“I Love A Piano” – Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ June 7, 2010


Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre
Mesa, AZ

The great composer Jerome Kern said “Irving Berlin has no place in American music. He is American music.”  This truth is apparent in the vibrant Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre musical revue, “I Love A Piano,” which traces Berlin’s songs from the turn of the last century until the ‘50s.

The show, conceived by Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley, focuses on an old upright piano that has already had a distinguished career in 1910, when the show begins. That piano is stage center throughout the 64 great Berlin’s tunes that typify American culture and history as they subtly reflect changes in our society. It’s a clever way to group Berlin’s popular songs including many Tin Pan Alley tunes, several film tunes, and many Broadway show tunes. Berlin did it all and there’s not a song you won’t recognize since his songs are part of the American music fabric.

Not only is the revue elegant in arranging and grouping Berlin’s hits, but the Broadway Palm’s stellar six-person cast is musically attuned and ably executes the easy dances including tap routines that accompany the songs and nicely deliver the easy patter that keeps the show together. Couple the excellent performers with JR McAlexander’s upbeat three-person band with McAlexander playing strong orchestrations on an impressive grand piano while a bass and percussion add style to the songs.

The songs include Berlin hits plus several lesser known but still outstanding tunes. Highlights include the title song, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Blue Skies,” “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” “White Christmas,” “God Bless America, “ “Easter Parade,” plus songs from his biggest Broadway musicals, “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Call Me Madam.” The little things contributed by the authors to make each song enjoyable is enhanced by the cast’s pulsating renditions and Amy Marie McCleary’s zippy and creative staging.

Elizabeth Loos uses her big voice and ability to sell a song beautifully especially in some striking torch songs. John Ramsey’s easy way with a song and smooth dancing brings class to everything he does, Mark DiConzo’s big voice soars, Matthew Rickard’s funny comic bits and balletic dancing is great, Virginia Cavaliere’s ingénue spunk enhances, and Sarah Dowling’s stalwart singing is perfect.

“I Love A Piano” has never been staged locally and it’s good to finally see this musical revue gem in such a pleasing production that allows the rediscovery of Berlin’s great songs. It continues through July 3. For tickets, call the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre box office at 480-325-6700 or order online at www.broadwaypalmwest.com.

Grade: B