New Irving Berlin Musical I Love a Piano Plays Florida Stage June 27-Aug. 19; Tour Planned

News   New Irving Berlin Musical I Love a Piano Plays Florida Stage June 27-Aug. 19; Tour Planned I Love a Piano, the new conceptual musical revue that follows the life of a piano over the 20th century, with Irving Berlin songs telling its history, resurfaces in Florida June 27-Aug. 31 following a summer 2002 run at Denver Center.

Co-conceiver Ray Roderick, who has developed the show over the years and staged the 2002 production for Denver Center Attractions, once again helms for the Florida resident premiere. Randy Weeks of Denver Center Attractions told Playbill On-Line his company plans a separate tour of the show in the 2004-05 season, partnering again with director-choreographer Roderick.

Florida Stage, in Manalapan, is Palm Beach County's only theatre dedicated to new works. Roderick and Michael Berkley conceived and wrote the show, which offers a cavalcade of Berlin songs that are well-known and obscure. Musical arrangements are by Michael Berkley. John Glaudini is musical director.

South Florida favorite Lourelene Snedeker are joined by Florida Stage newcomers Justin Brill, Joan Hess, James Madden, Ellie Mooney (who also appeared in Denver) and Scott McGowan.

What's different since Denver? Roderick said the show has been made more intimate, physically, because Florida Stage has 250 seats as opposed to Denver's 2,000. But the choreography is still about social dancing and actor relationships, and is sparked by Berlin's music.

Designers are Larry Gruber (set), Richard Crowell (lighting), Suzette Pare (costume) and Matt Kelly (sound). A band of four plays the score. Tickets range $36-$41. For tickets, call the Florida Stage box office at (561) 585-3433 (inside Palm Beach County) or (800) 514-3837 (outside Palm Beach County).

Florida Stage is at Plaza del Mar, 262 South Ocean Boulevard, Manalapan. Visit floridastage.org.

*

I Love a Piano had formative stagings in upstate New York summer stock in the early 1990s before producer Kevin McCollum invited Roderick to stage it at the Ordway Center in St. Paul in 1996, where it ran for 12 weeks.

"In some respects we're remounting, but with a new set of production values — adjusting the scenic design, and a brand new costume design," Roderick said in 2002. "We're making some adjustments, some rewrites."

I Love a Piano is a musical and cultural journey that follows a piano through the 20th century, as it is bought and sold, abandoned and found again.

What is the show? A book musical? A conceptual revue?

"We call it the life story of a piano," Roderick explained. "You see this piano as it begins its life in Tin Pan Alley and it follows along the path of Irving Berlin's career in many respects: Why he was writing songs and what inspired him to write these songs. It's not a 'And then I wrote...' kind of show at all. Berlin wrote songs for Americans, to Americans, and touched Americans' lives throughout much of the last century and that's what this piano does. As it weaves its way in and out of the lives of people, it touches them."

At one point in Act Two, after the piano passes from World War I, through the Roaring '20s to the Depression and through World War II, it ends up getting tossed into a junk yard, only to be salvaged by a summer stock theatre company.

The name "Irving Berlin" is not mentioned once in the show, Roderick said in 2002. "It's an historical look at Americans through the hopeful eyes of Irving Berlin," he said.

As many as 64 Berlin tunes are exploited, including "God Bless America," "White Christmas," "Puttin' on the Ritz," "Easter Parade," "A Couple of Swells," "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," ""What'll I Do?," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Anything You Can Do," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Always" and the deliciously obscure "Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil," "They Call It Dancing," "What Are We Gonna Do With All the Jeeps?," "I'm Getting Tired So I Can Sleep" and more.

Denver Center Attractions, which presents national tours and its own in-house cabaret productions at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, mounted I Love a Piano Aug. 8-Sept. 1, 2002.

Roderick is the rising director who helmed the national tour of The Music Man (he was Susan Stroman's associate on Broadway) and directed Off-Broadway's current The Prince and the Pauper. He also staged the long-running, popular resident Denver production of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. He's currently represented Off-Broadway with The Prince and the Pauper.

The Denver cast included Carrie Allyn, Stephanie J. Block, Jeffry Denman (of The Producers), Michael E. Gold, Ellie Mooney, Alex Ryer, Chris Starkey and Shonn Wiley.