Sweet and adorable, ‘I Love a Piano’ brings happy nostalgia to Philadelphia audiences

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

“I Love a Piano: Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin” is now playing at Independence Studio on 3 at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia for a limited run.

Conceived by Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley, this musical has multiple costume changes, a fanciful unit set, and a quartet of singing, dancing actors brimming with enthusiasm. This musical was presented in eleven scenes which were dramatically suited to the time and place for which each song was written. For example: a speakeasy, a movie theatre in the 1930s, and a dance hall were a few of the settings.

The four cast members were: Scott Langdon (Alex); Ellie Mooney (Eileen); Owen Pelesh (George); and Denise Whelan (Sadie). The lovely, adorable Mr. Pelesh was last seen at the Walnut Theatre in “Mary Poppins.” He has also appeared with The Mauckingbird Theatre Company, which presents LGBT-themed plays as well as rethinking plays with a queer outlook. He played the piano, danced (Ballroom, tap, soft-shoe, and even performed a pirouette), sang, and dressed onstage. Mr. Langdon was last seen on the main stage in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Ellie Mooney was a triple threat as Choreographer, Director, and cast member. Denise Whelan has appeared in many Walnut Street productions.

Born Israel Berlin in 1888, Irving Berlin was a musical legend who wrote over a dozen iconic musicals and hundreds of famous songs yet never won the Tony Award (he was awarded a special Tony Award). He did win an Academy Award for “White Christmas.” Some of the many songs performed were: “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody;” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band;” “Blue Skies;” “I’ve Got My Love to keep Me Warm;” “Puttin’ On the Ritz;” “Cheek to Cheek;” “God Bless America;” and many more. There was an extended scene with several songs from “Annie Get Your Gun” which was joyfully delivered.

Playing nearly all the musical accompaniment (Mr. Pelesh often played the piano in character) was pianist David Jenkins, who was seen only at the end of the show when he appeared to take his bow.

There was a full house on the May 7 performance in this intimate space on the third floor of the Walnut Street Theatre. There are only 80 seats in this wonderful space, so be forewarned that tickets may be in short supply. For an entertaining visit to our bygone past, seeing “I Love a Piano” should be tops on your list.

The 2015-2016 season has been announced. The following will be part of the new season: “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment,” October 6 – November 1; “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” November 17 – December 27; “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” January 12 – February 7; “Red,” February 23 – March 20; and “Always … Patsy Cline,” April 5 – July 3, 2016.

For more information, visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org

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