Tags Posts tagged with "Rock ‘n’ Roll"

Rock ‘n’ Roll

Carson Higgins (Huey Calhoun) and Breanna Bartley (Felicia) star in 'Memphis.' Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Well, hockadoo! The John W. Engeman Theater was full of soul last Saturday night, engaging theatergoers with a sizzling production of “Memphis” that raised the roof and culminated with a five-minute standing ovation.

Directed by Igor Goldin (“West Side Story” and “Evita”) and choreographed by Antoniette DiPietropolo, the rock ‘n’ roll musical is loosely based on the life of “Daddy-O” Dewey Philips, a Memphis disc jockey who dared to play the music of black artists in the late 1950s, when segregation was still the norm in the South. With book and lyrics by Joe Dipietro and original music and lyrics by David Bryan — a member of rock band Bon Jovi — the production ran on Broadway from 2009 to 2012 and won four Tony Awards, including best musical in 2010.

The story follows Huey Calhoun, who, in his quest to find the sounds of early rock ‘n’ roll, finds himself in a black nightclub on the seedy side of town. Owned by Delray, the club features his sister Felicia, a black singer with whom Huey quickly falls in love and vows to get on the radio so the world can hear the music that Delray says is “just Negro blues sped up.”

Breanna Bartley brings down the house during a musical number from ‘Memphis.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro
Breanna Bartley brings down the house during a musical number from ‘Memphis.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Carson Higgins is the lead as Huey, a role he has played in the past and has by now perfected. Higgins makes Huey likable and endearing and draws the audience in from the beginning. An incredible actor and singer, Higgins’ rendition of “Memphis Lives in Me” is unforgettable.

Breanna Bartley is perfectly cast as Felicia. With a smooth singing voice, she shines in the musical numbers, especially in “Someday” and “Colored Woman.”

The entire supporting cast is wonderful, with powerful voices and the moves to match. Standouts include Kathryn Markey as Huey’s sassy mother Gladys; C. Mingo Long as Delray; and Jarred Bedgood as Gator, who doesn’t speak or sing until the end of Act I but then treats the audience to a moving rendition of “Say a Prayer.”

Hidden from view but not to be overlooked is the six-piece powerhouse band. Musical Director James Olmstead, who doubles on keyboard, returns to the Engeman to lead a talented group of musicians, including Josh Endlich on percussion, Russ Brown on bass, Joe Boardman on trumpet, Brian Schatz on reeds and Douglas Baldwin on guitar, all playing Bryan and Dipietro’s rousing score.

Set design is handled neatly by D.T. Willis and works well, utilizing sliding panels and a second level to tell the story, and the gorgeous period costumes by Tristan Raines are spot-on, pulling the production together successfully. Don’t miss this wonderful high-energy production, a perfect ending to a night out on the town.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Memphis” through May 8. Show includes some adult language and staged violence. Running time is 2.5 hours, including one 15-minute intermission. Free valet parking. Tickets are $74 on Saturday evenings and $69 for all other performances, and may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

Carson Higgins leads the cast of ‘Memphis’ at the John Engeman Theater. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro
Carson Higgins leads the cast of ‘Memphis’ at the John Engeman Theater. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Brandon Niederauer plays during a show. Photo from Gary Niederauer.

This young boy from Dix Hills sure knows how to rock.

Brandon Niederauer, 12, has only been playing the guitar for four short years, but he has already had more career milestones than most kids his age.

Brandon has already played on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, with the Allman Brothers Band, and at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. But his most recent accomplishment is perhaps his most impressive.

Brandon Niederauer plays during a show. Photo from Gary Niederauer
Brandon Niederauer plays during a show. Photo from Gary Niederauer

This December, he will be in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s newest musical on Broadway: “School of Rock-The Musical.” Brandon said he first became interested in playing the guitar after seeing the original movie, “School of Rock.”

After competing against more than 50 musicians to get the part and going through an eight-week workshop, Brandon said he got the call that he had gotten the role while he was playing basketball with his brother.

“All the kids and adults in the cast get along really well,” Brandon said in an email. “We have a lot of fun playing pranks and joking around. We are like a family.”

As for working with legendary composer Webber, Brandon said he has already taught him a lot.

“School of Rock — The Musical” officially opens on Dec. 6 at the Winter Garden Theatre.

This month, Brandon performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote the musical.

According to Brandon, when Webber was asked to be a guest on the show, the producers thought it would be a good idea to have him on the show as well.

“I was very honored to play the whole set with such an amazing band,” Brandon said. “I was one of the band. There is something special about that. They showed me the music and set list right before the show and I had so much fun playing and fitting it.”

Brandon Niederauer in "School of Rock — The Musical." Photo from Gary Niederauer.
Brandon Niederauer in “School of Rock — The Musical.” Photo from Gary Niederauer.

Brandon will also be performing with his cast in The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year on the Gibson guitar float.

“Being on the Gibson float is a dream come true,” Brandon said. “I saw that float a year ago and said, ‘I want to do that.’”

Brandon’s father, Gary Niederauer, said he knew right away that his son had special talents.

“I knew after the first lesson,” Niederauer said in an email. “Everything was easy and natural for him. He knew where all the scales were after only being taught one.”

As for seeing his son up on stage, Niederauer said he delivers every single time.

“It is thrilling to be able to watch your son create amazing sound from nothing with other amazing advanced musicians,” he said. “I really can’t believe it. He has no fear and loves to perform for an audience.”

When asked about any plans for the future, Brandon said there’s nothing concrete.

“I have been a guitar player, singer, writer — now I’m acting on Broadway,” he said. “I really have no plan. Things have been happening on their own, so whatever it is, I just want it to be fun!”

by -
0 1618
Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks play well into the night. Photo by Heidi Sutton

“Tonight is a very special night,” said Norman Prusslin, one of the co-founders of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. He was speaking to a large crowd numbering in the hundreds last Wednesday night who had gathered to see Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks perform in concert at the Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson. It was intermission and the sun was slowly setting over the calm waters of Port Jefferson Harbor as the boats gently swayed back and forth. The temperature was a comfortable 80 degrees. But Prusslin wasn’t referring to the concert or the tranquil setting.

He was about to present the Long Island Hall of Fame’s Long Island Sound Award to its latest recipient, the frontman of the Lone Sharks, singer/songwriter Gene Casey. The award recognizes a local musician who has made “outstanding contributions to Long Island’s musical heritage.”

“Starting in the late ’80s or so, I started to hear this buzz about this guy out east who was drawing all these crowds playing rockabilly, swing, R&B, traditional, country” he said. “For the past 27 years or so, Gene and his colleagues, The Lone Sharks, have been really serving as ambassadors to our Long Island community, … playing the music from the heart, and  … I think we are all very fortunate to be living on Long Island and to have Gene and his compatriots [entertain us] through his recordings, through his performances, through his sound track placement — clearly he is, has been and continues to be the real deal.”

Along with LIHoF member Amy Tuttle and Executive Director Joe Jankowski, Prusslin then presented Casey with the well-deserved award.

“Well here it is,” beamed Casey as he held it high above his 6’ 5” frame. “Thank you folks for such a wonderful turnout tonight. I’d rather play [music] than talk … but first I want to thank the Long Island Music Hall of Fame for the work they are doing and continue to do and I hope they find a permanent home soon. I am very proud to be considered a Long Island musician. I think any scene that has Joan Jett and Debbie Gibson and Dee Snider and Billy Joel — that’s a scene I want to be part of.”

Since their inception, Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks have played at hundreds of venues from Manhattan to Montauk and have produced five CDs of original songs with several featured on the FX Network’s TV show “Justified” and in “The Tall Man,” a feature film starring Jessica Biel.

After thanking his wife and manager Heather and his band mates, Chris Ripley, Tony Palumbo and Paul Scher, Casey said “I am going to accept this award with gratitude and appreciation on behalf of all my hardworking musician friends, many [who] are out here tonight, for keeping the faith and carrying the torch and not giving up on a dream on those very long nights driving home on Route 25, 27, [Interstate] 495. On behalf of them, I thank you folks for supporting live music, local music, and God bless you. Now let’s get back to rockin’!”

True to his word, Casey and his band went on to play well over the scheduled time, taking requests and belting out favorites from Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and performing original songs including “Don’t Leave Her Lonely,” “You Ain’t Missing Much” and “It Should Rain.” And yes, it was a very special night.