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John W. Engeman Theater Northport

From left, Northport Historical Society curator Terry Reid, co-owners of the Engeman Theater Kevin O'Neill and Richard Dolce, and Northport Historical Society Executive Director Caitlyn Shea last Thursday night. Photo from NHS

On March 23, Northport Historical Society board and staff members joined theatergoers at the John W. Engeman Theater as Curator Terry Reid and Executive Director Caitlyn Shea presented co-owners of the theater Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce with the Northport Icon Award which honors the people and businesses that helped shape the Village of Northport.

After a fire in April 1932 left Northport’s first movie house (located at 256 Main Street) in ashes, The Northport Theater opened its doors on the site at 248-250 Main Street on November 23, 1932. The new theater was outfitted with 754 seats and offered the “latest and most popular pictures on the cinema screen” at the time. Although it changed hands several times, the movie theater remained in operation until 1999.

On June 30, 2006, Huntington resident and entrepreneur Kevin O’Neill and his wife, Patti, purchased the Northport Theater. O’Neill then partnered with theater expert and attorney, Richard Dolce, who had been running the Broadhollow Theater Company, to convert the Northport Theater into a year-round professional live theater. In tribute to Patti’s brother, Chief Warrant Officer Four John William Engeman, who was killed in Iraq on May 14, 2006, they renamed the theater the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport.

The Northport Icon Award coincides with the Northport Historical Society’s current exhibit, Iconic Northport, which opened last summer.  Other recipients include Tim Hess/The Shipwreck Diner, The Weber Family/Seymour’s Boatyard, The Great Cow Harbor 10K Race,The Northport Yacht Club and Vincent Terranova/Jones Drug Store.

By Julianne Mosher

The opening night performance of The Scarlet Pimpernel at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport had the entire audience ready to fight the French and head “into the fire” with the cast from the moment the curtain opened. 

The swashbuckling adventure follows Percy Blakeney, a proper English gentleman, who takes on a dashing double identity as The Scarlet Pimpernel to save French citizens from the blood-thirsty guillotine. The Pimpernel’s exploits soon become the talk of Paris and the fanatical Agent Chauvelin will stop at nothing to catch the Pimpernel and cut off his head. 

First published as a novel in a series of historical fiction by Baroness Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel has seen many different lives in both film and plays. Now, 118 years later, this musical version is full of color, excellent accents, a fantastical set design and an incredible ensemble that does not disappoint.

The production begins with large scarlet pimpernel flowers hanging across the stage. Throughout the play, they become part of the set used as background pieces in indoor and outdoor scenes. The actors are responsible for moving the flowers around in between set changes, as they are wheeled from the ceiling to and from the curtain. But along with the pimpernels being part of the show, each scene has a set to help tell the story.

One would think that with a score written by Frank Wildhorn (who wrote the music for Jekyll & Hyde) and a setting similar to Les Misérables that The Scarlet Pimpernel would be a dark historical fiction of the trying times of the French Revolution. While some of the play has dark undertones, the animated expressions and coy one-liners from almost everyone in the cast makes it a show that you must go see. 

Directed and choreographed by Paul Stancato, the ensemble features a roster of experienced, talented artists who took on a show that was definitely not your average song and dance. Half the cast, for example, had to master a British accent, while the other half had to make the audience believe they were French — mostly sung, no less. 

Starring Christopher Behmke as the title character, Nate Hackmann as Chauvelin and Arianne Davidow as Marguerite St. Just, the emotion and dedication of each actor shined bright on stage. During the happier scenes, the audience felt it and during the more somber times, the audience could see the tears filling up in the stars’ eyes.

The supporting cast makes the play, as well. Everyone had a special role in the show and none were forgettable. However, specific fan favorites of the night were Percy’s group of friends — equivalent to a college frat, they support and join Percy back and forth to France to take down the revolutionists. Showing the power of friendship, they also bring a lot of laughs to their scenes with their silly demeanors, and (pretty awesome) sword fighting. 

Each character, whether it was Marguerite or the Prince of Wales (yes, he makes an appearance, too), has a distinct look with colorful, vibrant and time period costumes that change in nearly every scene. The crew definitely dressed everyone to impress from head to toe. 

Terrence Mann, who played Chauvelin in the 1997 original Broadway production of the show, joined the cast on stage after the final bow.

“This was amazing,” he told the audience. “I haven’t seen this play since I did it. I just remember sitting in my dressing room when I wasn’t on stage and seeing it now saying to myself, ‘Oh! That’s what happened!’ and they did it really well.” Mann added that while sitting in the audience, himself, he heard his neighbors gasp, yell and “yay” with almost every movement. 

“I think it just keeps getting better,” he said. “There are two things that happen in theater — music and the story, and this is a great story with phenomenal music. It transports everybody.”

The only thing missing from the show? More dates to see it. You’ll want to go back after the first night.


The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents The Scarlet Pimpernel through April 30. Main stage theater continues with The Sound of Music from May 18 to July 2, and Jimmy Buffet’s Escape to Margaritaville from July 13 to Aug. 27. Tickets range from $80 to $85 with free valet parking. The Engeman also offers children’s theater and a special event series with live concerts and comedy nights. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Rita J. Egan

Few movies easily translate into an onstage musical. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which opened Thursday at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport on Jan. 19, is one of those delightful exceptions.

Based on the 1988 comedy film starring Michael Caine, Steve Martin and Glenne Aimee Headly, the production, with book by Jeffrey Lane, features a catchy score by David Yazbek. The musical originally debuted on Broadway in 2005 and was nominated for several Tony Awards the same year. Norbert Lee Butz won the award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Freddy Benson.

The story begins at a luxurious coastal resort where suave con artist Lawrence Jameson meets his young competitor Freddy Benson. Lawrence realizes his longtime deceptions of guests may soon come to an end. With the help of his assistant, local police chief Andre Thibault, he decides to take the rough-around-the-edges Freddy under his wing. The con artists’ mission turns out to be filled with hilarious hijinks, a dash of romance and a surprising twist.

Musical lovers looking to beat the winter blues will love the Engeman’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with the actors’ exceptional vocals and comedic timing. Audience members should pay attention as some local references and mild political jokes are thrown in, which garnered a good deal of laughter during the press opening on Jan. 21. The night was one where all the cast members, masterfully directed by Drew Humphrey, shined brightly.

James D. Sasser plays Lawrence Jameson with the right amount of sophistication and cockiness, and at the same time keeps the audience laughing. He also handles his vocals beautifully while maintaining his character’s various deceptive accents.

Danny Gardner, as Freddy Benson, is hilarious, especially during the musical number “Great Big Stuff.” During one scene, with Freddy dressed as a soldier confined to a wheelchair, Lawrence tests him to see if he has any feeling in his legs using a feather and then a whip. The duo are hysterical during the scene, and Gardner’s facial expressions are priceless. 

Gina Milo plays Muriel Eubanks, a wealthy and attractive American socialite, to the hilt. She has fun with all the cliches believed about a newly divorced woman traveling abroad — flirty and clueless — and the audience laughs along with her. Milo’s vocals are excellent in each number she is featured in.

The character Andre Thibault serves as a straight man to Jameson and Benson, and Matthew Bryan Feld is perfect in the role. In the second act, he seamlessly shows the character’s vulnerable side when he and Milo perform a fun and refreshing “Like Zis/Like Zat.”

While Emily Larger doesn’t appear until toward the end of Act 1 as Christine Colgate, she is immediately convincing as a naive American heiress, and one can’t help feel excited for the character as Larger delivers a fabulous rendition of “Here I Am.” In the second act, Larger has the opportunity to show another side of Christine, which she delivers just as smoothly.

Suzanne Mason, as Jolene Oakes, one of Lawrence’s victims, shines in the role. Her musical number “Oklahoma?” is one of the highlights of the show. Her comedic abilities are front and center in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, even when she isn’t playing Jolene and is onstage as one of the ensemble characters.

The ensemble also adds to the production’s delightfulness with their witty lines and facial expressions, and performing the fun dance numbers choreographed by Mandy Modic. Set designer Kyle Dixon and costume designer Dustin Cross have used colorful hues that transport audience members to the French Riviera. And while they may not be onstage, the Engeman orchestra members, directed by James Olmstead, are among the stars of the show.

Entertainment has always served as a way to escape everyday life, if only for a couple of hours. The Engeman’s production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels does just that with upbeat music and plenty of laughs that will leave audience members feeling a bit more lighthearted even after exiting the theater.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Dirty Rotten Scoundrels through March 5. Showtimes are Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and some Wednesdays. Tickets are $85 for Saturday evenings and $80 for all other performances. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com. 

By Heidi Sutton

Wowie wow wow! Look who has taken up residence at the Engeman Theater in Northport! It’s Junie B. Jones, the outspoken and lovable six-year-old from the pages of Barbara Park’s best-selling children’s books starring in  Junie B. Jones The Musical. The delightful show, which opened last Saturday, runs through Aug. 28. 

Created by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, the play is an adaptation of four of Park’s books where Junie B. Jones navigates the ups and downs of first grade at Clarence Elementary School. When her mother gives her a Top-Secret Personal Beeswax Journal on her first day of school, Junie B. decides to record the school year and before long is filling the pages with her many adventures. 

While Junie B. is under the impression that things will be no different than last year, they are very different. In her first week, she finds that her best friend from kindergarten Lucille has found two new best friends – Camille and Chenille – because their names rhyme; the girl who she used to sit with in on the bus in kindergarten prefers to sit with someone else; she makes friends with Herb, the new kid at school; and she finds that she has trouble reading the blackboard — and she may need glasses. Grrrr. 

Add in the friendly cafeteria lady Mrs. Gutzman, a new lunchbox, Show & Tell, and an intense kickball tournament and you have the makings of a lovely morning of live theater.

Directed by Danny Meglio with musical direction by Luca Iallondardi and choreography by Jillian Sharpe, the six-member adult cast embrace the adorable script and transport back in time to elementary school and all the anxieties and life lessons that go with it.

Katie Dolce is perfectly cast as Junie B. Jones. From the minute she appears on stage, all eyes are on her and she quickly becomes an audience favorite with her sassy personality.

The incredible and versatile supporting cast — Daniel Bishop, Miranda Jo DeMott, Olivia Giorgio, Thomas Higgins and Alyssa Infranco — play multiple roles throughout the show including Junie B’s parents, her teacher Mr. Scary, her friends and classmates and seem to be having the time of their lives.

The fun-filled songs are the heart of the show, from the opening number “Top Secret Personal Beeswax” to the group finale, “Writing Down the Songs of My Life,” and are perfectly executed with special mention to the kickline number, “Gladys Gutzman.” 

Funny, entertaining and entirely relatable, Junie B. Jones The Musical  is a summer treat for young children and parents alike. 

Sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Junie B. Jones The Musical on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Running time is 1 1/2 hours with one intermission. Tickets are $20. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

SHOES! Cobbled into laced high-top boots, stilettos or platforms, they transport the wearer to another place, another time, even another attitude. As Cyndi Lauper’s lyrics put it, “The most beautiful thing in the world — SHOES!”

Kinky Boots isn’t just about shoes; there’s a much deeper message of acceptance that resonates in this musical with book by Broadway icon, Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage aux Folles), and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper who already was the beacon for diversity with such anthems as True Colors. Together they crafted this poignant, funny musical that radiates so much heart.

The show is based on the 2005 British film, Kinky Boots, which was inspired by a true story, the topic of a 1999 episode of the BBC2 documentary television series Trouble at the Top. 

This musical centers around a young man, Charlie Price, who is struggling to save his family’s five-generations-long shoe factory in the small town of Northampton, England that he inherited from his father. He forms an unlikely alliance with a drag queen, Lola, and they produce a line of high-heeled alternative footwear for men and take their kinky boots to the runways of the international shoe show in Milan. Along the way, Charlie and Lola realize they are not that different.

Kinky Boots premiered at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 4, 2013. It received 13 nominations and 6 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Actor for Billy Porter and Best Score for Cyndi Lauper giving her the distinction of being the first woman to win alone in that category. It closed on April 7, 2019. 

Now the musical heads to the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport  which enjoys a tradition of breathtaking professionalism and Kinky Boots only adds to its repertoire of fabulous theatre.

Musical direction by Jeff Cox keeps festivities energized with the band conducted by Ben Kiley, on the night of this review, brilliantly taking on Lauper’s high-spirited score and driving it home.

The dynamic cast is intense and multi-talented, injecting passion and energy into the show. In the lead role of Charlie Price, Zach Hess is compelling, making us feel his dilemma, torn between trying to keep his father’s legacy alive or giving in to his fiancée Nicola’s insistence that they start a new life in London. Hess’ vocals are rich and powerful in such numbers as Step One, Take What You Got and blows the roof off the house with the impassioned Soul of a Man. Sofie Flores’ Nicola is a steam-roller, prickly and conniving; she selfishly conjures up a plan to get Charlie out of the factory.

Omari Collins dazzles in the role of flamboyant drag queen Lola whom Charlie met after a chance encounter. Collins glamorously struts his stuff in such numbers as Land of Lola, Sex Is In The Heels and sends chills with his showstopper Hold Me In Your Heart. He is riveting when he confides how he didn’t live up to his father’s desire that he become a proper boxer.

We are thoroughly immersed in the duo of Charlie and Lola who come together to create all those kinky boots and along the way realize that above all else they must accept themselves, a revelation that resounds in I’m Not My Father’s Son.

In the role of factory worker Lauren, who comes up with the idea of footwear for a diversified market, Lily Kaufmann is so much fun especially when she regrets her poor choices in men with The History of Wrong Guys and is deliciously animated lusting after Charlie. As factory worker Don, Demetrio Alomar exudes the right flavor of gruff and macho especially when he rebuffs Lola leading to a pivotal confrontation.

The ensemble is incredibly limitless, bouncing through the kinetic choreography of Natalie Malotke. The factory workers are appropriately gritty in contrast to the sizzling Angels. How the Angels are able to perform all those gymnastic dance routines in sky high heels is incomprehensible!

Under the direction of Igor Goldin, this production soars with vitality and feeling. The ingenious set designed by Kyle Dixon emulates the industrial feel of this small town factory with its steel scaffolding that glides into various positions as each scene requires and features a slide conveyor belt for spitting out shoes. Jose Santiago’s lighting design with well-placed spots that add pathos causes shivers and excitement just at the right moments. Sound design by Joanna Lynne Staub is crisp with all levels expertly set.

The shining stars are the thigh-high kinky boots in a rainbow of colors and bedazzled in jewels compliments of prop designer Kristie Moschetta. Kurt Alger must have had such fun designing costumes and wigs for this show. Every time Lola and her Angels appear we are awed by form-fitting confections in red, leather and animal prints with coiffeurs piled high or exploding in curls.

The finale, Raise You Up/Just Be, splashes joy over the audience and ejects them from their seats into an enthusiastic standing ovation. One can’t help but leave the theatre exhilarated. The Engeman has hit a home run with this mesmerizing production of Kinky Boots. Don’t miss it.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Kinky Boots through July 3. The 2021-2022 season closes out with the musical On Your Feet The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan from July 14 to Aug. 28. Tickets range from $75 to 80 with free valet parking. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Heidi Sutton

Ladies and gentleman — it’s showtime! Dreamworks’ Madagascar: A Musical Adventure is back at the Engeman Theater in Northport in all its glory through May 8. Based on the much-loved 2015 animated comedy by the same name, the show follows the adventures of four best friends from New York’s Central Park Zoo — Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe.

It’s Marty’s 10th birthday and his friends throw him a surprise party. When it’s time to blow out the candles, the zebra’s only wish is to go to the wild. After the party he bumps into a bunch of plotting penguins who also want to escape from the zoo and go to Antarctica and Marty follows them to Grand Central Station. 

Discovering that their friend has gone, Alex, Melman and Gloria go after him but they and the penguins are soon recaptured by the zookeepers, tranquilized, and placed in crates en route to Kenya. On the boat the penguins escape their crate, take control of the ship and cause the crates to fall overboard and wash up on the shores of Madagascar. 

There they meet the illustrious King Julien, self-proclaimed Lord of the Ring-Tailed Lemurs, and his adviser, Maurice who see Alex as their new protector from the bloodthirsty foosa “who are always bothering us and ripping our limbs off.” 

While the three vegetarians enjoy the lemur’s daily diet of seaweed on a stick, Alex the carnivore starts to get hungry for his favorite food, steak, and begins to look at his best friends in a new light. Will the four friends be rescued in time or will someone end up on Alex’s dinner plate?

Directed by Andrew McCluskey, the show is funny, fast-paced and wildly engaging. All of the actors are excellent with special mention to the scene-stealing Jae Hughes as the narcissistic King Julien. The songs, including “Wild and Free,” “Relax, Be Cool, Chill Out,” are terrific as well. Choreographed by Jillian Sharpe, the big musical numbers — “Steak,“ “Living in Paradise,” and the iconic “I Like to Move It” —  bring the audience to their feet.

Utilizing the set from the theater’s current Main Stage production “A Bronx Tale,” the stage comes alive through the use of lighting, sound effects (like Alex’s roar and the ship’s horn), props and costumes. The standing ovation at the end of last Saturday’s performance was well-deserved. Don’t miss this one.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St. Northport presents Madagascar: A Musical Adventure on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through May 8 (no show on April 17) with special spring break performances on April 21 and 22 at 11 a.m. All seats are $20. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.