Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of Footloose
Six cast members weave their way through sixty songs in two acts. To facilitate organizing the many songs into some sort of semblance of order, the show is divided chronologically into segments which include: "Alexander's Music Shop" (1910s), "A Parlor" (late teens), "A Speakeasy" (1920s), "A Street in New York" (early 1930s), "A Movie Theatre" (Mid 1930s), "A Dance Hall" (late 1930s), "Stage Door Canteen" (World War II years), "A Junk Yard" (early 1950s), and "Summer Stock Theatre" (late 1950s). The different segments allow for costume change moments and projection design options as the live on-stage band plays all that glorious Berlin music just behind all the action.
I Love A Piano is filled with recognizable, hummable, and beloved melodies sure to please audiences of a certain age. It's hard to miss with such great material at one's fingertips. This show is, however, really nothing more than a tight, slick, cruise-ship style revue based on a weak premise. Though the cast members are given character names, the names serve no real purpose as the characters have no continuity, development, or arc. Most importantly, the show spends so much time fitting in sections of so very many songs, that none of the singers get to really dig in to any one song. There therefore are no showstopping moments or real chances for any of them to truly shine. We also don't get whole songs anywhere except the opening and closing of acts, which can be frustrating when so many members of the audience know and want the whole thing.
The pacing of the show is crisp and the choreography engaging and clean. By nature, this genre requires the salesmanship of strong facial presence and good hoofing. It is returning local performer Alex Jorth who is most proficient at this. His easy stage presence, smiling face, pleasant singing voice, and strong dance skills make him consistently the most watchable person on stage throughout the entire show. But this revue is not about the talents of the performers in it or the scant script that accompanies it. It is about having everything come together to serve the music of Irving Berlin. So, if you are a fan of Irving Berlin's work, but don't mind hearing not the whole song, then you will love I Love a Piano.
American composer and lyricist Irving Berlin (Israel Isidore Baline) was born on May 11, 1888, in Imperial Russia, arriving in the U.S. at the age of five. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. Berlin is widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history, and his music forms a large part of the Great American Songbook. When he died in his sleep on September 22, 1989, at the age of 101, the New York Times wrote, "Irving Berlin set the tone and the tempo for the tunes America played and sang and danced to for much of the 20th century." His life became the classic rags-to-riches story that he never forgot could have happened only in America, and that sentiment showed itself in his work. He will forever be remembered for musicals such as Annie Get Your Gun, Call Me Madam, and Miss Liberty, films such as White Christmas, Easter Parade, Holiday Inn, There's No Business Like Show Business, and Blue Skies, and songs such as "God Bless America", "Puttin' on the Ritz" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
I Love A Piano will appear at the Wick Theatre through May 15, 2016. The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum is located at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, Florida. It houses a professional, 330-seat theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors, the Broadway Collection Costume Museum, and the Wick Tavern - open for lunch or dinner. For more information, you may contact them by phone at 561-955-2333, or online at www.thewick.org.
Crew: Director/Choreographer: Kelly Shook