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John W. Engeman Theater

Danny Gardner as Don Lockwood in the iconic scene from ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

By Victoria Espinoza

The latest production at the John W. Engeman Theater will have you dancing and singing — rain or shine. “Singin’ in the Rain” premiered this past weekend to a full house and one of the most energetic crowds in past years. 

The classic movie, which is regarded as one of the greatest movie musicals of all time, comes to life as soon as the curtain rises, bringing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s golden age to Northport. It’s 1927 and Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the toast of Tinseltown until silent films are threatened with the rise of talking pictures. The Northport stage is set to look like an old Hollywood film studio lot. David Arsenault, the set designer, creates a simple but inviting backdrop, and many times throughout the show the sets are used to enhance musical numbers and bring even more laughs to the audience.

Danny Gardner (Don Lockwood) and Corinne Munsch (Girl in Green) in a scene from ‘Singin’ In the Rain’

While the songs, actors and sets all excel in this production, the choreography comes out on top. Drew Humphrey is both the director and choreographer for this show and brings audiences a nonstop party with intricate and joyful dance numbers that were accompanied by nonstop applause throughout the night. Standouts include “Fit as a Fiddle,” “Make Em Laugh,” “Good Morning” and, of course, the timeless classic, “Singin’ in the Rain.” 

Danny Gardner, who plays Don Lockwood, brings all the magic of Gene Kelly’s iconic scene with his mile-long grin, infatuated attitude and love-struck dance moves. Perhaps the most excited the audience got was when the rain started to pour on stage and Gardner appeared in a fedora with an umbrella under his arm.

Tessa Grady and Brian Shepard round out the main trio as Kathy Selden and Cosmo Brown, respectively, and the chemistry between the three is great fun to watch. Shepard brings the biggest smiles to audiences’ faces with fun jokes and a charming and lovable attitude. He steals the scene in “Moses Supposes,” and you can’t help but look for him in every scene to see what fun little moments he brings to his character.                                                                        All three stars have beautiful voices, and Grady does a great job bringing her talents to Kathy Selden to make her a confident, charming character with some great comedic moments as well. 

Emily Stockdale as Lina Lamont and Danny Gardner as Don Lockwood in a scene from the show.

Of course, the other character who delighted audiences with laughs was Lina Lamont, played by Emily Stockdale. The voice she was able to achieve for Lamont was impressive and hilarious and her short solo number in the second act was sharp and enjoyable. She brought great depth to what could’ve been a one-dimensional character. 

An extra fun treat for audiences was the short films inside the musical. Producer Richard Dolce and Humphrey do a great job making the film shorts hilarious, and as an added bonus a recognizable spot, Northport Village Park, makes a cameo appearance. It makes the black-and-white shorts twice the fun when you see the recognizable white gazebo as a backdrop for a sword fight and a lovers reunion. The ensemble cast who are a part of these shorts also deserve a special shout out for the delight they bring to the small screen.

Musical Director Jonathan Brenner handles the numbers wonderfully, bringing all the right emotion each scene calls for. “Moses Supposes” excels not only for Shepard’s lovable conviction but also the way Brenner handles the music. The same can be said for “Good Morning.” This scene delivers on all the fun the original film brings, and although the characters aren’t trotting together from room to room, this production’s version encapsulates all the charm.

And even with all the fun, this production saves the best for last with a closing number you won’t want to miss. Kurt Alger, costume designer for the show, adds an extra pop with costume choices for the end, bringing extra color and fun to the stage. But, of course, the elegant period pieces in the show’s entirety are also a marvel to see, especially a French-style costume worn by Stockdale. 

With more than just fan favorite songs, this musical promises to deliver a fun-filled evening for all who attend.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Singin’ in the Rain” through July 1. Tickets range from $73 to $78. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photos by Michael DeCristofaro

St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Northport. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Northport congregation is now turning to the public for one last needed push, or “Hail Mary,” to restore and modernize a local landmark.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, located at 270 Main St., has launched the second phase of its capital campaign in hopes of raising $300,000 to restore and make structural repairs to its steeple and facilities. With more than $200,000 pledged, it’s now in the final race to fully fund these projects by June 30.

“We’re somewhere around 70 percent of the way there, but the last 30 percent is always the hardest,” said Charlie MacLeod, the campaign’s chairman and a member of the church for 30 years. “We’re working very hard to obtain the last 30 percent.”

We’re somewhere around 70 percent of the way there, but the last 30 percent is always the hardest.”
– Charlie MacLeod

The church’s original steeple, built in 1873, began leaking rainwater into the church’s sanctuary more than a decade ago, according to Pastor Kristina Hansen. While churchgoers have dealt creatively with the problem using pots and pans, the damage has become progressively worse over time and needs to be addressed.

St. Paul’s has had a number of construction firms come to review the damage, receiving estimates ranging from $125,000 to $150,000 to repair the iconic steeple off Main Street. That cost could increase once scaffolding is built and a closer inspection made of the two- to three-story high structure, according to Hansen.

The church is also seeking funding to preserve the sanctuary’s turn-of-the-century stained glass windows. The leading between sections of the glass has started to deteriorate, leaving the weight of the stained glass unsupported and prone to possible collapse. The estimated cost of repairing a single window can run more than $20,000, according to Hansen.

The pastor would also like the community’s support in upgrading its bathrooms to be handicapped accessible. The facilities are used frequently by residents for athletic events, artist performances and local organizations like the Boy Scouts.


Large Corporate and Charitable Contributors
– $25,000 from John W. Engemen Theater
– $25,000 Charles and Helen Reichert Family Foundation

The first donation to the church’s capital campaign came from Kevin O`Neill, owner of the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, located down the street. It was matched by a charitable $25,000 donation from the Charles and Helen Reichert Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by the Fort
Salonga family that owns and operates five IGA Supermarket locations.

Proceeds from the parish’s annual golf outing held in April, which raised $25,000, will go toward construction costs. Work is slated to begin this summer.

The parish’s board of trustees is currently in the process of submitting an application for a historic preservation grant, which is pending according to MacLeod, that may provide an additional $5,000 up to $20,000.

“If we raise more, we have plenty of projects it could go toward,” he said.

Some of the campaign’s stretch goals are to make the entire church handicapped accessible and improve the kitchens.

The cast of 'The Wizard of Oz'. Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater
Dorothy and friends delight audiences at the Engeman

By Rita J. Egan

The John W. Engeman Theater closes out its 2017-2018 Children’s Theater with a charming version of the cherished children’s tale, “The Wizard of Oz.” The Northport venue debuted the musical on March 24, and Suzie Dunn has done an excellent job directing the eight adult actors down the yellow brick road.

Based on the children’s books by L. Frank Baum, “The Wizard of Oz” tells the story of young Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto. When a tornado sweeps Dorothy away from her home in Kansas and over the rainbow to a magical land, she meets witches, Munchkins and three charming travel companions. While the Engeman’s “Wizard” is an abridged version of the story — no poppies and less of the witch’s monkeys and guards — all the favorite characters and songs from the 1939 MGM Studios motion picture are present.

Danielle Aliotta’s portrayal of Dorothy is as endearing as Judy Garland’s was in the movie, and the actress sings a sweet “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with strong, clear vocals.

 

Jacqueline Hughes and Danielle Aliotta in a scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Photo by Jennifer Tully

Her companions down the yellow brick road are just as delightful. Jacqueline Hughes (Scarecrow), Danny Meglio (Tin Man) and Andrew McCluskey (Cowardly Lion) do fantastic jobs during their respective numbers, “If I Only Had a Brain,” “If I Only Had a Heart” and “If I Only Had the Nerve.” McCluskey’s vocals are also wonderful during his solo “If I Were King of the Forest.”

Maeve Barth-Dwyer has perfected the evil shrill voice of the Wicked Witch, and Antoine Jones plays the Wizard of Oz and the Emerald City doorman with just the right amount of quirkiness. Marielle Greguski is lovely as both Glinda and Auntie Em and sings beautifully with Aliotta on the reprise of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

With no poppies to put Dorothy and friends to sleep, the witch tries to undermine their mission with the help of a tap dancing jitterbug played by Marquez Catherine Stewart, an upbeat number that was cut from the original motion picture to shorten it. While the song and dance routine may not have been fitting for the perilous journey in the movie, it is perfect for a live production for children. Stewart, Aliotta, Hughes, Meglio and McCluskey do a fantastic job with this refreshing number.

Danielle Aliotta, Danny Meglio and Jacqueline Hughes in a scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Photo by Jennifer Tully

Young audience members at the Sunday show were thrilled to see the actors walk through the aisles while they were on their way to the Emerald City to see the Wizard. Costume designer Jess Costagliola has done a wonderful job replicating the character’s costumes, especially Glinda’s pretty pink gown, and a few of the actors dressed in giant hats with big googly eyes are adorable as the Munchkins.

Sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the Engeman’s “The Wizard of Oz” is a special treat for audience members of all ages, and a wonderful tribute to a nearly 80-year-old classic that proves there’s no place like home. Running time is 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission, booster seats are available and children can meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. (An autograph page is included at the back of the program.)

The John W. Engeman Theater, located at 250 Main St., Northport, presents “The Wizard of Oz” through April 29. Children’s Theater returns for the 2018-2019 season with “Shrek The Musical” from July 28 to Sept. 2 followed by “The Little Mermaid Jr.” from Sept. 22 to Oct. 28, “Frosty” from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30, “Seussical The Musical” from Jan. 26 to March 3, 2018, and ends with “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” from March 23 to April 28. All seats are $15. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Rita J. Egan

It may be chilly outside, but things are heating up inside the John W. Engeman Theater. The Northport venue debuted its production of “In the Heights” on March 15, and with a talented cast and the energetic sounds of salsa, reggaeton, merengue and hip hop, audience members are guaranteed a fun, hot night on the town.

Before he shared the story of Alexander Hamilton through rap and song in “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda created this spirited musical, which ran from 2008 to 2011 on Broadway and won four Tony Awards.

A love letter to Latinos who live in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, the story takes place during July Fourth weekend on one city block and centers around bodega owner Usnavi and his neighbors. While the play includes a good deal of reality like money issues, the death of loved ones and the sacrifices one must make for a better life, its main themes are about love and hope, and most important of all, having patience and faith.

With book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and music and lyrics by Miranda, through dialogue and song “In the Heights” reveals the economic struggles of Usnavi and his fellow business owners, car service proprietors Kevin and Camila Rosario and beauty salon owner Daniela.

Directed by Paul Stancato, the musical throws in romance as Usnavi pines away for the beautiful Vanessa, who works at the beauty salon, and the Rosarios’ daughter Nina and their employee Benny engage in a forbidden romance. As the audience gets a peek into the heartache of Usnavi losing his parents at an early age, Vanessa yearning to move downtown, the bright Nina losing her college scholarship and the love felt for the neighborhood’s adopted grandmother, Claudia, one can’t help but feel a part of this close-knit community.

Spiro Marcos as Usnavi does a fine job filling big shoes (the role was originally played by Miranda on Broadway). The actor skillfully uses rap during most of his numbers to tell the story. Marcos is in touch with Usnavi’s softer side, making it impossible not to root for him as he longs for Vanessa and dreams of going back to the Dominican Republic, his birthplace, while trying to keep the bodega afloat.

Cherry Torres and Josh Marin in a scene from ‘In the Heights’

Josh Marin is charming as Benny, and Cherry Torres is sweet and lovely as Nina. The two have a good amount of on-stage chemistry during their romantic scenes, which is front and center during the song “Sunrise” where they sing beautifully together. Chiara Trentalange balances a bit of sass and attitude with a touch of softness to deliver a Vanessa who may be determined to put her neighborhood behind her, but audience members can’t help but like her, too.

Tami Dahbura is endearing as Abuela Claudia, while Paul Aquirre and Shadia Fairuz are perfect together as Kevin and Camila. Scheherazade Quiroga is perfect as the spunky Daniela and delivers comedic lines perfectly. Iliana Garcia is refreshing as naïve hairdresser Carla, and Vincent Ortega is delightful as the Piragua Guy, especially during his number “Piragua” and its reprise. Nick Martinez, as Usnavi’s young cousin Sonny, and Danny Lopez, as Graffiti Pete, do a nice job adding some comic relief throughout the production.

The dancers are also among the stars in the show. Skillfully choreographed by Sandalio Alvarez, they energetically and masterfully transfer from salsa, merengue, reggaeton and hip hop dance steps.

The music in the production is top notch and is a mix of dance tunes that will have audience members wanting to dance in the aisles and emotional ballads for which some may need tissues. The band, led by conductor Alec Bart, does a superb job flawlessly moving from one musical genre to another, and the singers also do an excellent job.

During the first act, Torres expertly uses her vocal talents to perform an emotion-evoking version of “Breathe.” It is during this number audience members discover her time at Stanford University didn’t work out for her, and she now feels lost not knowing what to do with her life.

Aguirre’s number “Inútil” is just as heartbreaking as his character feels useless after discovering his daughter didn’t come to him to help her pay for school. Fairuz also displays strong vocals during the song “Siempre.”

Trentalange sings lead on the upbeat song “It Won’t Be Long Now” with Marcos and Martinez. The actress has fun with the song and her vocals are great.

Spiro Marcos (Usnavi) and Tami Dahbura (Abuela Claudia)

Dahbura moves around convincingly like a frail grandmother, and then surprises audience members with her incredible and emotional vocals during “Paciencia y Fe.” Abuela Claudia remembers her youth in Cuba and arriving in the United States, during the song. Her mother would always remind her to have patience and faith, advice Claudia continues to share with those she loves.

During the first act, the ensemble performs “96,000” as they sing about what it would be like to win Lotto. With the singers emanating so much energy, one can’t help but feel optimistic for them.

Quiroga gets the party started with “Carnaval del Barrio” and her vocals are outstanding. The high-energy song with exceptional dancing is sensational. It is soon followed by “Alabanza” where Torres sweetly sings the first lines and then the song builds up to a powerful number featuring the whole cast. Both performed during the second act are show stoppers.

Spanish is sprinkled throughout the dialogue and lyrics of “In the Heights” to add authenticity, but are always followed by English translations, or the lines are delivered with gestures that make things clear for those who don’t understand the language.

Many may want to see this musical because they are curious about Miranda’s earlier work, but “In the Heights” is an entertaining look into the life of Latinos in New York City and a beautiful tribute to the music that was brought to the United States from the islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

The John W. Engeman Theater, located at 250 Main Street, Northport presents “In the Heights” through April 29. Running time is approximately 2.5 hours and tickets are $73; $78 for Saturday evening performances. Free valet parking is available. For more information, please call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

From left, Kevin J. O’Neill; Rev. Rachel Vione (Interim Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Northport); Donna Galluccio (Chairperson of the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry); Martha Keller (Manager of the food pantry); and Richard T. Dolce. Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

GIVING BACK: On March 6, co-owners of the John W. Engeman Theater, Richard T. Dolce and Kevin J. O’Neill, presented a check for $50,000 to the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry of Northport. This is the fourth year that the Engeman Theater has raised funds for the Food Pantry and the First Presbyterian Church of Northport, which hosts the Food Pantry. Following each performance of the 2017 holiday production of “Annie,” cast members collected donations from audience members for the food pantry. “We’re very appreciative of the generosity of our patrons,” O’Neill said. “It sounds a bit cliché, but it’s true: community begets community. We feel it’s very important to invest back into our community in any way we can.”

Alyson Leonard, Antoine Jones and Marquez Stewart in a scene from 'The Cat in the Hat'

By Heidi Sutton

For generations, Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, has entertained and delighted children and adults alike with his whimsical tales and wild imagination. Out of the 60 children’s books published during his lifetime, one of Seuss’ most popular is “The Cat in the Hat.”

Written in 1957 as an early reader book, it has since been translated into more than 15 languages and was adapted into a feature-length film starring Michael Myers in 2003. And just last week, Warner Animation Group, in partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that a fully animated version of the popular book is in the works, the first of many planned to keep the Dr. Seuss legacy alive.

In our neck of the woods, a theatrical adaptation of “The Cat in the Hat” by Katie Mitchell opened last weekend at the Engeman Theater in Northport. The adorable children’s musical will run through the first week of March. The script, which is guided with voice-overs by Steve Wangner in the wings, follows the book closely and provides for a fun afternoon of live theater.

It’s a rainy day and Sally (Danielle Aliotta) and her brother (Kevin Burns) are bored, with only their goldfish Fish (Danny Meglio) to keep them company. Their mother has gone out for a while, so they sit by the window and watch the rain fall. When the brother says “How I wish we had something to do,” the door suddenly swings open and in walks the Cat in the Hat (Antoine Jones), ready to entertain the children with some tricks he knows, and the fun begins.

Now everyone who shares their home with a cat knows that cats make messes, and this feline, although he’s wearing a hat, is no exception. In the first act he impressively balances on one leg while holding books, an umbrella, a fan, a rake, milk on a dish, a toy ship, a toy man, a cake and poor Fish before it all comes crashing down.

The cast of Dr. Seuss’ ‘The Cat in the Hat’. Photo by Jennifer Tully

In the second act, that mischievous kitty releases Thing 1 (Alyson Leonard) and Thing 2 (Marquez Stewart) from a box and things only get crazier from there. They fly kites in the house, breaking things along the way, much to the delight of the young audience. “It’s a beautiful mess,” exclaims the Cat in the Hat.

When the kids see Mother coming down the road, they know that they have to catch Thing 1 and Thing 2 and clean up before she gets home. An exciting chase scene, accompanied by the Benny Hill theme song, ensues. Will they succeed or will time run out?

Directed by Suzie Dunn, the seven adult actors do an excellent job portraying the story. The actors interact with the audience often, making them feel like they are a part of the show. At one point Meglio makes his way through the audience with a bubble machine. Later on, Aliotta invites children on stage to dance with her. Special mention should be made of Jones who clearly loves children and is funny and engaging. From the moment his character’s red-and-white-striped hat appears around the door, the audience knows they are in for a real treat. So run, don’t walk, to see the cat, The Cat in the Hat!

Running time is one hour and 10 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Booster seats are available. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present Dr. Seuss “The Cat in the Hat” through March 4. Up next in children’s theater is “The Wizard of Oz” from March 24 to April 29. All seats are $15. For more information, call 631-261-9700 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Rita J. Egan

That jolly, happy soul has returned to Northport. The family musical “Frosty” opened Nov. 18 at the John W. Engeman Theater and families filled the theater eager for the annual holiday treat.

The cast of ‘Frosty’ after last Saturday morning’s performance. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Directed by Richard T. Dolce, the production is a delightful twist on the story “Frosty the Snowman.” On the Northport stage, the snowman comes to life with the help of a scarf that is magical due to love instead of a magician’s hat and quickly becomes best friends with a little girl named Jenny.

When Jenny’s mother, who is also the mayor of Chillsville, is tricked into signing a contract with the evil Ethel Pierpot to build a machine to get rid of all the snow in Chillsville, Jenny must find a way to keep Frosty from melting.

Kevin Burns as the narrator opens the show, and it’s clear from the beginning that the audience will be part of the story. Burns easily interacts with the children and gets them involved. He also draws the most laughs as he goes from being bundled up for winter to wearing less and less each time he makes an appearance on stage to demonstrate how warm Chillsville is getting.

Kate Keating as Jenny is endearing as the sweet young girl who has no friends but possesses a warm heart. With touching vocals during “No Friends,” the audience connects with her at once.

Kate Keating and Matthew Rafanelli in a scene from ‘Frosty’

TracyLynn Conner played Ethel Pierpot on opening day and alternates the role with Cristina Hall. Conner portrays her character with the perfect mix of evilness and silliness reminiscent of Cruella Deville from “101 Dalmatians.” Children knew she was up to no good on opening day but weren’t afraid of her, which was apparent as they chatted with the actress during the autograph session after the show.

Matthew Rafanelli delivers Frosty perfectly with a sweet, friendly speaking and singing voice. He and Keating sound great together when they sing “One Friend Is Better Than No Friends.”

Ashley Brooke rounds out the cast beautifully, playing a loving, nurturing mother and mayor who realizes Chillsville is perfect the way it is no matter what Ethel Pierpot says.

The musical ends on the right note with the whole cast singing the Frosty theme song after doing an excellent job on the ensemble number “Thanks for You.”

Young audience members were delighted with the many opportunities when the actors encouraged them to participate. An especially cute part of the production is when the narrator asks the children in the audience for ideas to solve Frosty and Jenny’s dilemma at the end of the first act. After intermission, those ideas are shared with the characters. “Frosty” also provides a few fun opportunities for the actors to come into the audience, and the show contains many magical moments.

This time of year is perfect to create special memories, and the Engeman’s production of “Frosty” is guaranteed to add magic to any family’s holiday season. While the story is geared toward younger audiences, older siblings, parents and grandparents will find plenty to enjoy in the show, too.

Theatergoers can meet Frosty and friends in the lobby for photos and autographs after the show. An autograph page is located towards the back of the program.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Frosty” through Dec. 31. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Presley Ryan as Annie and Moon as Sandy in a scene from 'Annie'

By Melissa Arnold

There are few characters from a musical more enduring across generational lines than the curly-haired, ever positive orphan Annie. The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is celebrating the holidays with its mainstage production of “Annie” through Dec. 31. Now in its 11th season, the Engeman has once again teamed up with director/choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo (“Grease,” “Memphis”) to bring Annie and her friends to life.

Presley Ryan and George Dvorsky

The story of New York’s most beloved orphan was partially inspired by “Little Orphan Annie,” a comic strip created by Harold Gray in the 1920s. After his death, the strip was carried on by a number of cartoonists until 2010. The comic followed the adventures of a little redhead girl and her dog while also offering commentary on political issues of the day, including the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal.

“Annie” the musical debuted on Broadway in 1977, with book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin. Since then, the show has toured around the world, won a slew of Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score and inspired several film adaptations.

When the play begins, 11-year-old Annie and her fellow orphans are growing up in the shadow of the Great Depression in New York City. Life is tough for these kids, especially living in a run-down, dirty orphanage under the care of calloused Agatha Hannigan. For years, Annie has waited eagerly for the return of her birth parents, who left her at Hannigan’s door with a letter and a locket. But they never come, and when Annie is chosen to spend two weeks with lonely billionaire Oliver Warbucks, her life is forever changed.

The cast of Engeman’s “Annie” will win your heart as soon as the show begins. Young Broadway veteran Presley Ryan embodies Annie’s charisma and unbreakable spirit effortlessly. Ryan’s Annie is appropriately youthful, and her voice is pleasant to listen to — sweet and strong, never shrill. You’ll fall in love with her during the first song, “Maybe,” and it’s hard to resist singing along with her on “Tomorrow.”

Ryan is far from the only young lady to stand out in this show, however. All of the girls at the New York Municipal Orphanage have a key role to play — to remove even one of them would make the ensemble seem incomplete.

Cordelia Comando, Sophia Lily Tamburo, Meaghan McInnes, Emma Sordi and Cassandra LaRocco

At the Engeman, the cast features two teams of orphans that will appear on different nights, but if the “red team” is any indicator, you’re in for a treat regardless of whose turn it is. The chemistry among the girls is natural and endearing — a special note of praise should go to the adorable Sophia Lily Tamburo, who plays Molly, the youngest of the bunch. Her comedic timing and dance moves are so impressive for her age, though all of them are incredibly talented with bright futures ahead.

Lynn Andrews is reprising her role as Miss Hannigan for this production — she and Elizabeth Broadhurst (Grace Farrell) were part of the 30th Anniversary Tour of “Annie” beginning in 2005. Andrews’ character is loud, proud and shameless with bold vocals to match. She’s snarky, funny and foolish, sometimes all at once, which is entertaining to watch. Her rollicking performance of “Easy Street” with Jon Peterson and Gina Milo (Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis, respectively) is one of the best in the show with fantastic harmonies.

Gina Milo, Jon Peterson and Lynn Andrews in a scene from ‘Annie’

George Dvorsky, another seasoned Broadway actor, plays Oliver Warbucks, the billionaire looking to make one orphan’s Christmas a bit brighter. He wasn’t expecting a little girl, however, and the relationship he builds with Annie is full of emotion and nuance. Dvorsky has both comedic and poignant moments in the show, and his performance of “Something Was Missing” will resonate with anyone who has experienced deep love of any kind.

There are also a few special guests in this show. For a brief time, Annie finds a loveable sidekick in a stray dog named Sandy. In this production, Sandy is actually played by two real dogs, Moon and Sandy. Moon was once a stray himself, and Sandy was recently rescued from a kill shelter following this summer’s devastating Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The dogs are amazingly well-behaved onstage thanks to hard work with Happy Dog Training & Behavior and the support of the cast “animal wrangler,” Cassidy Ingram.

While the ensemble serves as the supporting cast for the show, they have plenty of time to shine on their own — keep an eye out for them during the hilarious scenes at the White House and the radio station.

Elizabeth Broadhurst, Presley Ryan and George Dvorsky

New York scenic designers Christopher and Justin Swader are behind the unique and versatile set for this production. Detailed artwork of a hazy NYC skyline remains in the background throughout the show, and scene changes are made by the cast themselves. There’s not a lot of variation, but the transitions are simple and clear, so it gets the job done. Jonathan Brenner leads a seven-man orchestra in performing the classic score.

As of this writing, it still feels a bit early to think about the holidays, but the Engeman is dressed to the nines with garland and lights. And since “Annie” is set just before Christmas, it’s hard not to catch the holiday spirit during your visit. You might even feel like you’re a guest at Warbucks’ elaborate Christmas party.

Each year around the holidays, the John W. Engeman Theater gives back to its community through charitable support. This year, the theater is partnering with the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry at the First Presbyterian Church of Northport, which helps feed more than 160 local families each week. Consider bringing some extra cash to the show, or visit www.fpcnorthport.org to learn more.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present ‘Annie’ now through Dec. 31. Tickets are $73 to $78 with free valet parking. For questions or to purchase tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

Photo by Ellen Williams

By Heidi Sutton

The slipper fits! Photo by Jessie Eppelheimer

For many, Disney’s “Cinderella” will always have a special place in their hearts. Released in 1950, it was Walt’s 12th animated feature film and rumored to be his favorite.

Now, under the direction of Matt Kunkel, the timeless, “rags to riches” fairy tale takes on new life in “Cinderella KIDS” at the Engeman Theater in Northport through Oct. 29. Performed by a cast of nine teens, each one more talented than the next, the show features the original story and wonderful songs, much to the delight of the little princesses in the audience, with a comedic twist.

Now, 67 years later Cinderella (Kira Williams) is still at the mercy of her stepmother (Ava Dell’aquila) and stepsisters Anastasia (Katherine Gallo) and Drizella (Lexie Spelman), who seem to take much pleasure in making her miserable. When a messenger from the castle drops by and announces that all unmarried girls are invited to the Royal Ball, the stepmother tells Cinderella she can go if she finishes her chores. Her mouse friends, Gus and Jaq (Melissa Aliotta and Samantha Foti), make her a beautiful gown from items the stepsisters have discarded. When the stepsisters see how beautiful Cinderella looks, they throw a tantrum and destroy the gown.

The three meanies, Drizella, the stepmother and Anastasia. Photo by Ellen Williams

When all seems hopeless, Cinderella’s fairy godmother (Maeve Barth-Dwyer) appears and with a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, concocts a beautiful blue gown, glass slippers and a fancy coach and sends the young girl off to the ball. There she meets the handsome prince (Theron Viljoen), they fall in love and dance the night away, that is, until the stroke of midnight. Will Cinderella’s dreams come true? Will she marry her Prince? Will her stepmother and stepsisters finally get their comeuppance?

From the very beginning, the narrator (Danny Feldman) makes it is clear that the audience will be a part of the story. When Cinderella is given a four-foot-long list of chores, the stepsisters ask the audience what else they should make her do. “Bake a muffin!” yells one child. “Scrub the toilet!” offers another. Tough crowd.

When the fairy godmother tries to help Cinderella get to the ball, she asks the children, “What can we use for a coach?” “A pumpkin!” is the immediate response. When Cinderella disappears at the stroke of midnight, the prince and his herald frantically run through the theater searching for her with the help of the children who eventually find the glass slipper. Later on, Cinderella walks through the aisles singing “So This Is Love,” as the young theatergoers sit mesmerized. The interactive concept is genius and works to a T. Even the youngest guests won’t have time to grow restless and that is the greatest wish of all.

So this is love. Photo by Ellen Williams

The beautiful costumes by Jess Costagliola and the delightful choreography by Emma Gassett complete the experience. Disney’s “Cinderella” may be timeless but Disney’s “Cinderella KIDS” is a real fall treat and the perfect show to introduce young children to live theater. I guarantee they’ll love you for it.

Stay after for a meet and greet and autographs with the cast in the lobby. An autograph page is conveniently located toward the back of the program. Running time is one hour with one 15-minute intermission. Booster seats are available and costumes are encouraged. The theater also hosts birthday parties (Happy Birthday, Chloe!).

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present Disney’s “Cinderella KIDS” through Oct. 29. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

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From left, Robert Cogliati, president of the board of trustees, VNSHS; Todd Latchford, group sales manager, Engeman Theater; Barbara Sorelle; event planner, VNSH; Linda Taylor, CEO, VNSHS; and Kevin J. O’Neill, owner, Engeman Theater. Photo from Engeman Theater

On Aug. 9, John W. Engeman Theater owner Kevin J. O’Neill presented a check to Robert Cogliati, president of the board of trustees; Barbara Sorelle, event planner; and Linda Taylor, CEO of Visiting Nurse Service & Hospice of Suffolk Inc. (VNSHS).

At a July 12 performance of “Grease,” VNSHS hosted a VIP pre-show event, consisting of an open bar, a food spread donated by Northport Caterers and several raffle items. A significant portion of the proceeds from every ticket sold for the evening’s performance went back to VNSHS, along with a contribution from the theater, totaling $12,500.

Taylor stated that the funds raised by the event support the organization in various capacities, but that the area most in need of support is the hospice house.

“We really enjoy working with everyone at the theater on these events,” Taylor added. “It is a real team effort to contribute to Visiting Nurse Service and the hospice house.”

The event was part of the Engeman Theater’s Fundraising Program, through which not-for-profit organizations within the community can raise funds to support their specific programs and causes through Main Stage performances at the theater. At each fundraising event, a significant portion of the ticket sales proceeds goes back to the host organization.

VNSHS is a not-for-profit, community-based home health care and hospice agency, responding to community needs as they arise, maintaining a tradition of charitable and compassionate care in the home, and providing community service activities such as blood drives, bereavement support and flu clinics.

“Visiting Nurse Service does phenomenal work, and I think Northport is a better place as the result of their efforts,” said O’Neill. “They are another staple in the community, and we’re proud to support the incredibly valuable work they do.”

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