By Terri Spilman
In the spirit of preserving the Great American Songbook, The Actors Theatre of Indiana is closing out its 2013-14 season with a salute to one of America’s most beloved lyricists and songwriters.
“I Love A Piano” will showcase writer Irving Berlin’s music and life on the Studio Theatre stage in the Center for the Performing Arts.
“I Love a Piano” is an all-singing, all-dancing revue that includes more than 60 of Berlin’s classic songs such as “Blue Skies,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Anything You Can Do,” “God Bless America,” and, the show’s namesake, “I Love a Piano,” interspersed with tidbits of information about Berlin’s life.
Berlin’s history as a Jewish immigrant from Russia along with his innate hopeful romanticism will set the scene for simple stories about everyday American life set to beautiful melodies that have become a soundtrack of the 20th century.
Berlin’s accomplishments are truly amazing considering he never studied music, let alone maintain the ability to read or write it. His career started out of necessity after the death of his father, so he became a singing waiter who composed his own music as it garnered bigger tips.
“Some people who praise his work say that he was such a genius because of the simplicity of the language,” said Kenny Shepard, co-director and co-choreographer of ATI’s production. “It was just bare bones. These are the words, these are the simple melodies, and the marriage of the two touch your heart.”
Both Indianapolis natives, Shepard and Carol Worcel, his business partner and co-director and co-choreographer, specialize in musical storytelling and use their many years of national touring experience. They plan to use their talents to exquisitely tell the story of Berlin’s music through song and dance complete with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers ballroom elegance, 1940’s dance hall swing and a show-stopping tap extravaganza.
The show also includes a Falling in Love section featuring Berlin’s famous love songs, a storyline focused on his movie music, a Fifth Avenue section complete with a mock Easter Parade and a small wedding as well as the show-stopper, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from “Annie Get Your Guns.”
Berlin, a World War I veteran was also very patriotic and wrote songs about his love for America, with the most famous being “God Bless America,” which was made famous by singer Kate Smith and gained a new significance following the Sept. 11 attacks.
The cast features Cynthia Collins, Michael Dotson, Judy Fitzgerald, Don Farrell, Bradley Reynolds and Mary Jayne Waddell – all veteran actors who have appeared in numerous ATI shows.
Michael Berkeley arranged the music and will be at the helm of the baby grand piano.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for new audiences to get to know the resident company, and if they can walk away and feel like they know a little more about Irving Berlin and about our performers, then we have done our job,” Shepard said.
“I Love A Piano” ● Though May 11 ● Studio Theatre ● The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel ● Tickets start at $20 ● For more information call 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org