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John W. Engeman Theater

Joanna Sanges stars as Dorothy in the Northport production

By Heidi Sutton

The iconic story “The Wizard of Oz” has entertained children for over 100 years. MGM’s 1939 version is regarded as one of the greatest films in cinema history.

Based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the story of a young girl and her dog Toto from Kansas who are swept away by a tornado to the land of Oz and have wondrous adventures with a Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion made a 16-year-old Judy Garland a star. Now the classic tale follows the yellow brick road to the John W. Engeman Theater for a delicious fall treat. The musical runs through Oct. 27.

Dylan Robert stars as the Tin Man

Suzanne Mason directs an adult cast of eight, with each actor remaining true to their characters. The superbly talented Joanna Sanges, last seen on the Engeman stage as Rapunzel, stars as the lovable Dorothy. Her first number, “Over the Rainbow,” is executed beautifully.

Jae Hughes returns as the Scarecrow, a role she can by now play blindfolded. Making his Engeman debut, Dylan Robert steps onto the yellow brick road as the Tin Man and does a great job. Amanda Geraci is a force to be reckoned with as the Wicked Witch of the West as her haunting cackle fills the theater. James Schultz is a terrific Wizard, Sari Feldman has the cool role of Nikko the flying bat and Caitlin Hornik plays Glinda the Good Witch of the North who saves the day.

But it is Bobby Montaniz, in the juicy role of the Cowardly Lion, who steals the spotlight and gives an outstanding performance. His rendition of “If I Were King of the Forest” with all the trills would make Bert Lahr beam with pride.

Bobby Montaniz stars as the Cowardly Lion

The show has become an annual tradition at the Engeman and every year it gets better and better. This year’s performances have been elevated with the addition of a backdrop screen and the lighting has been turned up a notch to make up for the sparse set. Theatergoers are in for a visual treat as they are able to see a black and white movie of Dorothy’s house caught up in the tornado before landing in a colorful Munchkinland and witnessing the arrival of Glinda the Witch in her pink bubble. The stage floor turns different colors as well as the scenes change.

A nice touch is how often the actors come down into the audience on the way to the Emerald City, giving the stage crew a chance to change out the scenery. At one point the Wicked Witch pops up in the middle of the theater with her “I’ll get you my pretty!” making all the children jump. Speaking of children, it was so nice to see so many of them at last Saturday’s opening performance watching live theater and enjoying every minute of it. Don’t miss this one.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for autographs and pictures. Running time is 90 minutes. Costumes are encouraged.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Route 25A, Northport presents “The Wizard of Oz” on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through Oct. 27. Children’s theater continues with “Frosty” from Nov. 23 to Dec. 29 and  Disney’s “Frozen Jr” from Jan. 25 to March 1. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photos by Jennifer Collester

Michael Notardonato star as Tony Manero in 'Saturday Night Fever'. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

On Tuesday, July 23 at 8 p.m., the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport will host a special benefit performance of Saturday Night Fever to benefit the Village of Northport and promote clean waterways in the Northport Harbor.

In honor of the 125thanniversary of the incorporation of the Village of Northport, the John W. Engeman Theater will donate 100% of the ticket proceeds of the July 23 performance of Saturday Night Fever to the village to promote clean waterways through the procurement of an Oyster/Clam FLUPSY in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marine Program.

The F.L.U.P.S.Y. or Floating Upwelling System is a shellfish growing machine. Typically built like a rectangular dock, the FLUPSY is able to grow up to 500,000 oysters in a season by holding large amounts of shellfish in square containers suspended off the harbor bottom. Once the oysters grow to one and one-half inches, they will be seeded throughout Northport Harbor.

“Since the inception of the 125th Anniversary Committee last fall, Kevin O’Neill has been fully committed to our mission to promote clean waterways and return Northport Harbor to its natural state of health,” said Mercy Smith, Trustee for the Village of Northport. “Hosting this benefit performance is a testament to that commitment of community partnership and truly demonstrates the amazing generosity of The John W. Engeman Theater.”

In addition to the funds that will be raised by the benefit, organizations and businesses within the community have put forth donations in support of the project.

“Giving has become contagious! Upon learning about the benefit’s purpose, Linda Armyn, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, at Bethpage Federal Credit Union and Peter Howard, President of the Northport Police Benevolent Association have also donated significant funds to ensure the Flupsy project is a success!” said Smith.

Doors open at 7 p.m. that evening. To purchase tickets for the show, visit www.EngemanTheater.com or call 631-261-2900.

 

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About Saturday Night Fever

Based on the 1977 blockbuster film, Saturday Night Fever whisks you back to the 1970s, where open shirts, bell-bottoms, and disco were all the rage. Featuring music by the Bee Gees, this musical adaptation of the classic film is the story of a talented, streetwise kid from Brooklyn who attempts to escape his dead-end life through dancing. Packed with disco classics including “Stayin’ Alive,” “You Should Be Dancing,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” and many more, Saturday Night Feversizzles with explosive energy and sensational dancing.

 

About the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is Long Island’s only year round professional theater company, casting actors from the Broadway talent pool. From curb to curtain, we have made it our business to provide affordable, quality, theater in an elegant one-of-a-kind location with outstanding facilities and extraordinary service. The renovated Theater offers stadium-style seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, a full orchestra pit, and a classic wood-paneled piano lounge with full bar.

For a complete show schedule and more information contact the theater directly at 631-261-2900, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visit www.EngemanTheater.com

American Bombshells
Event to benefit military veterans and their families

By Melissa Arnold

As our country pauses to mark many of its patriotic holidays this summer — Memorial Day, the anniversary of D-Day and Independence Day among them — most people will go about their business. They might head to work or to the beach or a barbecue.

But millions of veterans and those who love them live with daily reminders of their time in active duty. Some require ongoing medical care, while others need counseling to process all they’ve experienced.

On June 17, the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport will host a patriotic concert by the American Bombshells to honor members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families.

From left, the American Bombshells trio of Vanessa Simmons, Rayna Bertash and Crystal Cimaglia will present a patriotic-themed show in Northport on June 17. Jen Parente Photography

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and Their Families (UBHC), a first-of-its-kind collaborative effort co-operated by Northwell Health and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VA) in Northport.

“What we’re offering [at UBHC] is a novel way to approach treatment for veteran families,” said Mayer Bellehsen, a psychologist who’s directed the center since its opening in 2012. “We provide an outpatient clinic for veterans, as well as therapy, medication management and educational resources for their families and caregivers.”

Bellehsen also noted that the families of service members make their own sacrifices, both during their time of service and afterward, and that their well-being should also be addressed.

Huntington native Ali Reeder founded the American Bombshells Patriotic Services organization in 2011 as her own way of giving back to our troops. There are now 21 American Bombshells nationwide who perform in trios all over the world. Reeder described the group as a modern twist on the Andrews Sisters.

“I had a lot of relatives who served, so I’ve always felt very strongly about supporting our troops and their families,” said Reeder, a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

The trio performing at the Engeman includes Long Island natives Rayna Bertash of Centerport and Crystal Cimaglia from Deer Park, along with Vanessa Simmons from California. The 90-minute performance will take you on a musical journey through the decades, including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “One Fine Day” and “New York, New York.” From patriotic favorites to swing tunes and country hits, there’s a little something for everyone.

As “ambassadors of American gratitude,” the American Bombshells are more than just entertainers. They also serve as companions and listening ears during their visits to military bases and hospitals. It’s not uncommon for a soldier to confide in one of the women, or to hold her hand while getting stitched up.

Reeder, whose husband is a Marine, knows firsthand how military life impacts families.

“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and we’ll never fully understand what a soldier goes through,” she said. “Being a caregiver for someone [in the service] has given me a deeper appreciation for how challenging the transition out of the military can be for our veterans.”

To help facilitate that transition, the Bombshells partner with organizations such as Boots in Suits, which provides gently-used work clothing to vets in need, and Alpha K-9, which pairs vets with service dogs.

Kevin J. O’Neill, co-owner of the Engeman Theater, is thrilled for the opportunity to support and honor local military families.

“When we opened the theater, I also wanted to support other causes in order to honor my brother-in-law,” said O’Neill, who has owned the theater with Richard T. Dolce for 13 years.

O’Neill’s brother-in-law, John W. Engeman, served in the U.S. Army for 28 years. He was killed in Iraq in 2006 while assisting the Iraqi people in establishing their own security forces.

Since then, the Engeman has raised more than $1.3 million for various charitable and community organizations. O’Neill saw the American Bombshells perform at another event and was eager to have them come to Northport.

“The families of our military have their own struggles, and it’s important for them to be acknowledged and cared for,” O’Neill said. “Northwell has been a great supporter of what we do for many years, and this is an expansion of that relationship.”

The American Bombshells benefit performance will be held at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport on Monday, June 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $75 and all proceeds will benefit the UBHC at Northwell Health. To purchase tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com. If you cannot attend but wish to make a donation, visit http://give.northwell.edu/Engeman.

Katherine McLaughlin and Sean Yves Lessard in a scene from the show. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Melissa Arnold

I never thought I’d cheer for a murderer. Nor did I ever imagine laughing so much at a show about murder. There’s a first time for everything, I guess.

Directed by Trey Compton with musical direction by James Olmstead, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” has a deceptively simple title, one that probably makes you think of a classic, suspenseful whodunit. What you get instead is a fast-paced, absurdly funny comedy that will keep you laughing from start to finish.

Based on the 1907 Roy Horniman novel “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal,” the Tony Award-winning musical, with book by Robert L. Freedman and music by Steven Lutvak, ran on Broadway from 2013 to 2016.

Danney Gardner in a scene from the show. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

As the show begins, we find ourselves looking in on a young man feverishly writing his memoirs from a London jail cell, seeking to preserve his story if he should face execution the next day. That man, Montague “Monty” Navarro, is the newly minted Earl of Highhurst, and his rise to nobility wasn’t exactly noble. Two years earlier, while grieving his mother’s death in 1907, an impoverished Monty learned that she was related to the powerful, aristocratic D’Ysquith family. The D’Ysquiths, however, disowned her when she chose to marry a commoner. Despite this, Monty was the ninth descendant in line to become the earl.

Monty hoped his newfound lineage would impress Sibella Hallward, the posh and sultry woman he loves, but she ultimately abandoned him to marry a wealthy man. With no one else to turn to, he attempted to make inroads with his new relatives, and in the process had a sinister thought: What if he killed the D’Ysquiths? What if he could become the earl? The show follows Monty through flashbacks of the past two years as he eliminates his cousins in a variety of zany and unexpected ways.

Wojcik/Seay Casting consistently assembles stellar casts for the Engeman’s shows, and this one is no exception, featuring a host of Broadway and national theater vets. Sean Yves Lessard plays Monty, and he is earnest, polished and entirely believable. You’ll empathize with his poverty and join him on an emotional roller coaster as he sneakily offs the D’Ysquiths. Beyond that, Lessard’s smooth, controlled vocals are a real treat, especially in the waltzing “Poison in My Pocket” and steamy “Sibella.”

What makes “Gentleman’s Guide” stand out is that eight of the D’Ysquith cousins are played by the same actor, Danny Gardner. He makes the transition from young to old, gay to straight and even male to female characters look entirely effortless. Each D’Ysquith has his or her unique quirks, and Gardner is so astoundingly versatile that you almost won’t believe it’s the same person. He also deserves accolades for impossibly fast costume changes and impressive tap dancing.

A torrid love triangle sits at the heart of Monty’s escapades. Despite her marriage to a wealthy man, Sibella (Kate Loprest) still comes knocking, especially as Monty ascends the line of succession. At the same time, Monty quickly finds himself falling for his distant cousin Phoebe D’Ysquith (Katherine McLaughlin), a good-hearted and pious lady that just wants to love and be loved.

Loprest makes the self-absorbed Sibella almost lovable with charming wit and confidence. She’s also a delight to listen to, a crystal clear soprano that’s strong without being overpowering. McLaughlin’s Phoebe is demure and sincere, a perfect foil to Sibella. She shines in songs like “Inside Out,” and the trio’s performance in “I’ve Decided to Marry You” is one of the show’s highlights.

Scene and props designer Nate Bertone deserves particular mention for his creative work on the detailed, Edwardian set of “Gentleman’s Guide.” To help audience members keep track of the D’Ysquiths, the stage is framed with massive portraits of Gardner in his various incarnations. Spotlights and laser X’s on those portraits will alert you to who’s still kicking and who’s been taken out. The effect is a lot of fun and adds to the show’s overall silliness.

The bottom line: “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is hilarious from the first line, and so enjoyable that I’d love to see it again. The show isn’t gory, but there’s plenty of innuendo to go around, and there are occasional loud noises and use of light fog throughout.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” through April 28. Runtime is approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. 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.

By Heidi Sutton

Theodor Seuss Geisel often said, “You have ‘em; I’ll amuse ‘em.” And for over 80 years the man who never had children of his own has been entertaining millions of boys and girls with his whimsical books filled with vivid illustrations and iconic characters like the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch.

‘The cast of ‘Seussical The Musical’ after last Saturday’s performance.

Now the genius that is Dr. Seuss is celebrated on the John W. Engeman’s stage in “Seussical The Musical.” With book, music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Michael Flaherty, the show incorporates the stories from “Horton Hears a Who,” “Horton Hatches the Egg,” “If I Ran the Circus,” “Miss Gertrude McFuzz” and others into a fun, whimsical and colorful adventure the entire family will enjoy. The musical runs through March 3.

Let me just say that this show is so incredible I had to look around the theater several times to make sure I wasn’t watching it on Broadway. Directed and choreographed by Marquez Stewart, a cast of seasoned actors guide the audience in perfect rhyme on a high-energy musical journey from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos.

The Cat in the Hat (Jae Hughes), who  serves as narrator, introduces us to Horton the Elephant (Evan Schultz) who finds a speck of dust on a clover flower containing the town of Whoville. While he’s busy trying to help the littlest Who, Jojo (Makayla Connolly), the loyal pachyderm is tricked into sitting on Mayzie La Bird’s (Marielle Greguski) egg, is captured by hunters and sold to the circus. When he is finally rescued by Gertrude the girl-bird (Emily Brennan), he is put on trial by Sour Kangaroo (Suzanne Mason) for “sitting on an egg and talking to a speck.” Will he ever catch a break?

Stewart knows her target audience well and keeps them on the edge of their seats. The dance numbers are exciting with special props; actors walk, run and dance through the theater; and audience participation is encouraged as Horton and Mayzie’s egg are auctioned off to the highest bidder.

All of the songs are wonderful, from the fun intro “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!” to the catchy “Horton Hears a Who” (where a person’s a person no matter how small),  the sweet “Notice Me Horton” and my favorite, “It’s Possible.” The finale “Green Eggs and Ham” ends the show on a high note. Costumes designed by Daniel Rodriguez and the cartoony sets look as if they’ve jumped right off the pages of “Horton Hears a Who.”

It has been said that Dr. Seuss’ books are special because they sing. “Seussical The Musical’s” current production at the Engeman brings that adage to the next level. Put this on your list of “not to be missed.”

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is located toward the back of the program.

Check out this video from the show! 

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Seussical The Musical” through March 3.  Children’s Theater continues 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.

Photos courtesy of the Engeman Theater

 

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.

By Melissa Arnold

Whether you’ve been playing carols for weeks or are just now contemplating putting up the tree, the end of Thanksgiving signals the official arrival of the holiday season. If this is the most wonderful time of the year in your house, there’s no better way to enjoy it than by catching “Elf`The Musical” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.

Based on the beloved 2003 film starring Will Ferrell, “Elf” tells the story of a little boy who crawls into Santa’s gift bag and ends up at the North Pole. Raised as an elf, the ever-growing Buddy has no idea he’s really human, even though he’s a terrible toymaker. When Buddy learns the truth about his identity, he sets out on a journey to New York City to reconnect with his roots and find his family.

Insulated by the always cheery atmosphere of Christmastown, it’s an understatement to say Buddy faces culture shock upon arriving in the Big Apple. But it will take a lot to keep Buddy from spreading Christmas cheer, especially to the person that needs it most: his Scrooge-y father.

“Elf” made its Broadway debut in 2010 with book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan and music by Michael Sklar and Chad Beguelin. Devoted fans of the film will appreciate the show’s faithfulness to the original script, including Buddy’s classic one-liners that make it so iconic. The musical numbers aren’t especially memorable and feel unnecessary at points, but they do open up the opportunity for some great dance routines.

The production begins with Santa (Gordon Gray) inviting the audience to join him as he reads the story of Buddy the Elf. There’s something so fun about these moments that allow actors to interact with the crowd and draw viewers in. And the little details in Santa’s scenes (his oversized chair with a bag of Doritos and the remote control stuffed in the cushion) feel genuine and cozy. Gray’s portrayal of Santa is effortless, funny and truly believable — his belly laughs will make you wonder if he’s the real deal.

Erik Gratton is no stranger to the role of Buddy. He also starred in the national tour of “Elf” and last year’s Madison Square Garden production. While it’s hard to shake off the image of Will Ferrell in that famous green hat, Gratton leaves it all on the stage with tons of energy and all the zany enthusiasm Buddy deserves. His first experience and subsequent obsession with a paper shredder will have you in stitches. It’s also worth noting that he approaches the show’s rare emotional moments with surprising tenderness. Gratton will break your heart at the end of the first act during “World’s Greatest Dad (Reprise).”

After fantasizing endlessly about what life with his dad will be like, Buddy meets his overworked, agitated publisher father, Walter Hobbs (Joe Gately). Tension rolls off Gately in waves, and when Hobbs loses his temper, Gately fills the theater with powerful, roaring tirades. He’s a wonderful foil to Christianne Tisdale and Zachary Podair, who play Hobbs’s wife Emily and young son Michael. Tisdale and Podair have great chemistry as mother and son, and their duets in “I’ll Believe in You” and “There Is a Santa Claus” were personal favorites.

Of course, Buddy’s life is further turned upside down when he finds himself smitten with a beautiful, yet world-weary Macy’s employee, Jovie (Caitlin Gallogly). Gallogly is delightfully edgy and jaded for the majority of the show, making her character’s eventual thawing that much more enjoyable. She also has one of the strongest voices in the cast, and her vocals in “A Christmas Song” and “Never Fall in Love With an Elf” are a treat for the ears.

The ensemble in “Elf” has several different roles to play, from elves in Santa’s workshop to retail employees and bitter mall Santas. They deserve major props for their elf scenes — since elves are tiny, the actors perform on their knees. It’s no small feat to sing and dance to “Christmastown” from that position!

Choreographer Mara Newbery Greer and associate choreographer Tiger Brown are to be applauded for their hard work with the cast. The intense tap dancing in “Nobody Cares About Santa” is another impressive surprise.

Set designer Nate Bertone creates a whimsical backdrop for the show, grounded by huge arches covered in snowflakes. The giant logos for Macy’s and Greenway Press are eye-catching, as are the creative use of props and background silhouettes to show scene changes in real time. While musical director Charlie Reuter and the small orchestra are tucked out of sight in the pit, they provide the perfect, almost cartoonish, accompaniment to this silly show.

All told, director Matt Kunkel has led the Engeman’s cast of “Elf” in a production that’s loads of fun for the whole family — a perfect fit for the holiday season.

A note on content: “Elf” does contain some brief mild language and lighthearted innuendo that most children won’t notice. The show is generally appropriate for all ages.

If you have some extra money to spare, consider making a donation after the show to the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry, which supports more than 150 local families each week. Cast members will collect donations as you leave. For more information, call 631- 261-4357.

See “Elf The Musical” now through Dec. 30 at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport. 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.

Photos by Michael DeCristofaro

The cast of ‘Man of La Mancha’

By Rita J. Egan

The cast and crew of John W. Engeman Theater’s “Man of La Mancha” have set off on a quest resulting in a production worthy of Broadway. The musical opened at the theater Sept. 13, and on the night of the press opening, Sept. 15, theatergoers filled the venue looking forward to the reincarnation of the perennial favorite.

“Man of La Mancha” debuted off-Broadway in 1965 and went on to win five Tony Awards. Written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, the Northport version is masterfully directed by Peter Flynn.

Taking its cue from literature, the musical takes the story of “Don Quixote” written by Miguel de Cervantes and sets it to music. In the play, which takes place during the Spanish Inquisition at the end of the 16th century, Cervantes is in prison waiting for his trial. Upon his arrival, his fellow prisoners try to take his belongings, including the manuscript of the story he is writing. 

Richard Todd Adams (Don Quixote) and Carlos Lopez (Sancho Panza) in a scene from ‘Man of La Mancha’

Following the tradition of prisoners putting newcomers on trial, Cervantes is charged with being an idealist, and a mock trial begins. The writer, in an attempt to defend himself, has his fellow prisoners play the characters in “Don Quixote.” Through their re-creations, audience members meet Alonso Quijano, the aging man who believes he’s a knight-errant and calls himself Don Quixote. Quijano and his squire Sancho Panza embark on a journey where they meet an array of characters including Aldonza the bitter serving woman and prostitute at an inn who Quixote envisions as a virtuous lady.

Michael Bottari and Ronald Case have gone above and beyond with the detailed set design of a dungeon on the Engeman stage, and Kurt Alger has done an excellent job with costumes, especially with the Knight of Mirrors’ gear in the second act. Choreographed by Devanand Janki, the musical contains high-energy dance numbers that complement the stellar production. The actors and the orchestra, under the musical direction of Julianne Merrill, are in top form during every number.

Richard Todd Adams as Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote is charismatic as the main character who takes his fellow prisoners on a fictional journey. His deep, rich vocals are perfect on every song. When he sings “Dulcinea,” upon meeting Aldonza and sees her as a pure, good woman, his voice has the potential to make many swoon. He also stops the show with his delivery of “The Impossible Dream.”

Janet Dacal plays Aldonza with the right amount of sullenness but yet perfectly portrays the character’s softening later in the musical. Her singing, especially her solos, “What Does He Want of Me?” and “Aldonza” are filled with power and emotion.

Carlos Lopez is a delightful and charming Sancho Panza and lends a good amount of comedic relief including during his solos “I Really Like Him” and “A Little Gossip.”

Janet Dacal (Aldonza) and Carlos Lopez (Sancho Panza)

All of the ensemble members do a fantastic job, and each has time to shine in the spotlight. Morgan Anita Wood, Garfield Hammonds and Phyllis March are wonderful during “I’m Only Thinking of Him.” Deven Kolluri does a great job as the cynical Duke and Dr. Carrasco. In the prison scenes where he plays Duke, he portrays the character’s disdain for Cervantes perfectly. His vocals are strong when he joins Wood, Hammonds and March on “We’re Only Thinking of Him.”

Joshua Wayne Oxyer, Cody Mowrey, Juan Luis Espinal, Enrique Cruz DeJesus and Diego Gonzalez as the Muleteers sound fantastic together on the number “Little Bird, Little Bird.” Bruce Winant easily goes back and forth from the tough governor to the kind innkeeper, and Mowrey garners some laughs as the barber who tries to understand Quixote’s delusions. 

The story of “Don Quixote” and “Man of La Mancha” is more than a tale of a man gone mad battling a windmill he thinks is a giant. It’s about seeing the good in people and the world even when strife seems to prevail. Cervantes and Don Quixote look to escape the realities of life by searching for the good in all things and people, and their attitudes are contagious. It’s obvious the cast gets this message as they seamlessly go from conveying doubtfulness over their new dungeon mate to showing hope in the impossible dream by the end. For theater lovers on a quest for a musical that has it all, the Engeman’s “Man of La Mancha” is a dream.

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, located at 250 Main St, Northport presents “Man of La Mancha” through Oct. 28. Running time is approximately 2.5 hours with a 15-minute intermission and tickets are $73; $78 for Saturday evening performances. Free valet parking is available. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

Photo by Jay Gao

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Jaimie Lane of Selden for being the winner of our latest Caption This! photo contest. Jaimie’s creative caption, “No, you ask him to refill the bird feeder …,” beat out the competition to win a family four-pack to see “Shrek The Musical” at the John W. Engeman Theater. Congratulations and thanks to all who participated in our contest. Special thanks to the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport for being our sponsor. Be sure to look out for our next Caption This! photo contest in the near future.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Zachary Podair with the cast of 'Newsies'

By Melissa Arnold

Zachary Podair

Zachary Podair of Smithtown will have some great “What I Did This Summer” stories to share when he heads to middle school next month. The 11-year-old is spending almost every day onstage at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, where he is the youngest member in the cast of “Newsies.” 

The show is loosely based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899, where New York City paperboys organized a union and went on strike to be treated fairly on the job. Zachary plays the part of Les, who wants to help his older brother support their struggling family. His character is lovable and funny, providing some bright comic relief for the show. I recently spoke with Zachary about his professional theater debut, what it’s like being the youngest on the set and more.

What got you interested in acting?

When I was 6 years old, my sister was taking dance lessons and we would always go to pick her up. I really liked watching and decided I wanted to dance, too, so my mom put me in hip-hop classes. I love anything that involves dancing, so I started looking for shows that had a lot of dance numbers.

Have you been in any other shows?

My first show was four years ago, at the Encore Theater. I got to play [the title role in] “Aladdin.” And ever since then I try to do as many shows as I can. I was Rooster in “Annie,” Donkey in “Shrek,” and Charlie in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” 

What made you want to audition for ‘Newsies?’ Were you nervous?

My favorite kind of shows are dance-heavy, and I knew that “Newsies” was one. I had seen the movie before and thought that I would try out. It also has a really great musical score.

I wasn’t really nervous about it. I didn’t necessarily think I would get the part, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. I was really surprised when I heard I was cast. They originally said they were going to double cast the part of Les, [meaning two actors would take turns playing the role], but they ended up just casting me by myself. That was really exciting.

What is it like being the youngest person in the cast?

Sometimes it’s different being the only person around my age, but everyone in the cast and the crew has been so sweet to me. I’ve learned so much from being in professional theater. Every person I’ve worked with has taught me something, from the casting agency to the other actors, the director and other crew. I’ve also improved my dancing so much from working with our amazing choreographer [Sandalio Alvarez].

Zachary Podair, right, in a scene from ‘Newsies’

What do you like about your character?

Les and I are so much alike. He’s just a funny guy. I love playing him because he’s got a lot of great dance scenes and he’s also the comic relief in a lot of ways. I love the one-liners. 

What has acting taught you about life?

So, so much. I’ve learned how important it is to be flexible — emotionally and physically. You have to be spontaneous, to be willing to go with anything. And, of course, you have to learn how to deal with rejection. You’re not going to get every part and not everyone is going to love you.

What would you say to other kids (or adults!) who want to try acting but are nervous?

Definitely don’t be afraid to try it! If you don’t get a part, then you have the experience of auditioning and you can learn from that. If you want, you can try again. And if you do get the part, then you get to have an amazing experience. Either way it’s a positive thing and so much fun to be a part of.

Why should people go see “Newsies?”

It’s one of those shows that has something for everyone, no matter who you are or how old you are. There are things the kids like and things the adults will laugh at. And I think it’s interesting because it’s based on true events — we worked really hard to make our version of the show as realistic as possible. It’s a positive show that will make you feel good.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time at the Engeman so far? 

So far, the best moment was the first day that we got to see the set all finished. It was so amazing. I think that was the moment it all really hit me. I thought, “This is real. It’s really happening.” It’s the best feeling.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Newsies” through Sept. 2. Tickets range from $73 to $78. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro