I Love a Piano

Words and music by Irving BerlinI Love a Piano

Conceived by Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley

Directed and Choreographed by Jonathan Van Dyke

To Love the Piano is to Love the Pianist (and the Whole Show)

What prolific composer lived for over 100 years and wrote songs spanning seven decades of US history? The answer is, of course, Irving Berlin (1888-1989), whose music plays on long beyond his lifetime, and is especially remembered at this time of year — whenever we hear “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”

And what about “God Bless America?” “Blue Skies?” ” A Pretty Girl is like a Melody?” “Puttin’ on the Ritz?” “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning?” “Easter Parade?” and the scores of his Broadway and Hollywood hits? If this list continued to include all his songs, it would be over 900 titles long – and include 19 musicals and 18 movies!

Innovative Ray Roderick and Michel Berkeley had a great idea when they assembled 64 of the best and brightest songs to be sung by six engaging performers, and created a delightful frame to house it all. This is more than a recital or a review; it is a trip through time. The first act incorporates eight scenes, moving effortlessly from a 1910 setting in Alexander’s Music Shop, where young girls sing to promote the sale of sheet music, to 1918’s Tin Pan Alley, a speakeasy, the Lower East Side in the 1930’s during the depression, a glamorous 1940’s ballroom, and the famous Stage Door Canteen. In the second act, the Canteen continues post World War II before moving to on a 1950’s junkyard (to highlight the song “We’re a Couple of Swells”), before entering the world of summer stock (centered around highly amusing auditions for “Annie Get Your Gun”).

The talented cast of six – Robert Arthur, Samantha Bryce, Erin Edelle, Michael Karraker, Will Hutchenson, and Bethany Wagner sing and dance with aplomb, weaving into various combinations to enhance mood and situation, costumed beautifully and presenting  their different roles via song, not dialogue. And there is one more character – the piano itself. While it is sometimes moved, often it remains center stage so that the characters (back to audience) seem to be playing while the real pianist (David Nagy) and his orchestra (Julie Jacobs on Percussion and Rupert Ziawinski on Bass) are lodged behind in the shadows.

 The songs are timeless – as is evident in the lyrics that Bryce sings

What’ll I do?
When you are far away
And I am blue
What’ll I do?

What’ll I do?
When I am wond’ring who
Is kissing you
What’ll I do?

What’ll I do with just a photograph
To tell my troubles to?

When I’m alone
With only dreams of you
That won’t come true
What’ll I do?

Director Van Dyke wrote, “This tribute to Berlin’s music will make you
want to dance, laugh, go on a first date, shed a tear, hug your partner,
stand in reverence and sing at the top of your lungs.”

That says it all.

Highly recommended.
Beverly Friend

Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs, 8036 W. Sample Rd, 954-344-7765, Tickets $38- $42.  Wednesdays, Thursdays,
Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm,
Sundays at 7 pm through Jan 8.

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