bonner says Mingoia has a great support system in her family, and she has a bright future.

“The sky is the limit [for her],” Bonner said. “Her music has amassed quite the local following. Whatever she wants to do, I hope she continues to touch people’s lives in a positive way.”

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The Harmonic Tides. Photo from David Lance

They’re back! For this upcoming holiday season, quartets of elegantly dressed gentlemen from the Harbormen Barbershop Chorus will travel all around Suffolk County to sing holiday songs and carols at your private, corporate or family party and spice up your holiday event with seasonal mirth and music.

The Harbormen Chorus is a 501(c)3 charitable organization that donates a portion of all its proceeds to the Good Shepherd Hospice. They can be found at www.harbormen.org or on YouTube under Antiquity Quartet and on Facebook under Harmonic Tides.

To book your holiday singing, call 631-644-0129. Credit cards accepted.

The cast of ‘Frosty’. Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

By Heidi Sutton

For too short a time, the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport will present its annual production of “Frosty” for the holidays. Directed by Richard Dolce, the interactive show, filled with song, dance and plenty of fun, is a wonderful way to introduce children to live theater.

Kevin Burns serves as narrator and welcomes the audience to Chillsville, a beautiful town way up north that is always covered with a blanket of snow. From the very beginning Burns puts the children at ease by asking them questions and inviting them to sing and clap to the first song, “Snow.” It is the quintessential way to start the story.

Burns introduces us to Jenny, a little girl who loves to play in the snow. With the help of her mother, she builds a snowman who magically comes to life once Jenny wraps a scarf around him. She decides to name him Frosty and the two become fast friends.

The cast of ‘Frosty’ Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, mean old Ethel Pierpot, who wants to make Chillsville warm and snow free so she can build a new factory, invents a weather machine that starts to make everything melt, including Frosty. Will Jenny, her mom, Frosty and the audience come up with a plan to stop her or will Frosty turn into a puddle of water?

Danielle Aliotta, who played Jenny at last Saturday’s performance, alternates the role with Katie Dolce. Soft-spoken and sweet, Aliotta connects with audience from the beginning. Matthew Rafanelli returns as the gentle and kind Frosty, a role he has by now perfected. Nicole Weitzman is wonderful as Jenny’s mom and Courtney Fekete seems to be having a ball in the delicious role of Ethel Pierpot. It is Burns, however, as narrator, who draws the most giggles. His constant wardrobe changes to reflect how warm Chillsville is getting are hilarious.

A nice touch is how often the actors turn to the children in the audience for advice and they utilize the aisles often, including an exciting chase scene to catch Pierpot. During intermission, the narrator asks the audience to come up with a plan to save Frosty. When the show continues, the children share their ideas with the cast. The kids also help Jenny write a letter to her mom and even get to wish for snow at the end of the show.

The songs, including the fun “One Friend Is Better Than No Friends,” the sinister “Pierpot’s Solution” and the ever popular “Frosty the Snowman” tie the whole show together.

With the message that love “is pretty powerful stuff,” this fast-paced holiday production is the perfect way to celebrate the season.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program. Running time is 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Frosty” through Dec. 30. Children’s theater continues with “Seussical The Musical” from Jan. 26 to March 3 and Dreamworks’ “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” from March 23 to April 28. All seats are $15 and booster seats are available. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

The Liverpool Shuffle, the popular Long Island Beatles tribute band, returns for its 10th performance at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium on Sunday, Dec. 9, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The Liverpool Shuffle in their July 2018 ‘Sgt Pepper’ show in the Vanderbilt Mansion Courtyard. Photo by Evan Reinheimer.

The band performs and sings with infectious enthusiasm, high energy and an entertaining sense of humor that sets them apart from other tribute bands. People who attend their concerts agree — The Liverpool Shuffle really sounds like The Beatles.

Joe Refano, who formed the group in 2003, describes its act as “authentic, live Beatles music performed by professional Beatlemaniacs.” The four musician-singers are veterans of the New York music scene with a combined 125 years of experience. “The Beatles created the greatest popular music in history,” Refano said, “and we attempt to play it like they did.”

The band and the Vanderbilt encourage audience members and museum visitors to join them to collect food for the Long Island Cares Harry Chapin Food Bank. Collection bins will be located in the planetarium lobby.

Tickets are $20 for adults online at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or $25 at the door. Children ages 5 to 15 pay $15 (online or at the door). Children under 5 are free. For more information, call 631-854-5579.

Mark Newman

Save the date. Grounds & Sounds Café, located at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 380 Nicolls Road, East Setauket will welcome singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Newman in concert on Friday, Nov. 9 at 9 p.m. Preceded by an open mic at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person at www.groundsandsounds.org or at the door. For further information, call 631-751-0297.

Photo from WMHO

Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook village hosted the Long Island’s Got Talent 2018 finals on Oct. 19. Caitlin Beirne of St. James took first place (winner of $6,000 scholarship from Five Towns College and $1,000 cash from Green Towers Group); Sara Caliguiri of St. James was in second place (winner of $5,000 scholarship from Five Towns College); and Michael Lomando of Centereach, third place (winner of $4,000 scholarship from Five Towns College). 

Pictured in the back row, from left, Aidan Hopkins, bassist/Mint Band; Matt Broadbent, trumpet/Mint Band; Varun Jindal, drums/Mint Band; Deborah Boudreau, WMHO education manager; Michael Lomando, solo vocalist and guitar; Jay Sangwan, guitar/Mint Band.

Pictured in the front row, from left, Sara Caliguiri, solo vocalist and keyboard; Max Tuomey, vocalist; Ben Fogarty, keyboardist/Mint Band; Jordan Amato, solo vocalist; Caitlin Beirne, solo vocalist; Lydia Korneffel, solo vocalist. Congratulations to all the winners! Watch for details in the spring of 2019 for next year’s contest at www.wmho.org.

Photo by James Dima

Tribute to Led Zeppelin

Pure Led, a Long Island Led Zeppelin tribute band, will return to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport to perform on Sunday, Nov. 11, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the 60-foot domed theater of the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium.

 The playlist, which features work from the early BBC recordings to select hits from the later albums, captures the essences of the band’s best live performance and will include “The Song Remains the Same,” “Stairway to Heaven” and “Whole Lotta Love” as spectacular laser images and space imagery fly overhead in a truly immersive and unforgettable experience.

“We love the music and we love playing the music you love to hear,” said band member Patrick Giovanniello. “We give it our all with a chemistry and force that is comparable to the mighty Led Zeppelin during their early years.”

Tickets are $20 adults online, $25 at the door; $15 children ages 5 to 15; children under 5 are free. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

If one asked Miller Place native and opera singer Chris Remkus what makes opera so appealing, he would say a production is more than just a costume and set, that it’s the combination of epic story and deep-throated, passionate voices that transcend the mundane of the normal world.

“I think what’s so thrilling about opera is you have these pieces in the repertoire which are just complete works of art,” the 29-year-old Remkus said. “They tell a complete story that is both musically thrilling but also sincere and authentic in its intentions.”

Remkus has long worked to perfect his voice as a tenor, and while he has loved choir and musicals, it is opera that has captured the young man’s imagination.

Chris Remkus, a tenor opera singer who graduated from Miller Place High School in 2009, is set to star in a production of ‘Candide’ at the New England Conservatory Oct. 23 and 24. Photo from Remkus

“You’re using the full range of your voice, and you’re using the full dynamic of your acting capability to create a story and create a character that is thrilling to witness and participate in,” he said.

Now Remkus is cast in the title role of Candide for the New England Conservatory’s two-night production of the late Leonard Bernstein’s English-speaking operetta “Candide.” The opera is being put on in celebration of what would have been the famous composer’s 100th birthday.

Remkus was born to the stage at a very young age when his father, Joseph Remkus, a retired chemistry teacher from Sagamore Middle School in Sachem who also acted as director for the schools theater program, would bring his children, Chris and his sister Lauren, to the school’s auditorium to watch while his students rehearsed. Eventually his kids became part of the performance.

“He seemed to like it — being on stage,” Remkus’ father said. “We did ‘Damn Yankees,’ ‘Good News,’ ‘Bye, Bye Birdy,’ and more. My music director from junior high said he had a really good voice — even back then she could hear him really clear.”

Candide is based off of the 18th-century philosopher Voltaire’s notorious 1759 satire “Candide, ou l’Optimisme,” which follows the story of Candide as he journeys across Europe while testing the very concept of overriding optimism, and that people must make sense of a world that often displays such barbarity.

“It was just a role that speaks to me — it captures the satire and comedy in the role, and it also has a deep undertone to the story,” Remkus said. “We can just see how crazy the world can be and how terrible things can happen, and were left trying to make sense of this seemingly meaningless world.”

It’s a role that Remkus’ father said his son has worked so long and so hard for. As a young man the opera singer was always involved in theater and music throughout his high school career. First, he played saxophone in the traditional high school band, big band and jazz band. Over time his classmates and friends kept telling him he had a great voice, and that he should join choir as well. In his senior year he was picked to be one of only 12 young people for the New York All-State select choir and was also the only person on the North Shore of Long Island to be selected for All-Eastern choir.

After he graduated from Miller Place in 2009 Remkus left for Hofstra University to get his bachelor’s degree in music. He took time off to develop his voice even more, taking classes at the Manhattan School of Music before heading upstate to get his master’s in music from the Bard Conservatory of Music. In 2017 the tenor headed to Boston to participate in the New England Conservatory’s pre-professional program, specifically looking to get a graduate diploma in voice. Remkus said he expects to finally end his schooling by early 2019.

Beyond Candide, the young opera singer said he wishes to one day make it to Europe to perform in the opera scene there. The life of an opera singer is much less sedentary than some might assume, Remkus said. Often opera singers are employed for the length of one or two years before having to move on to another opera hall and another company. Despite the anticipated traveling, he said he is excited to see the world.

“We’re always bouncing around exploring new avenues and new pieces which keeps it really exciting and refreshing,” Remkus said.

Remkus’ father, who will be taking the trek to Boston to watch his son perform Candide Oct. 23 and 24, said he could not be any happier for his son.

“Being a theater person myself I couldn’t be any more proud of him,” he said.

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