As the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, it also announces its 11th season as Long Island’s only year-round Actors Equity theater company.
The 2017-18 season opens July 6 with “Grease,” followed by “Gypsy” in September and “Annie” for the November-December holiday season. The Long Island premiere of the 2012 Tony winner for best musical, “Once” (excepting a one-night-only national-tour performance), opens in 2018, followed by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” and the classic “Singin’ in the Rain.” Those who subscribe to the new season get a bonus — free tickets to one of the two remaining shows of the current season, “Jekyll & Hyde,” opening Saturday night after three previews, or “Oklahoma!,” which opens in May and closes just before the Engeman’s 10th anniversary date, June 28. Seven-show price tag: about $350.
“We’re going with all musicals,” says Engeman artistic director Richard Dolce. “In the past, we went with a smaller show — a play — just after New Year’s. The theory was that people may not come out in the dead of winter or they’ve gone to Florida for the season. It’s cheaper to put on a play with a small cast, such as ‘God of Carnage,’ which we did a couple of seasons ago. But you also get a smaller audience. This year we did ‘The Full Monty’ in that midwinter slot and it did very well. If something else comes up, maybe ‘Harry Potter’ becomes available, we’ll do a play. But for now, it’s musicals for us.”
Opening the season with ”Grease,” he says, was a no-brainer, despite its ubiquity in regional theater. “It’s one of the most popular musicals ever,” Dolce says. What persuaded him in particular is that companies that book the show now have the option of including songs from the hit movie version — starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta — instead of just those from the 1971 Broadway musical. “That means we get to do numbers most people associate with ‘Grease,’ ” he says, citing “You’re the One That I Want,” “Sandy” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” “The songs from the movie are an option that wasn’t available originally for the stage show.”
“In the Heights,” the musical that launched the career of Miranda, creator of “Hamilton,” will be the Equity premiere of that show on Long Island. (It’s been presented before by such nonunion companies as CM Performing Arts in Oakdale and Cultural Arts Playhouse in Syosset.) Of “Annie,” Dolce says jokingly of the perennial holiday-season favorite, “This will the first time it’s been done on Long Island since the last time.”
‘JEKYLL & HYDE’
As for the current season, “Jekyll & Hyde,” the Frank Wildhorn musical based on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, stars Caitlyn Caughell, most recently featured in two Feinstein’s / 54 Below revues, and Nathaniel Hackmann from a national tour of Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast.”
For now, it’s all about musicals at the Engeman.
WHAT “Jekyll & Hyde”
WHEN | WHERE Through April 30. Upcoming: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.
TICKETS $71-$76; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com
WHAT “Ghost,” the 2012 Broadway musical based on the Oscar-winning 1990 romantic drama of the same title starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, continues for three more weekends at Cultural Arts Playhouse in Syosset. The Tony-nominated show, with music and lyrics by Dave Stewart (formerly of the Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard and libretto by Bruce Joel Rubin, is the story of lovers Molly and Sam, who are attacked outside their apartment. Sam dies in the altercation but is caught in afterlife limbo as his ghost cannot leave Molly while she remains in danger.
WHEN | WHERE Through April 2. Upcoming: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, Cultural Arts Playhouse, 170 Michael Dr., Syosset
TICKETS $25, $22 seniors; 516-694-3330, cap.booktix.com