Irving Berlin lived for more than a century (1888-1989) and his popular songs have outlasted even that incredible lifetime — including “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” — so the current Covedale Center revue I Love a Piano (a title from another of his well known tunes) has a ready advantage with audiences of a certain age. It offers six able singers to perform the numbers assembled in loosely constructed scenes that portray a period of Berlin’s output.
The two-act show spans a half-century from 1910 to the late 1950s, and the cast does quick costume and stylistic changes to perform the music of Tin Pan Alley, the Depression, World War II, the movies and Broadway.
Kiri Crawford is typically the sweet ingénue; Lesley Hitch uses her soulful belt to advantage; and Sherry McCamley is great at comic relief and straight-ahead singing à la Kate Smith. Matt Dentino, Rick Kramer and Joshua Steele are able dancers (co-director Dee Anne Bryll provided interesting choreography); Kramer’s wide vocal range has lots of power, while Steele brings youthful style and enthusiasm to every number he’s in.
Co-director Ed Cohen has put an old upright piano at
center stage (it gets pushed around a lot) to remind us of the
connections between songs. There’s also a big keyboard spanning the
stage which too often blocks the view of a screen projecting photos to
set the scene, reminiscent of a Ken Burns documentary — with cast
members often striking poses to recall iconic images like Rosie the
Riveter or the sailor kissing a girl on a New York Street when WWII
ended. I Love a Piano is a pleasant diversion with enough comedy
to keep everyone smiling and the kind of music that will stick in your
head long after you leave the theater.
I LOVE A PIANO, presented by Cincinnati Landmark Productions at Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, continues through Nov. 6. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.