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John W. Engeman Theater

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.


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

The 2019 cast of 'Frosty'. Photo from the Engeman

He’s back! The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Frosty from Nov. 21 to Jan. 2, 2022. Join Jenny and Frosty on their chilly adventures as they try to save the town of Chillsville from mean old Ethel Pierpot and her evil machine that will melt all the snow. Jenny calls on her Mom, the mayor, and all of you to help her save her home, get Frosty to the North Pole, and make this holiday season a Winter Wonderland for one and all! All seats are $20. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please take your seats 

and grasp on to your armrests.

You’re about to be part of

 a musical experience!

Oh, and 

You WILL get the urge to

 jump up, sing and dance.

GO for it!

You have just entered 


On September 16, the lights came up once again on the Main Stage at the Engeman Theater since they were shuttered last March and there’s no better way to premier their 14th season of bringing professional theatre to Long Island audiences than with the Grammy Award winning and Tony nominated hit, Smokey Joe’s Café. This exceptional revue holds a special place at the Engeman since it was the very first show produced on their stage back in 2007.

The second the theater’s red curtains sweep open, we are catapulted into a dazzling world that is Broadway’s longest running musical review. This fast-paced show brims with 40 high powered hits by the prolific songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who wrote for icons like Elvis Presley, Ben E. King, The Coasters and The Drifters. The show is over in a blink of an eye and at the end all you want is an encore. 

Since this is a musical revue it is devoid of dialogue, but the songs create little vignettes. It takes a talented ensemble to tell stories through song and that’s exactly what Deidre Goodwin has accomplished with her directorial choices, stunning choreography and perfect casting. Goodwin has placed the audience in the hands of these dynamic entertainers who ignite the house. 

Soon the audience becomes a venerable character taking part in the show by punctuating the end of every song with enthusiastic cheers and applause. Audience response culminates with an explosive standing ovation at the curtain call. The one reprised song, Neighborhood, performed eloquently by the entire company, serves to connect the songs creating a scrapbook feel.

There are so many captivating moments in this show.

In Young Blood, we meet a quintet of male performers (Devinre Adams as Ken, Tasheim Ramsey Pack as Adrian, Christopher Brasfield as Victor, Brian Maurice Kinnard a Fred and Jeff Sullivan as Michael) with smooth dancing and powerful harmonies. 

In Dance With Me, B.J. (Elizabeth Yetunde Adabale) wraps the lyrics around her BIG leather voice that sends chills. Adabale captivates each time she takes center stage.

As Pattie, Francesca Ferrari, in I Keep Forgettin’ and Pearl’s a Singer shows off her formidable vocal dexterity capable of filling the house with her high notes that fall into a gravelly blues sound that almost resurrects Janis Joplin.

DeLee, Alysha Morgan, in Teach Me How to Shimmy, stops the show with her incredible dance made even more exciting by costume designer David Withrow’s sparkling silver fringe mini dress, just one in his array of striking showpiece costumes that permit ease of movement.

Mars Storm Rucker as Brenda draped in Winthrow’s black gown replete with a mile long train, is sultry and seductive as they declares a no-nonsense ultimatum in the torch song Don Juan. Rucker returns with their gorgeous belting voice in Some Cats Know. Equipped with nothing more than a simple staged chair acting as their partner, this visual is reminiscent of a Bob Fosse Chicago routine.

Brasfield is a uniquely talented force with his comical whiskey guzzling D.W. Washburn, to his impressive falsetto that blasts into the stratosphere in his heart wrenching I (Who Have Nothing).

A battle of the sexes ensues when the female ensemble gives a scorching rendition of I’m a Woman that reads like a spiked heal smashing down on the men’s lascivious turn at Little Egypt.

Scenic designer David Goldstein has given each song its own setting by constructing a raised platform, stairs on one side and spiral staircase on the other against an abstract backdrop of city windows that are enhanced by John Burkland’s lighting design which morphs into a variety of colors from pinks to blues to whites to yellows behind the windowpanes signifying mood changes. An outstanding touch is the strings of vertical white lights that exhilarate and define On Broadway.

The songs never quit and the five piece band keeps the energy flowing. Highlighted instrumental solos add excitement to some numbers. Joel Levy’s saxophone fires up Spanish Harlem while Darnell White’s keyboard joins in the fun with Charlie Brown and Baby, That is Rock & Roll is infused with Ray Sabatello’s spirited guitar riffs and Russell Brown’s cool bass.

This is theatre at its best dropped right in the middle of Northport. From the moment you enter the Engeman, you are awed by the attention to detail from its well-appointed lobby to its stadium style seating. It is as if you have been lifted by a tornado of Oz-like proportion and dropped right in the middle of Broadway. That sensation continues all through this spectacular show until you step back outside only to realize you are indeed on bucolic Main Street.

Join the celebratory reopening of theatre at the Engeman with a show that is packed with hit songs, slick dance numbers and a first-rate cast. This is truly a feast for the mind and the soul. 

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Smokey Joe’s Cafe through Oct. 31. Tickets are $75 per person and include free valet parking. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

A previous performance of 'Rapunzel: A Tangled Fairytale' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jessie Eppelheimer

Next up at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport is Rapunzel, A Tangled Fairytale from Sept. 25 to Oct. 31.

Forced to live alone in a tower with nothing but her hair and her witch (literally) of a “mother”, Rapunzel’s sixteenth birthday has come – meaning she’ll be able to see the outside world for the first time, just as her “mother” promised. Scared to let her go, though, the witch reneges. Lucky for Rapunzel a young prince, named Brian, happens across her tower and calls out her as he’s seen the witch do: “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!” Before the Prince and Rapunzel have their inevitable “happily ever after,” though, they’re going to have to face the wrath of the witch and few other hilarious obstacles.

Shows are held on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. All seats are $20. To order, 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.


Photo from Engeman Theater

Kevin O’Neill & Rich Dolce, owners of the John W. Engeman Theater, have joined forces with Northport High School 1995 Long Island Champion Boys Basketball Team in their effort to refurbish the iconic basketball court in Cow Harbor Park in downtown Northport Village to create an accessible place where kids can discover and nurture a love for the game.

“By working with the Northport Basketball Team, we are helping children and families have increased access to healthier lifestyles as well as safe, inclusive and innovative play opportunities for years to come,” said Kevin O’Neill.

“What’s been so inspiring is how many former classmates who are now parents have contributed to the initiative. As parents we have a unique perspective on how important a role sports play in building confidence and character. Kevin & Rich are parents too and have seen the benefits of sports on their own kids. They recognize that something as seemingly simple as a basketball court can have a profound impact on young people as they develop,” stated Doug Trani & Chris Wiebke, Northport Class of 1995 who are spearheading the efforts.

The Theater has pledged a $7,000 donation to the $23,861 already raised through the GoFundMe campaign that the team has set up.

All proceeds from ticket sales to SMOKEY JOES CAFE performances on 9/16 & 9/17 will be donated towards the project goal of $50,000.

“Basketball has had a profound impact on our lives, and it all stems from playing in our local parks here in Northport. Providing kids and teens the chance to fall in love with the game we did is an opportunity we didn’t want to pass up,” said Doug Trani.

The John W. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main Street in Northport. To purchase tickets to the Sept. 16 or Sept. 17 performances of Smokey Joe’s Café, please call 631-261-2900 or visit www.johnengemantheater.com

Photo from John W. Engeman Theater
The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport released the following statement on August 3:
Due to the recent increase in Covid-19 cases and our ever changing public health safety environment, all patrons of The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport will need to be fully vaccinated* with an FDA-authorized vaccine to attend a performance. All patrons entering the theater must show proof of vaccination with their valid ID. A Vaccination Card or Excelsior Pass are both acceptable forms of proof.

At this time, we echo the CDC’s recommendation that all patrons wear a mask inside the theater unless actively eating or drinking.

Proof of vaccination will be required of all patrons over the age of 12. Children under the age of 12 may still attend performances with a fully vaccinated adult, but they will be required to wear a mask throughout their time at the theater.

Please understand these measures are in place for the safety and health of our patrons, employees and our community as a whole. We hope to continue providing beautiful memories and productions for as long as possible and these protocols will help us to do so. We thank you in advance for your cooperation and please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

“Fully vaccinated” means the performance date you are attending must be:

At least 14 days after your second dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or

At least 14 days after your single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

The John W. Engeman‘s COVID-19 protocols remain subject to change. Any changes will be clearly communicated to ticket holders in advance of their performance.

By Heidi Sutton

The John W. Engeman Theater celebrates the return of children’s theater with a production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr., an abbreviated version of the 1989 animated classic based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. With music by Alan Menken, book by Doug Wright and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, the show, which opened last Saturday morning, begins with the seafaring number “Fathoms Below” and never loses its momentum.

Directed by Steven Dean Moore, with musical direction by Nicki Winzelberg and choreography by Becky Grace Kalman, the story centers around Princess Ariel, the youngest mermaid daughter of King Triton, who is obsessed with the world above and longs to trade in her fish tail for a pair of legs, much to the dismay of her father. 

When she falls in love with Prince Eric, Ariel strikes a bargain with her aunt, the evil sea witch Ursula, to become human. There is a catch however — Ariel must give up her voice and Eric must fall in love with her in three days or she will lose her soul forever. With the help of her best friend Flounder, the court composer Sebastian the crab, and a seagull named Scuttle, Ariel sets off to follow her heart. Will love conquer all or will revenge strike it down?

Katie Dolce is perfectly cast as the strong-willed Ariel and her solo, “Part of Your World,” is breathtaking. She shares a nice chemistry with Matthew Rafanelli, her charming Prince Eric, who holds his own with “One Step Closer” where he teaches a mute Ariel how to dance in one of the most endearing moments in the show.

In his debut at the Engeman, T. Ramsey Pack is incredible as Sebastian. With a spot on Jamaican accent, a calming presence, and flawless comedic timing, Pack is the perfect crabby crustacean tasked with keeping an eye on Ariel and pulls off the show’s two most elaborate numbers, “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” with ease. He even walks like a crab! 

Jae Hughes’ amazing talents abound in the role of Scuttle and shines in the tap-dancing number “Human Stuff” while teaching Ariel all about dinglehoppers, thingamajigs and snarfblatts, la-di-da! And AnnaBelle Deaner, as bestie Flounder, is in perfect harmony with Ariel’s sisters — Allana (Ella Piscatello), Aquata (Angelina Miller), Atina (Elizabeth Dolce), Adella (Amelia Freiberger), Arista (Jenna Hammelman) and Andrina (Meaghan McInnes) — in “She’s in Love.” 

The role of Ursula is shared by Jennifer Collester and Samantha Carroll. During Saturday’s show, Collester gave a powerful performance of the villainous sea witch — her version of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” will give you chills. And Suzanne Mason and Ryan McInnes are downright creepy as the slithering moray eel minions Flostam and Jetsam. Great job!

One of the most entertaining scenes of the show takes place in the palace kitchen with Chef Louis. Elizabeth Dolce takes this delicious role and runs with it, literally, as she attempts to serve Sebastian for dinner. Her version of “Les Poissons,” complete with a French accent and a chase scene, is hilarious!

Supporting cast members also include Justin Autz as Prince Eric’s confidant Grimsby, always by his side; Moore Theobald as the head sailor on Prince Eric’s ship; and Logan Dolence as King Triton, a protective and loving father.

As an added bonus, a large screen in the background changes with the scenery (the deck of a ship, Ariel’s grotto, the beach, the castle, etc) and shows scenes from the movie which are hard to replicate on stage including when Ariel saves Prince Eric from drowning and when Ariel gives her voice to Ursula. A nice touch. 

The incredibly beautiful costumes by Laura McGauley, from the colorful merfolk outfits and wigs, royal palace garbs, Scuttle’s feathers, Ursula’s tentacles, and iridescent eel puppets are the icing on the cake.

The cast and creative team have composed a wonderful morning of live theater. Don’t miss this one! 

The John W, Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through Aug. 22. The Disney theme continues with Beauty & the Beast Jr. from Sept. 25 to Oct. 31. All seats are $20. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Corinne Wight

A scene from 'The Little Mermaid Jr.' at the Engeman in 2018. Photo by Jessie Eppelheimer

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. from July 24 to Aug. 29. Follow the adventures of mermaid princess Ariel and her friends Flounder the Guppy, Scuttle the Seagull, and Sebastian the Crab in this musical under-the-sea classic.

THE LITTLE MERMAID JR. tells the “tail” of a mermaid who longs to be human and the prince who helps her achieve her dream. With popular sing-along songs such as “Under the Sea,” “Kiss the Girl,” “Part of Your World,” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” this abbreviated version of the well-known Disney fable runs under 90 minutes and is appropriate for families and children of all ages. Performed by a cast of semi-professional adult actors, expect lots of dancing in the aisles and audience interaction for this Children’s Theater performance.

All seats are $20. To order, call 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.