By Heidi Sutton
The temperature on the dashboard read a muggy 101 degrees as I parked the car on Main Street in Northport last Saturday morning on my way to review the John W. Engeman Theater’s latest children’s presentation, “Rapunzel: A Tangled Tale.” Stepping into the theater, the air was cool and inviting as Disney princess music drifted through the speakers and little girls in blue dresses and blonde wigs hurried to their seats. The beautiful theater, with its elegant chandelier and giant tapestries on the walls depicting different fairy tales, is the perfect venue for this timeless love story.
The tale of “Rapunzel” can be traced back to the 11th century in some form or another but was made famous by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. With book and lyrics by ”Friends” creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman with music by Michael Skloff, the Engeman’s version combines the traditional tale with Disney’s “Tangled” and makes for great entertainment.
Jennifer Collester Tully skillfully directs a talented cast of four who all play multiple roles in this hilarious musical.
It’s Rapunzel’s 16th birthday and her only birthday wish is to be able to leave the tower for one day and see the world. Her “mother” the witch at first promises to grant her wish but then changes her mind. Meanwhile, Prince Brian, who in his quest to do a heroic deed, is searching the countryside for a damsel in distress and comes upon the tower. “A maiden in a tower and a wicked witch? This is great!” he exclaims and, along with his loyal valet Simon, hatches a plan to save the girl with the longest hair in the world.
Stephanie Krasner gives a fine performance as the beautiful and very naive Rapunzel and the tall and handsome Andrew McCluskey is the perfect prince.
Keith Weiss tackles the role of narrator, Simon the Valet, the witch’s boyfriend, the king and even a cow with boundless energy and enthusiasm and at times seems to be having way too much fun! Weiss draws the most laughs and does a superb job.
TracyLynn Connor is perfectly cast in the role of Gretta the witch. Not too scary, not too sweet and sporting a magic ring that “can do absolutely anything” Connor commands the stage and steals the show.
A nice touch is the occasional interaction with the young audience. At one point the witch misplaces her magic ring and frantically asks the children to help her find it (it’s on her other hand). When Rapunzel and the Prince wander through the forest to the castle, they stroll through the theater’s aisles asking the children what they should have for breakfast once they get there. (Pancakes was the most popular answer.)
Accompanied by electronic feed, the musical numbers are fun and upbeat. Krasner and McCluskey’s duet, “The First Step Is the Hardest” is terrific and Krasner’s solo “Me, My Hair and I” is very sweet. Weiss’ solo,“Wooing a Witch” is delightful and Connor and Weiss’ duet, “Growing Up,” is pure fun.
The costumes, designed by Jess Costagliola, are on point, from Rapunzel’s 10-foot wig to the witch’s black dress, and the play utilizes the amazing set from the evening’s show, “Mamma Mia!” which conveniently features a tower.
Meet the entire cast in the lobby after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located toward the back of the program.
The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Rapunzel: A Tangled Fairytale” on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through Sept. 11. Running time is 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Up next will be the beloved musical, “The Wizard of Oz” from Oct. 1 to Nov. 6 followed by the theater’s annual production of “Frosty” from Nov. 26 to Dec. 31. The season continues in the new year with Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” from Jan. 28 to March 5, 2017, and ends with “Madagascar — A Musical Adventure!” from March 25 to April 30. Tickets are $15 per person. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.
Did you know?
The Rapunzel plant was once widely grown in Europe for its leaves, which were used like spinach, and its parsnip-like root, which was used like a radish. In the Brothers Grimm tale, the witch chose to name the child Rapunzel after this plant, which was stolen from her garden by Rapunzel’s parents.