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.
Recent visitors to the Village of Northport have witnessed 225 Main St. develop into the boutique hotel that the owners have anticipated for years.
Kevin O’Neill, co-owner of The Northport Hotel, along with Richard Dolce, said things are finally coming along after a few delays, including several supply chain issues. He said while he’s not 100% certain when the hotel will officially open, he is hoping for around October this year.
“We’re past equipment delays and material delays,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of labor. Can we get enough manpower on-site to get it all the way home?”
He added the third floor of the soon-to-be 26-room hotel is fully Sheetrocked, the parking area is about to be paved and the sidewalk is being put down.
The owners bought the building in 2016, hoping a boutique hotel would be open in 18 months. O’Neill, who also owns the John W. Engeman Theater with Dolce, said the first delay was due to needing a better understanding of the municipality permit process. He said while hotels were once in Northport, when the zoning codes were established in 1946, there were no more hotels left and, therefore, no need for codes. To build The Northport Hotel, there needed to be a zoning change, which was completed in August 2018.
Village board members also asked him to reduce the size of the restaurant from the proposed 200 seats to 175 before he could receive their approval.
“As a result, by the time I did get my approvals it was right on the doorstep of COVID,” O’Neill said.
During the early days of the pandemic, construction sites were closed for 73 days by New York State. Once the state permitted building, O’Neill delayed construction a bit longer.
“In May of 2020, we didn’t know what was going to happen in the world,” he said, adding he wanted to see how the economy would do.
O’Neill said Donna Koch, the new village mayor, board of trustees and Ed Gathman, village attorney, have been cooperative with him, and he feels that they are excited about the project as well.
Hotel and restaurant guests will be able to park in the 50-spot lots, or have the Engeman theater valets, when they are on duty, park the cars, he said. The theater has an agreement with a nearby church to use its lot for parking during showtimes.
He said he hopes the hotel will attract even more people to the village to visit the shops and restaurants.
The original building that once sat on the lot was built 125 years ago and was a Dutch colonial. O’Neill said they are trying to pay homage to the old house with dormer windows featuring the same design as the home once had on its windows.
He said in the 1950s, developers were permitted to develop their properties on Main Street further, and masonry structures were added to the front of many properties. The former house, encased with a rectangular masonry structure, could be seen sticking out above the roof line.
“It was once a beautiful home, but that was all butchered in the 1950s,” he said.
In addition to the windows, O’Neill hopes the restaurant’s 13-foot ceiling and the hotel rooms with 10-foot ceilings will create a feeling that the hotel was built decades ago and not recently.
“It’s got height and grandeur to it,” he said. ‘Someone asked me why do the rooms need to be 10-feet tall?’ Because back in the day that’s what they were.”
To keep people updated on the opening, the website www.thenpthotel.com has been created by the owners.
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.
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
It’s been an agonizingly long year for lovers of the arts as the COVID-19 pandemic canceled concerts, closed galleries and darkened theaters everywhere.
At the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, owners Richard T. Dolce and Kevin O’Neill have shouldered the burden of keeping the venue afloat and adapting to ever-changing safety guidelines.
“A part of running a business like this is being aware of risks where people wouldn’t be able to come to the theater,” said O’Neill, the theater’s managing director. “I’d been watching COVID spread since January of 2020, and I knew it was going to get ugly here. The last thing we wanted was to find out after the fact that one of our Saturday matinees ended up being one of those super-spreader events.”
Artistic director Richard T. Dolce recalled his last meeting with actors and the uncertainty they struggled with at the time.
“We were in rehearsals for [a Main Stage production] in the city, and I went in on the 13th of March. The day before, Governor Cuomo had shut down Broadway. The show was ready to go on, and I said goodbye to the cast, saying we would take it day by day and see how it went. Not long after, we realized we weren’t going to reopen. It was difficult, because we had no idea what was going on.”
Of course, weeks turned into months of waiting. Fortunately, the theater was able to receive some financial support through federal small business relief loans. The community was eager to help as well.
“Everyone has been so incredibly kind and understanding, and we didn’t have a lot of refund requests — people wanted to continue to support us,” O’Neill said. “We’ve worked hard to build strong relationships with our patrons over the last 14 years, and it really felt like we were in it together.”
With the building unoccupied for the foreseeable future, it was also a good time to do some sprucing up. The Engeman now has a high-tech ventilation system that ionizes and purifies the air, a new stage deck, fresh carpets, new bar equipment and renovated bathrooms.
While the Main Stage productions have been postponed until September, the theater is ready to open again at full capacity for fully-vaccinated patrons on July 9 with a Summer Concert Series featuring a variety of musicians and other performing artists for one or two performances apiece. The series has a little something for everyone, from show tunes to crooners, folk rock and even comedy.
A few highlights include cabaret/jazz artist Carole J. Bufford honoring revolutionary women artists including Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Carole King and Cher in “You Don’t Own Me: Fearless Females of the ‘60s and ‘70s” on July 10; Comedy Nights on July 15, July 24 and Aug. 26; “Shades of Bublé” will make you swoon with a three-man tribute to classic swing icon Michael Bublé on July 25; “Jersey Boys and Girls” will celebrate the best of the Garden State: Frank Sinatra, the Four Seasons, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston and more on Aug. 5 and 6; “Adam Pascal: So Far” welcomes the Broadway veteran for songs and stories from more than 25 years onstage on Aug. 14; and “Rock ‘n’ Radio” will feature more than 80 years of chart-topping pop hits on Aug. 19.
The theater’s reopening is also a time for families with young children to rejoice, as children’s theater returns on July 24 to Aug. 29 with Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. and teenagers can enjoy Heathers the Musical on July 31 and Aug. 1. Two sessions of Musical Theater Camp are also returning (July 5 to 30 and Aug. 2 to 27).
From the box office to the stage, the Engeman staff is beyond ready for the busy weekend crowds and the energetic crackle of a great performance.
“It feels wonderful to be back at the theater! Although as management we were working from home during the height of the pandemic and we all saw each other on our weekly Zoom meeting, there is something so special about being back together again. It feels like a kind of rebirth,” said box office manager Phyllis Molloy.
“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since we opened the doors. Our patrons are excited that we are back and they are really looking forward to the [summer lineup]. They have wanted to chat and catch up,” said Molloy. “For me, it’s nice to be able to book them into upcoming performances and say ‘See you soon.’ I’m looking forward to the opening evening and seeing all their familiar faces back in the theater.”
The John W. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main Street, Northport. For the full summer schedule and to purchase tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com. Please note: As of press time, proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required for all patrons 16 and older to enter.
The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is bringing out its disco balls and bell-bottoms this summer as it kicks off its 2019-20 mainstage season with “Saturday Night Fever.”
The high-energy musical delivers all the 1970s hits and fashion that’s made it a beloved classic for more than just baby boomers. The musical is based on the famous 1977 film of the same name that rocketed John Travolta into stardom. The film was adapted for the stage by Robert Stigwood in collaboration with Bill Oaks, and the North American version was written by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti.
Directed by Richard Dolce, “Saturday Night Fever” is the story of Tony Manero, a 19-year-old ladies’ man from the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. It’s 1977, and Tony is restless, working a dead-end job in the shadow of the Verrazzano Bridge and dealing with his family’s scathing disapproval. It doesn’t help that his brother Frank Jr. is a priest, making Tony even more of a black sheep.
All of that fades away on the weekends, though, when Tony escapes to the local disco Odyssey 2001 to show off his skills on the dance floor. He’s got real talent and sets his sights on winning an upcoming dance competition that could be his ticket to a more fulfilling life.
Tony is quickly frustrated with his overeager dance partner, Annette, who’s more interested in winning a trip to his bedroom than a dance competition. To Annette’s chagrin, Tony is drawn to Stephanie, a lovely yet guarded dancer he meets at the club. Stephanie reluctantly agrees to enter the contest as Tony’s partner on the condition that it’s strictly business. But their passion at the disco is unmistakable, and romance is hard to resist.
While it’s difficult to compare anyone to John Travolta, Michael Notardonato makes the role of Tony seem effortless. A newcomer to the Engeman, Notardonato has also played Tony elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad — he was even nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Musical by the Connecticut Critics Circle for a past performance of the show. Notardonato’s silky vocals and expert footwork are a treat to take in.
Annette (Andrea Dotto) and Stephanie (Missy Dowse) are in contrast throughout most of the show: One is bold, the other withdrawn; one is full-on Brooklyn, the other tries to forget her roots. Both Dotto and Dowse are great dancers with strong vocals; newcomer Dotto tugs on the heartstrings with a powerful rendition of “If I Can’t Have You,” while Dowse’s multiple duets with Notardonato (“100 Reasons,” “What Kind of Fool”) are where she really shines.
Also at the heart of “Saturday Night Fever” are Tony’s knucklehead best friends who are prone to making bad decisions, including some that change their lives forever. Matthew Boyd Snyder, Christopher Robert Hanford, Steven Dean Moore and Casey Shane act like they’ve known each other forever. They play well off of one another and have no trouble getting laughs out of the crowd while also drawing empathy in the show’s darker moments.
The standout work for this show goes to the ensemble and orchestra — after all, it’s the soundtrack and dancing that drive “Saturday Night Fever.” Chris Rayis leads the band in foot-tapping, dance-in-your-seat favorites from the Bee Gees, including “Stayin’ Alive,” “Boogie Shoes” and “Disco Inferno.” The ensemble’s dance numbers, including “Jive Talkin’” and “Night Fever,” are among the best in the show.
Dance captain Kelsey Andres, choreographer Breton Tyner-Bryan and associate choreographer Emily Ulrich deserve accolades for the obvious hard work and effort that went into preparing the cast to be at the top of their game. Keep an eye out for Gabriella Mancuso who plays Candy, 2001 Odyssey’s professional singer. Her vocals are among the strongest in the entire cast, and definitely the most memorable.
The extra touches to the Engeman’s production of “Saturday Night Fever” help the audience feel like they’re a part of the show. Disco balls can be found both above the stage and in the lounge area, covering the entire theater in those characteristic funky lights we all love. The set is equally dazzling and showcased a wide variety of scenes. The mirrors in the dance studio, neon lights in the club, and a stunning, climbable Verrazzano Bridge made the show more realistic.
The only drawback in the musical version of “Saturday Night Fever” is the number of unanswered questions by the end of the show, but it’s still a fantastic performance that’s not to be missed. Stick around after the curtain call for a few extra songs, and don’t be afraid to dance in the aisle.
See “Saturday Night Fever” now through Aug. 25 at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport. Tickets range from $75 to $80 with free valet parking. For showtimes and to buy tickets, visit www.EngemanTheater.com or call 631-261-2900.
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.
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 https://give.northwell.edu/Engeman.
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.
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.
Northport — On July 31 co-owners of the John W. Engeman Theater Richard T. Dolce and Kevin J. O’Neill presented a check to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, kicking off a capital campaign to rebuild the church bell tower, restore several stained glass windows and repair some of the building’s restrooms.
The goal of the capital campaign is to raise a total of $250,000 to $300,000 to support the costs of the repairs and restorations.
“Everything that we take in we use in some way, shape or form to support the community, to support ministries and missions out into the world, and to provide a facility,” said Pastor Kristina Hansen. “We are more than just a facility; our church is a home to Northport groups and organizations as well as our worshipping community.”
Since the first church was built at its current location in 1852, it has undergone several changes, including the construction of a new sanctuary in 1873 and the addition of a large education building in 1931-32.
Theater owners Dolce and O’Neill feel that the church is a landmark on Main Street. “It’s a beautiful structure,” said O’Neill, “And it’s part of what I think makes Main Street, Main Street.”
The John W. Engeman Theater has committed to donating a total of $25,000 in support of the capital campaign, which will be paid to the church over a period of three years.
“Our affinity for the arts naturally led us to come to the Engeman first, and we’re really overwhelmed with how generous and how immediate the response has been, “said Pastor Hansen. “It just continues to affirm that sense of community that Northport offers.”
In its 10 years of operation, the Engeman has raised funds for a wide variety of causes, including the American Red Cross and the Hurricane Sandy Relief effort, the First Presbyterian Church of Northport, the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry of Northport and the Huntington Light House Preservation Society. The donation to St. Paul’s capital campaign fulfills the theater’s ongoing commitment to supporting local organizations and the community.
“We feel very, very strongly that this community is our home, and we want to do everything we can to strengthen it,” said O’Neill. “We hope that others within the village will participate to support this grand structure and contribute to the campaign.” To learn how to contribute to the capital campaign, visit www.EngemanTheater.com/Donate.
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and the Huntington Town Board, along with a representative from Astoria Bank, the chief sponsor of the Huntington Tulip Festival, announced the winners of the 2016 Tulip Festival Photo Contest at the Jan. 10 town board meeting.
First place and a $150 award check went to Richard Dolce of New York City for his photo, “Orange Flame.” Second place and the $100 prize was awarded to Suzanne Abruzzo of Bayside for “Lean on Me” and third place and the $50 prize went to Charleen Turner of Huntington for “Our Swan Family.” An Honorable Mention with a $25 prize went to Times Beacon Record News Media’s resident photographer Bob Savage of Port Jefferson Station for “Untitled” and to Gary Moss of Huntington for “Tulips and a Great Old Tree.”
Cuthbertson, founder of the annual festival stated, “Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Tulip Festival Photo Contest. Your colorful images bring a touch of spring and anticipation of warmer days ahead. We are looking forward to the 2017 Huntington Tulip Festival and are excited to celebrate spring in bloom in our community.”
The Huntington Tulip Festival is a free, family-oriented festival featuring thousands of tulips, booths with activities for children and live entertainment sponsored by the Town of Huntington and Astoria Bank. This year’s festival will take place on Sunday, May 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Huntington’s Heckscher Park.
The 2017 tulip festival photo contest is open to any photographer, amateur or professional. All entries must be un-mounted, 8×10-inch photographic color prints. A maximum of two entries per photographer will be accepted. To be eligible, all entries must be postmarked or received by Monday, July 31. Additional information and entry forms can be obtained by calling 631-351-3099 or by going to the Town of Huntington’s website at www.HuntingtonNY.gov