By Janee Law
The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport will tap the best of Broadway for a fundraising event to benefit the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society. The event, set for June 1, will present Neil Berg’s “100 Years of Broadway,” with a goal of raising $80,000 toward the more the half-million dollars needed for a lighthouse reconstruction project getting underway next month.
The Engeman event, being presented exclusively for the Lighthouse Preservation Society, will bring five Broadway stars and an all-star New York band to recreate some of the greatest moments from Broadway’s greatest shows. Ticketholders will see stars of shows such as “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables,” “CATS,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Jekyll & Hyde,” perform the shows’ top hits and recreate some of the greatest moments seen on Broadway over the past century.
Since the time it was completed in 1912, the Huntington Lighthouse has stood as a familiar symbol to many boaters that they have safely reached their home port, though many people today are only familiar with the lighthouse through its depiction on numerous businesses’ and organizations’ corporate logos, including Huntington School District and Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce.
Over the years, the lighthouse was decommissioned by the Coast Guard and fell into disrepair. It was threatened with demolition in 1985, prompting formation of a grassroots organization, Save Huntington’s Lighthouse. The predecessor of today’s Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, they did just that.
But there’s work to be done, said Pam Setchell, president of the Lighthouse Preservation Society, which today owns and operates the site.
“The foundation is not in good condition and hasn’t been for a number of years. This is a major piece of the puzzle that has to be done,” Setchell said. “Every year that this doesn’t happen, the price just goes up so it has to get done and it has to get done properly, that way the lighthouse will be here for many generations.”
An $871,000 construction project, slated to start on June 10, includes extensive repairs to the foundation, adding additional stones at the base and masonry work on the upper structure.
Engeman Theater managing director Kevin O’ Neill, said he didn’t hesitate when asked to get involved with the effort. Boat trips to the abandoned structure during his youth, and seeing the lighthouse during years he worked as a bayman, cemented the lighthouse in his heart as something worth saving.
“I just felt we have an opportunity to do something here at the theater where I’d be happy to pitch in and try to make a dent in the funding gap,” O’Neill said. “It’d be a very effective fundraiser for their cause and, as far as the evening goes, it’s going to be a fun night.”
For those who purchase $100 per person seats to the June 1 show, doors open at 7:30 p.m. with reserved seating and a thank you gift. For those who purchase $500 per person seats, there will be a pre-show cocktail reception at 6 p.m., choice of seating, a thank you gift and a meet and greet with the cast.
As of deadline Monday, O’Neill said the theater as raised about $44,000 toward an $80,000 goal; 100 percent of the proceeds go to preservation society’s effort restore the foundation.
“We had just initiated a sponsorship opportunity that if a company buys 10 of the $500 seats, I will hang their banner on the lighthouse barge for the entire period of the construction process,” Setchell said. “So it’s a fabulous advertising opportunity as well.”
Although construction work will take three to four months, Setchell said it will not interfere with the society’s famed Musicfest on Labor Day weekend.
“After 33 years of being involved in this, I would love to see this foundation project done and get our tours back up on the calendar, bring as many people out there as we can and see what it was like to be a keeper,” Setchell added.
The show on June 1 will be held at 250 Main St. in Northport Village, and start at 8 p.m. During intermission, a select group of deluxe items will be auctioned off, including a one-night stay for two at Borden Flats Lighthouse, a day of adventure for two on the Eric R. Thornton tug boat, a challenging weekday of 18-holes of golf at the Indian Hills Country Club in Northport and more.
“The Lighthouse has been something that’s very important to the community that we live in,” O’Neill said. “It’s been a navigational aide for boaters but it’s also been a symbol of beautiful community that we live in.”
Setchell added, “I’m hoping that it is a successful night and we sell it out the way we would like to. It’s going to be a great show.”