Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stage Door Theater: I Love A Piano (reviews)

The Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Irving Berlin's I Love A Piano on December 2, 2011.
Join us for a nostalgic journey that spans seven decades of American history as seen through the eyes of legendary songwriter Irving Berlin. Including timeless classics such as “White Christmas,” “God Bless America,” “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” I Love a Piano does more than define the music of a generation - it defines the music of our country.
Jonathon Van Dyke directed a cast that included Erine Edelle, Robert Arthur, Samantha Bryce, Will Hutchenson, Bethany Wagner, and Michael Karraker. Musical direction by Dave Nagy

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
With such irresistible raw material as the Irving Berlin songbook, Broward Stage Door’s production of I Love a Piano can’t help but be mildly entertaining and this edition finally emits infectious joy during the last 15 minutes.

But for frequent theatergoers who have seen songbook after songbook, year after year, decade after decade, the doctor diagnoses a new malady: revue fatigue.
The moldy formula here, as in so many other less inspired revues, is to hire singer/dancers, assign them a composer’s greatest hits, weave in the lamest of connective tissue and hope you find as good a musical director as Stage Door has in David Nagy. Intersperse jaunty standards with heartfelt ballads and dust them off with new arrangements. Hire an experienced director/choreographer as Stage Door has with Jonathan Van Dyke. Play for 90 minutes, usually with an intermission. Accept the applause from audiences whose pleasure is partly due to the private recollections summoned by each warhorse number.
This revue was conceived by Michael Berkeley and Ray Roderick, who created shows featured at Florida Stage including Heaven Help Us! (The Rat Pack Musical). The songs tick off a lengthy list of Berlin essentials... But they wisely pull some numbers from Berlin’s trunk of 1,500 works that younger listeners might not have heard before. That helps the audience better appreciate the freshness of his melodies and the inventiveness of his lyrics.
...the revue’s only strength is Berlin’s genius: jaunty syncopated numbers, ragtime roof-raisers, surprisingly moving ballads, wry lyrics and a talent for pure melody that was rarely equaled.
Stage Door assembled a cast of competent singers... The cheerful and earnest corps includes Robert Arthur, Samantha Bryce, Erin Edelle, Will Hutchenson (a professional who ignored his dead microphone and kept belting), Bethany Wagner and especially Michael Karraker who has a warm baritone and a dynamic dancing style that had him bouncing off steps like a parkour enthusiast.

Van Dyke knows how to move these pieces along and choreograph vignettes with a bit of humor.
Praise is due Nagy who skillfully melded the voices of the ensemble and leads a live three-piece pit band (no taped tracks this time) who may be the most talented performers on the stage.
The Stage Door Theatre Production of I Love A Piano plays through January 8, 2012.

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