In celebration of its 60th anniversary, West Side Story will return to select cinemas nationwide on Sunday, Nov. 28 and Wednesday, Dec. 1, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies, MGM and Fathom Events.
This electrifying musical, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics from Stephen Sondheim, sets the ageless tragedy of Romeo and Juliet in the slums of 1950’s New York.
West Side Story explores the rivalry between two teenage street gangs — the Jets and the Sharks. When a member of the Jets falls in love with the sister of the Sharks’ leader, things look hopeful at first, but rapidly go downhill. Illustrating the events are many memorable song and dance numbers such as “America,” “Somewhere” and “I Feel Pretty.”
Starring Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn, Richard Beymer and George Chakiris, the film went on to win 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, ans was the highest-grossing movie of the year on its original release in 1961.
This special anniversary event will feature exclusive insights from Turner Classic Movies. Locally, the film will be screened at AMC Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook on Nov. 28 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. and Island 16 Cinema De Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville on Nov. 28 at 3 p.m. and Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. To order tickets in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.
The screening is the perfect precursor to Steven Spielberg’s much anticipated adaptation of the beloved film which is expected to hit theatres on Dec. 10. Featuring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as leading love-interests Tony and Maria, the star-studded cast not only includes Dance Moms alum Maddie Ziegler and Hamilton’s Ariana DeBose, but also features a special appearance by Rita Moreno who played Anita in the original film.
Fifty-seven years after its world premiere screening at the Rivoli Theatre in New York City, the award-winning musical “West Side Story” will return to over 600 select cinemas nationwide on June 24 and 27, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events.
Starring Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn, Richard Beymer and George Chakiris the film takes inspiration from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and turns the Montague-Capulet battle into a feud between two New York City street gangs — the Jets and the Sharks. When a member of the Jets falls in love with the sister of the Sharks’ leader, things look hopeful at first, but rapidly go downhill. Illustrating the events are many memorable song and dance numbers such as “America,” “Tonight,” “A Boy Like That,” “One Hand, One Heart,” “Somewhere” and “I Feel Pretty.”
With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics from Stephen Sondheim, the film went on to win 10 Oscars at the 34th Academy Awards, including Best Picture and both supporting acting awards, for Chakiris and Moreno, becoming the record holder for the most wins for a movie musical. Deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress, it was selected for the National Film Registry in 1997.
The film will be presented in its original wide-screen aspect ratio and include a mid-film intermission, as was featured in the original theatrical release. It will also include pre- and postshow commentary from TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.
There’s no better way to prepare yourself for Steven Spielberg’s reboot, so mark your calendars!
Participating movie theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook (at 2 and 7 p.m. on both days); Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale (on June 24 at 2 p.m. and June 27 at 7 p.m.); and Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville (on June 24 at 2 p.m. and June 27 at 7 p.m.) To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.
The streets of Northport have come alive with music and laughter in the past 10 years — and that’s all thanks to the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.
The Main Street theater first opened its doors in 2007 and has been providing Long Island residents with quality entertainment at an affordable price ever since.
When it comes to why theater lovers should chose the Engeman theater over a Broadway show, Director of Operations Michael DeCristofaro said the Northport venue offers an experience you could never get on Broadway.
“We don’t have the space Broadway has,” DeCristofaro said in an interview. “We don’t have wing space or fly space, so we really are able to slow these shows down and find the heart and the essence of the show. People come and see shows like they’ve never seen them before. We’re really able to get into the story of the characters.”
DeCristofaro said some shows like “West Side Story,” “The Producers” and the upcoming show “Memphis” stand out as really being able to accomplish just that.
“We were told by numerous patrons, ‘better than Broadway,’” he said. “People felt that seeing it in an intimate venue like this without all the distracting flash of pizzazz and set pieces moving in and out really helped them focus on the characters and have fun and get involved.”
Another aspect of the theater that may contribute to the more intimate setting is the distance from the seats to the stage. According to Jessie Eppelheimer, the operations administrator, the back seats are only about 75 feet from the stage, “which you could never get at a Broadway show,” she said in an interview.
But there is one crucial way in which DeCristofaro thinks his theater stands shoulder to shoulder with Broadway, and that’s in the talent.
“We have a really good amount of Broadway talent,” he said. DeCristofaro listed Eddie Mekka, a Tony-nominated actor, and Michael McGrath, a multiple Tony award-winning actor, as two actors who had lead roles in previous shows at Engeman.
“If our alumni are not on Broadway, they’re in a national touring production,” DeCristofaro said. “We get some really incredible top-notch talent and it’s great for the local community to try and see that top notch talent here in Northport for half of the price they’d paid on Broadway.”
But it wasn’t always that way.
What is now a year-round full equity theater, producing multiple shows a year, was once just a small village movie house.
Originally built in 1912, silent movies used to play at the theater for 50 cents a person. In 1913, the Northport trolley helped make night shows a possibility, and by 1930, talking films came to the village. But two years later, the theater was struck with a fire that completely destroyed the establishment, forcing it to close its doors.
The new theater opened in November 1932 with 754 seats and was positioned directly next door to where the original one had stood. “Sherlock Holmes,” starring Clive Brook and Ernest Torrence, was first to be shown.
According to Eppelheimer, many of the original aspects of the 1930 theater still stand today, including the entire lobby, walls in the theater room and some of the lighting.
“People were attached to [the original design] and they tried to keep it as familiar as possible when they reopened,” she said.
In 2007, Huntington residents Kevin O’Neill and his wife Patti, owners of the theater, welcomed audiences to see real-time plays for the first time, and residents from all over Long Island have been filling in the seats ever since. The theater was named in tribute to O’Neill’s brother, Chief Warrant Officer Four John William Engeman, who was killed in Iraq in May 2006.
The theater now holds up to 400 audience members, has a full bar and lounge and shows multiple musicals and plays annually. Eppelheimer said there are about 5,000 season ticket holders and the theater has an 80 percent retention rate.
For the 10th anniversary season, the Engeman will feature a lineup exclusively of musicals, including a repeat of the inaugural show “Jekyll and Hyde.”
“We’re paying tribute to the first season,” Eppelheimer said. Other shows in the coming year include “Mamma Mia,” “Oklahoma” and “Mary Poppins.”
Over the years the theater has expanded, offering children shows, theater-school programs and hosting charity events.
“It was always intended to not just be a theater,” DeCristafaro said. “We wanted to be able to do more for the community and get children and parents involved.”
When dance master Jerome Robbins inspired Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim to come up with “West Side Story,” they in turn went to The Bard for his “Romeo and Juliet,” morphing the Guelphs and Ghibellines — that’s the Montagues and Capulets of Verona — into the street gangs, the Jets and Sharks. The “star-crossed lovers” became Tony and Maria. This gift to musical theater hit the boards at the Engeman two weeks ago, and the boards are still rattling.
The entire production is built around dance. The pirouettes, arabesques and jetes were neatly comingled with the modern interpretive method to produce a mathematically perfect, yet emotionally penetrating terpsichorean feast.
At the head of all this was the choreography skills of Jeffry Denman and his two assistants Lauren Cannon and Trey Compton, who also acted as fight choreographer. This talented team gave the audience a night of dance the excellence of which your scribe has not seen in his near decade of writing “criticism.”
They say that the “devil is in the details” but not in this production. Imagine if you will a six-foot-high chain link fence running from upstage center down to stage left … suggesting urban schoolyards. This “prop” was climbed on, jumped on and over by male dancers of the Jets and Sharks in their attempts to escape … in tempo. They actually scaled the fence, landing on the other side on the beat — an incredible act of choreography.
Overall direction was in the always capable hands of Igor Goldin (“The Producers,” “Evita”). If one prescinds from the dance numbers, his blocking and interpretation efforts were carried through with exemplary professionalism.
Outstanding among the dancers were Scott Shedenhelm of the Jets and Karli Dinardo in the role of Anita. Shedenhelm was at his best in “Gee, Officer Krupke,” by far the funniest and most clever number in the show. Dinardo scored talent-wise in “America.”
The leads were handled skillfully by Zach Trimmer as Tony and Samantha Williams as Maria. Both have fittingly tender voices; he a more lyrical tenor, she a mellow, yet strong soprano. They excelled as the star-crossed lovers.
The leader of the Jets, Riff, was played by Sam Wolf who pits himself and his gang against Bernardo, played by Nikko Kimzin and his Sharks. The battles of Sharks vs. Jets is the dance armature of the play, and these two lead their factions brilliantly in dancing, acting and singing.
Among the musical numbers, the “Jet Song” really set the theme of pride and struggle. “Dance at the Gym” by the whole company brought out the animosity that almost erupted in violence. The tender “Tonight” by Wolf and Williams presented the balcony scene in all its romance. The mordant “America” that also showcased the patent talent of Ashley Perez Flanagan as Graciela, hit hard musically at the state of society in both the USA and Puerto Rico.
Trimmer and Williams also performed romantically in “One Hand, One Heart.” And there was that Officer Krupke number that was most memorable.
The cast also included Mike Baerga, Josh Bates, Christian Bufford, Mark T. Cahill, Nick Casaula, Victoria Casillo, Joey Dippel, Jon Drake, Roy Flores, Eric Greengold, Joan Heeringa, Melissa Hunt, Gregory Kollarus, Leer Leary, Rick Malone, Ashley Marinelli, Kelly Methven, Kaitlin Niewoehner, Joseph Rosario, Tori Simeone and Marquez Stewart who all did a fabulous job.
Piercing live music was led by James Olmstead on keyboard with assistance from Craig Coyle; Robert Dalpiaz and Joel Levy on reeds; the indomitable Joe Boardman on trumpet with Steve Henry and Pete Auricchio; Brent Chiarello and Frank Hall on trombone; bass was Russell Brown with the reliable Josh Endlich on percussion. This ensemble was at its best in the staccato numbers of both Jets and Sharks such as “Dance at the Gym” and especially in “The Rumble.”
The Engeman spares no opposition when it produces a massive piece of entertainment like “West Side Story.”
All elements of the production including costume design by Tristan Raines, set design by DT Willis, lighting by Zack Blane and sound design by Laura Shubert were masterfully integrated into a sophisticated, articulated and authentic whole.
Many critics a few years back tried to see a “social significance” dimension latent in this show. On TV one described it as “… a slice of New York life.” Nonsense, of course. It was Shakespeare with a life of its own as true musical theater.
The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present evening performances of “West Side Story” on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and matinees on Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 8. Tickets are $74 on Saturday evenings, $69 all other performances. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.
This version corrects the spelling of Jeffry Denman’s name.
About an eon ago your scribe was watching a TV talk show on the family’s round screen box on which a participant referred to “West Side Story” as a “slice of New York life.” Another participant, the great Robert Morley, snorted, “Ectually, old boy, it’s Romeo and Juliet.” Morley was right, and the Playbill at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Art’s opening really was the Bard’s opus with full credit put to music, and not just music but Broadway music and dance.
With a team featuring Arthur Laurent’s book, Leonard Bernstein’s music, Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics and Jerome Robbins’ choreography, success was all but secure. In SCPA’s effort it was secured in Smithtown.
Direction was by Jordan Hue who, facing the challenge of a massive cast, showed his craftsmanship in blocking and interpretation. Each Jet and each Shark were real tangible creatures thanks to Hue’s disciplined creativity.
The show is practically all choreography, and thanks to the genius of the indefatigable Melissa Rapelje, excellently performed execution was the armature of the show. She faced the off-beat accents, the dissonances and the diversity of rhythms undaunted. Her skills with interpretive, modern, Latin and even ballet were never more displayed.
Coalescing with the dancing and singing was the superb live music led by Melissa Coyle on keyboard with conductor Craig Coyle on piano. Jim Waddell was outstanding on drums. The number “Cool it!,” performed by the Jets, was accompanied by Waddell using only the sizzling hi-hats. Craig Lindsey and Bob Dalpiaz handled extremely competent reeds. Jill Boardman was on violin and Russ Brown’s bass anchored all the intricate changes of rhythm easily. Finally, Joe Boardman’s trumpet reached aesthetically ethereal heights … as usual.
The two “star-crossed lovers” were Eric Schell as Tony and Faith Ahmed as Maria. Schell’s tenor and Ahmed’s soprano melded smoothly in both duet and solo. In the “balcony” (fire escape) scene their “Tonight” was a truly velvet love song while Schell’s rendition of “Maria” was lovingly rendered. Ahmed also exhibited obvious talent in “I Feel Pretty.”
In a choreographed dream sequence Courtney Braun sang a solo “Somewhere There’s a Place” with both charm and power delightfully linked. Justin Albinder stood out as the doomed Bernardo. As “Action” Bobby Montaniz leads the Jets in a hilarious mockery of the sadistic Officer Krupke. Some of the lines are quite dated: (“…my mother pushes tea…), yet Montaniz is the key to the humor of it all.
In addition to choreographer, Rapelje also played the role of the second lead, Anita. Her drive, verve and singing while leading the girls all keyed to a spicy rendition of “Puerto Rico” like a dish of asopao jibaro.
Add the intricate lighting by Chris Creevy, the massive, flexible set design by Timothy Golebiewski and the wonderful costumes by Ronald Green III and you have a wonderful evening of live theater.
The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “West Side Story” through Aug. 30. Tickets are $35. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.
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