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John W. Engeman Theater

A scene from 'On Your Feet!'. Photo from Engeman Theater
The production is now scheduled to run through September 3.

Due to overwhelming demand, the John W. Engeman Theater has added an extra week to the run of ON YOUR FEET! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan, offering four additional performances.

Originally scheduled to close Sunday, August 28, the final performance will now take place on Saturday, September 3 at 8 p.m.

The schedule for the added performances is as follows:

Thursday, September 1st at 8pm

Friday, September 2nd at 8pm

Saturday, September 3rd at 3pm

Saturday, September 3rd at 8pm

From their humble beginnings in Cuba, Emilio and Gloria Estefan came to America and broke through all barriers to become a crossover sensation at the very top of the pop music world. But just when they thought they had it all, they almost lost everything. ON YOUR FEET! takes you behind the music and inside the real story of this record-making, and groundbreaking couple who, in the face of adversity, found a way to end up on their feet. Get ready to get on your feet, and dance to the smash hits “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” “1-2-3,” “Live For Loving You,” “Conga,” and many more.

Tickets are now on sale for the additional performance dates and can be purchased by calling 631-261-2900, going online at www.engemantheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport. Tickets are $80 for Saturday evenings and $75 for all other performances.

 

By Rita J. Egan

Before Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine filled the airwaves with their Latin-inspired pop music and heart-wrenching ballads. On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan is now playing at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, and local theatergoers can discover the Estefans’ story through Aug. 28.

The theater was nearly sold out on July 16, press opening night. The audience members were ready to be entertained and were not disappointed. Director Dana Iannuzzi and the Engeman cast skillfully share the inspiring tale of achieving the American Dream through infectious music and dynamic dance numbers.

The musical by Alexander Dinelaris takes place from 1975 to 1991 and highlights the early days of the Estefans’ climb to fame. It also incorporates a few flashbacks to even earlier periods. The show ran on Broadway from 2015 to 2017.

The day Emilio, of the Miami Latin Boys, visited the home of Gloria’s family was the moment that musical history began. The husband-and-wife team’s first encounter led to chart-topping hits such as “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “Conga,” “Get on Your Feet,” “Anything for You,” “Coming Out of the Dark,” and more. The songs are incorporated throughout the story, along with “If I Never Got to Tell You,” which was written for the musical. Each one is perfectly placed, whether it’s an upbeat number to mark a happy time in the couple’s life or a ballad to remember their adversities. The songs are not always sung by the Gloria character which puts a new spin on some well known tunes.

There are moments during the musical that will leave the audience teary-eyed as they are taken back in time to when young Gloria misses her father, who is fighting in Vietnam. A few years later, he is battling multiple sclerosis, and she helps care for him. There are also flashbacks to when Emilio’s and Gloria’s families escaped Cuba. The couple’s story would not be complete without including the bus crash in 1990, when Gloria was left with a broken back and unable to walk for months. She battled the fight of her life to get back on stage, which she did at the 1991 American Music Awards.

Alexis Semevolos-Velazquez is a stunning Gloria Estefan. She has mastered the singer’s alto voice range, where at times, one may feel as if they hear Estefan herself. Semevolos-Velazquez delivers on every number, especially during “Coming Out of the Dark.” The song marks the climax of the musical as Gloria takes to the stage at the AMAs. During the musical, the actress seamlessly goes from a sweet, young Gloria to a determined woman who will not let anything stand in her way.

Victor Souffrant is so convincing as the determined and focused Emilio Estefan that when he first sings during “I See Your Smile,” it’s hard to believe that the sweet, soothing vocals are coming from him, but they are. He sings beautifully with Semevolos-Velazquez and in Act 2 with Nicole Paloma Sarro, who plays Gloria’s mother, during the tearjerker “If I Never Got to Tell You.”

While the audience may want to dislike Sarro as Gloria Fajardo, the jealous mother who tries to keep her daughter from pursuing her musical dreams, one just can’t. She not only shines when she sings with Souffrant but also during “Mi Tierra” in the first act. Carol Beaugard, as Gloria’s grandmother Consuelo, and Gabriela Moscoso, who plays the singer’s sister Rebecca Fajardo, are both endearing. Moscoso sings backup on many of the songs and joins Semevolos-Velazquez on “Anything for You.” It’s evident her strong vocals are why she was chosen as Semevolos-Velazquez’s understudy, and she won’t miss a beat if she needs to step in as Gloria for a performance.

Ryan Morales plays Gloria’s father, Jose Fajardo, and it’s a delight to hear his bari-tenor singing voice during “When Someone Comes Into Your Life,” a duet with Semevolos-Velazquez. The song is bound to have many reaching for their tissues.

Sofia Jarmel is precious as young Gloria, and her singing voice stands out, even in a cast where she is one of the youngest. Luca Silva plays Nayib Estefan, a young Emilio and a couple of ensemble parts. The actor is adorable, and while he only has a few lines, his timing is perfect.

What else is perfectly done during On Your Feet! is the storyline covers the adversities in the Estefans’ lives without turning too somber. In addition to the infectious sounds of the Miami Sound Machine to keep audience members’ spirits lifted, there are some well-timed comedic lines. David De Almo, Phil the record label executive, especially had people laughing in their seats. The whole ensemble is a pleasure to watch. 

Conductor Erika R. Gamez and the band nail the brass- and percussion-driven songs, while choreographer Sandalio Alvarez has crafted energetic, Latin-inspired dances. The costumes designed by Cecilia X. Gutierrez help to capture the various years depicted in the musical, and Gloria’s concert outfits are eye-catching.

Make sure to bring your tissues and dancing shoes because the Engeman’s production of the Estefans’ story will pull at your heartstrings and have you on your feet dancing before the night is over.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, presents “On Your Feet” through Aug. 28. Tickets are $80 on Saturday evenings and $75 all other performances. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present RENT School Edition on Monday, Aug. 1 and Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. The show is performed entirely by The John W. Engeman Studio’s audition-only elite Select Players.

The show, based loosely on Puccini’s La Boheme, follows a year in the life of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York’s Lower East Side, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

Directed by Andrew McCluskey and choreographed by Becky Kalman, the cast features Lizzie Becker, Aidan Bento, Logan Borre, Kieran J. Brown, Richard Campbell, Gabe Cruz, Lizzie Dolce, Daniella Falco, Greta Frankonis, Giuliana Gallone, Finn Gilbert, Ariana Glaser, Tara Griffin, Jenna Hammelman, Derek Hough, Max Lamberg, Madison Loscalzo, Alexander Mahr, Angelina Miller, Mia Mirabile, Alexandra Mitnick, Zachary Podair, Madelyn Quigley, Samantha Regenbogen, Ari Spiegel, Jacqueline Winslow and Ray Zerner.

Tickets are $20 per person. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Heidi Sutton

What’s your favorite color? If the answer is pink, then you should run, not walk, to the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport to catch a truly wonderful production of Pinkalicious the Musical. 

Based on the popular children’s book by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann, the show tells the story of a little girl named Pinkalicious Pinkerton who loves the color pink (“It’s a color like no other!”) and is obsessed with pink cupcakes.

Despite her parent’s warnings, Pinkalicious overindulges on the sugary delights and wakes up the next day pink from head to toe. The doctor diagnoses her with pinkititis and in order to keep it from becoming worse she has to eat healthy green foods. But Pinkalicious just can’t stop eating those cupcakes, and when she wakes up the second morning, she’s turned red. She realizes the only way out of this predicament is to follow doctor’s orders. But is it too late? Will she be red forever?

Directed by Danny Meglio with choreography by Jillian Sharpe, the show is an instant hit thanks to a talented cast of five who tackle this fast-paced script with ease. 

Perfectly cast in the role of Pinkalicious, Emilie Goodrich embraces her inner child to bring this colorful, energetic character to life and sparkles on stage. The other members of the family, the organized Mrs. Pinkerton (the delightful Kassie Kueffne), the busy Mr. Pinkerton (an incredible Justin Autz), and overlooked brother Peter (the multi-talented Jae Hughes) along with best friend Alison (the amazing Kara Vito), play multiple roles throughout the show with unbounded enthusiasm.

What’s special about this show is that each actor has a chance to shine with a solo, from Goodrich’s lovely “When Dreams Come True,” to Kueffne’s lullaby “You Get Just What You Get,” Vito’s “Pinkititis,” Jae Hughes’ heartfelt “I Got the Pink Blues,” and Autz in the “Finale.”

There are also so many wonderful moments in the show. At one point the family goes to the doctor’s office on a pink four seat bicycle. On the way back home, they take a detour through the aisles of the theater to go to a park with a real slide. While at the park Pinkalicious is surrounded by a bee, a bird and two butterflies who are attracted to her pink color in the cute number “Buzz Off.”  Another time, Pinkalicious has a dream about pink cupcakes who all of a sudden walk out of the refrigerator and start singing and dancing. Great stuff.

Pinkalicious is more than a story about eating your vegetables. It is about the power of communication, the love of family and the affirmation that a little pink goes a long way. Don’t miss this one. 

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Pinkalicious The Musical through July 3. All seats are $20. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Sonny and my father always said 

that when I get older I would understand.

Well, I finally did.

I learned something from these two men.

I learned to give love and get love unconditionally.

And I learned the saddest thing in life is wasted talent

And the choices that you make will shape your life forever.

But you can ask anybody from my neighborhood

And they will tell you,

This is just another 

Bronx Tale.

(Calogero’s quote)

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport captivates once again and this time it’s with the gritty, heartfelt, edge of your seat excitement of A Bronx Tale: The Musical. The show opened on March 24.

From the moment you enter the theatre, you are immersed in the Italian flavor of the show from the red/white checkered cloths decorating tables, to the delectable cannoli, to the Sinatra style crooner in the lounge.

A Bronx Tale is a coming-of-age musical told from the perspective of an Italian American young man, Calogero, growing up on the mean streets of 1960s Bronx. The gangsters in the neighborhood fascinate him. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnesses Sonny, the mob boss, brutally shoot a man for assaulting his friend, but when the police question the child, he doesn’t snitch. Impressed, Sonny takes young Calogero under his wing, gives him the nickname “C,” introduces him to his gang and offers him odd jobs around his bar. 

Fast forward eight years; all this time C has been working for Sonny and hiding it from his father. He has developed the reputation as Sonny’s sidekick thus gaining respect from all the other mobsters. At school, C meets a Black girl, Jane, and they are instantly attracted though they know it is forbidden by both their neighborhoods. They plan a date anyway amidst mounting racial tensions which culminate in a climactic clash.

Centered around respect, loyalty, love and family, A Bronx Tale took on many forms before it was adapted into the musical version. Chazz Palminteri wrote the one man play version in 1989 as an acting vehicle for himself. It is semi-autobiographical, based on his 1960’s childhood in the Bronx. The play premiered in Los Angeles (1989) before moving to Off-Broadway. Robert DeNiro saw the play in Los Angeles (1990) and resolved to turn it into a movie. DeNiro and Palminteri teamed up to make the 1993 film. This was DeNiro’s directorial debut and the two wrote the screenplay. DeNiro played Lorenzo, the father, with Palminteri taking on the role of Sonny, the mob boss.

From October 25, 2007, through February 24, 2008, Palminteri performed his one man show on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre under the direction of Jerry Zaks. Next came the musical with book by Palminteri, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater and co-directed by DeNiro and Zaks. It opened on Broadway December 1, 2016, and closed on August 5, 2018. Of special note, the role of Jane was played by this year’s supporting actress Oscar winner, Ariana DeBose.

The Engeman production is breathtaking in every way. Kyle Dixon’s set impresses starting as Belmont Avenue with abstract tenements, fire escapes, a prominent stoop and streetlight where a chorus of doowop opens the show and then seamlessly transforms into various locations. Lighting by John Burkland washes the set in pale red tones, a metaphor for the crime-ridden streets, then brightens for lighter moments.

Calogero is played to perfection by Mike Cefalo whose soulful eyes, ready smile and rich vocals invites the audience into his world. His counterpart, the nine-year- old Calogero played by Michael Deaner, is adorable, but with a street wise edge, not an easy task for a kid to play. Deaner infuses so much joy into his songs it is infectious.

The voice of reason, Lorenzo (Charlie Marcus), exudes fervor fighting for his son’s soul with lines like, “If you get lost, look to me, I’m here for you.” Shaina Vencel (Rosina) makes us feel the motherly love and devotion she has for her son. Mike Keller’s mobster Sonny is charming and generous but dangerous if you cross him. He genuinely cares about Calogero and teaches him lessons he learned from the streets. “Make them fear you, not love you,” is his mantra. Mackenzie Meadows as Jane is radiant with a stunning voice. It is easy to see how C could fall for her. Sonny tells C that you only get Three Great Ones in your life and Meadows makes us believe she is one of them.

Director/choreographer Paul Stancato has assembled a stellar cast that hits all the emotional tones this show requires. His choreography is energetic with spectacular high kicks and passionate. Dustin Cross’ costumes are 60s nostalgia with tight fitting pedal pushers, midriff tops, black leather jackets and all those gangster suits. Music director Benjamin Stayner and his band glide through this tuneful score with its doowop, Motown and Broadway style ballads.

The Engeman delivers high powered professionalism on all cylinders with A Bronx Tale: The Musical. The show runs through May 8.

The John E. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main Street in Northport. To order tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Actor, filmmaker and playwright Chazz Palminteri and his wife Gianna attended the opening night of A Bronx Tale: The Musical at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport on Saturday, March 26.

The Bronx native, who wrote the play based on his childhood in 1989 and starred as Sonny in the movie version in 1993, thanked the Engeman and cast for a job well done.   

“I haven’t seen the musical since Broadway and it is really amazing what this theater did here with the space they have, with the set, it’s just outstanding. I am amazed by it, and my hat goes off to the incredible cast and all the people here at this incredible theater. It brought back a lot of memories,” he said. 

“We are truly honored that Chazz and Gianna Palminteri were able to attend the opening night of A Bronx Tale. To be able to celebrate our production with the man who created this brilliant story was a moment that none of us will ever forget,” said Richard Dolce, co-owner of the John W. Engeman Theater. 

See video of the event here.

Photo from Engeman Theater

On Feb. 8 co-owners of the John W. Engeman Theater Richard T. Dolce and Kevin J. O’Neill presented a check to the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry of Northport at the First Presbyterian Church of Northport with money raised in support of the Food Pantry .

Following each performance of White Christmas, cast members collected donations for the Food Pantry. In total, $35,000 was collected during the run of the 2021 holiday production.

Co-Owner and Managing Director Kevin O’Neill stated that this fundraising effort represents an ongoing commitment to give back to the communities of Northport and greater Long Island. This is the eighth year that the Engeman Theater has raised funds for the Food Pantry and the First Presbyterian Church of Northport, which hosts the Food Pantry. To date, the Theater has donated over $214,000 to the First Presbyterian Church & the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry.

The cast, from left, Lizzie Dolce, Matt Rafanelli, Justin Autz, Meaghan McInnes and Jae Hughes. Photo from Engeman Theater

By Heidi Sutton

As the weather outside becomes frightful, the Engeman Theater in Northport invites families inside for a heartwarming production of Frosty. The terrific cast, directed by Jennifer Collester with stage manager Jillian Sharpe, brings the holiday musical to life with catchy sing-alongs and plenty of audience participation. 

The narrator (Lizzie Dolce) introduces us to Jenny (Meaghan McInnes), a young girl who lives in Chillsville, “a little town way up north that is always covered with a fresh blanket of snow.” The daughter of the Mayor (Matt Rafanelli), Jenny’s favorite thing to do is to play outside. With help from her father, she builds a snowman and names him Frosty. When Jenny puts a scarf around him, Frosty (Justin Autz) magically comes to life and the two become fast friends.

On the other side of town, Ebenezer Pierpot (Jae Hughes), the president of Pierpot Enterprises (a manufacturer of snow shovels, snowblowers, and ice scrapers), wants to build a bigger factory in the park but can’t do that with all the snow. During a meeting at town hall, Pierpot tricks the Mayor into signing a contract to build a machine that will melt all the snow in the town, putting Frosty’s life in jeopardy. 

With Chillsville getting warmer by the minute, will Jenny come up with a plan to save Frosty or will he turn into a large puddle of water with a carrot?

I always look forward to reviewing this show because I love to see the children’s faces light up when they realize that they have been invited to become part of the production. They move to the edge of their seats with eager anticipation as they wait for the next question from the narrator or the cast and the next sing-a-long to join in.

During the performance the audience is asked what Jenny should do today (Build a snowman!), to come up with a plan to save Frosty (Move to another town!), help Jenny write a letter to her dad, and wish for snow (and it works!) They also join the narrator in the fun opening number, “Snow!” and the entire cast in a lively rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.”

With the ultimate message that love “is pretty powerful stuff,” this is the perfect show to introduce a child to live theater and is a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Frosty through Jan. 2. Running time is 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. Children’s theater continues with Disney’s Frozen Jr. from Jan. 29 to Feb. 27 and Madagascar – A Musical Adventure from March 26 to May 1. All seats are $20. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Phenomenal music, dance, comedy with romance sprinkled on top all wrapped up in a giant red velvet bow, that’s White Christmas, Engeman Theater’s gift to ring in this joyous season.

Last year, the holidays were dismal with theatres shut across our great nation due to COVID, but not even a sweeping pandemic could extinguish its spirit for long. Theater fought back, reigniting marques with brilliant neon lights announcing that the show would most certainly go on.

The Engeman proudly swung open its grand glass doors welcoming all who enter to enjoy the magic of live theatre once more and to celebrate the holidays it is treating audiences to an irresistible White Christmas. With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and book by David Ives and Paul Blake, this musical is based on the much loved 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. The first stage adaptation did not happen until 2004 when it premiered in San Francisco before playing a limited engagement on Broadway from Nov. 14, 2008, until Jan. 4, 2009.

The story revolves around two former WWII army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis who, after the war, become successful entertainers, then big time producers. They get a letter presumably from an army buddy asking them to check out his sisters’ act at a local club. Sparks fly when they meet these sisters who are leaving that night for a Vermont Inn to fulfill a booking engagement. In pursuit of romance, Bob and Phil follow the ladies and discover that their former general who now owns this inn has fallen on hard times. The plot proceeds with mad cap comedy and extraordinary musical numbers.

With producing artistic director, Richard Dolce and managing director Kevin J. O’Neill at the helm, the Engeman is dedicated to creating Broadway caliber experiences for their audiences and White Christmas is professionalism at its very best. 

This multi-talented ensemble is captivating. From the rollicking open numbers of Happy Holidays and White Christmas, Aaron Young as Bob Wallace and Daniel Plimpton as Phil Davis grasp us and never let go. Young’s voice richly floats through his every song while his stage presence is beguiling. Davis is a true song and dance man. The I Love a Piano duet featuring Darien Crago as Judy Hayes, is a tour de force tap number. Crago’s skill and energy mesmerizes in all her dance routines, making them appear effortless. Meadow Nguy as Betty Haynes soaring soprano sends chills especially in Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me. 

Rounding out this ensemble is an impressive supporting cast. Keith Lee Grant is riveting as the stern General Henry Waverly shouting out commands until he reaches a moment of reflection that allows the caring man within to materialize. Suzanne Mason as Martha Watson sporting red curls reminiscent of Lucille Ball and impeccable comedic timing takes center stage belting out Let Me Sing and I’m Happy and nearly stops the show. The general’s granddaughter, Susan Waverly, played by AnnaBelle Deaner, mimics Martha with a rousing reprise of the same song.

Director Matt Kunkel has created sheer perfection taking us on a memorable musical journey of sight and sound. Music Director Camille Johnson maintains energetic fluidity from start to finish with a band that is beautifully synchronized to the performers in every number.

Choreography is central to this show and Drew Humphrey’s lively routines from the tap numbers to a chorus line done with the precision of the Rockettes is outstanding. Sound design is essential in a musical and Laura Shubert has the levels just right.

This is a period piece musical therefore costumes must allow for ease of movement while reflecting the 1950’s era and Dustin Cross has created breathtaking silhouettes most notably the dreamy coats decorated with clouds in Blue Skies, the dazzling black and white ensembles in I Love a Piano with Judy’s belt that unwinds into piano keys and all those stunning red confections in the White Christmas and I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm finale. Hair design is another essential element in a period piece and Conor Donnelly’s 1950’s hairstyles look authentic.

Kyle Dixon’s scenic design sets the tone and is functional as it morphs easily from one scene into the next giving the continuous feel of the magical holiday season by emphasizing reds, greens and whites. Dixon’s giant frames of white bark against green matting outlines the set and emphasizes a rural feel for the Vermont Inn. Aaron Bowersox’s lighting design adds brilliance to the big numbers and subtle touches for gentler moments.

White Christmas is a must-see festive treat for the entire family so ring in the holidays with this spectacular musical now through January 2, 2022. And be sure to return for the rest of their 2021-2022 season of exciting shows.

The John W. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main Street in Northport. Tickets to the show range from $75 to $80 with free valet parking. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport continues its MainStage season  with White Christmas from Nov. 11 to Jan. 2, 2022.

Based on the beloved film, this heartwarming adaptation follows vaudeville stars and veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis as they head to Vermont to pursue romance with a duo of beautiful singing sisters. This family classic features beloved songs by Irving Berlin including “Blue Skies,” “I Love A Piano,” “How Deep Is The Ocean” and the perennial favorite, White Christmas.The cast of WHITE CHRISTMAS

Directed by Matt Kunkel with choreography by Drew Humphrey,  the cast features DARIEN CRAGO as Judy Haynes, MEADOW NGUY as Betty Haynes, DANIEL PLIMPTON as Phil Davis and AARON YOUNG as Bob Wallace.

The cast includes ANNABELLE DEANER as Susan Waverly, KEITH LEE GRANT as General Henry
Waverly, and SUZANNE MASON as Martha.

The ensemble includes NICK ABBOTT, EMILY APPLEBAUM, JUSTIN CAMPBELL, SYDNEY
CHOW, JOSHUA KEEN, ELIZABETH MCGUIRE, NICK MONALDO, TERRY PALASZ, RYAN
RODINO, EVAN SHEETS, JULIA SPRINGER, STEPHEN VALENTI, MAYA IMANI, and AUSTIN
IOVANNIA.

Tickets are $80 for matinees and on Saturday evenings, $75 all other performances. To order, call 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.