Legarreta shines in ‘I Love a Piano’
It’s been years since i’ve seen Victor Legarreta playing a role in a show — i.e. performing only, not producing, directing, overseeing the entirety and playing a part — simply performing. To be honest, I’d forgotten how good he could be, how talented he is, but my memory was immediately refreshed when he first came on stage as Alex in Broadway Palm’s main stage production of “I Love a Piano.”
A seasoned director and a showman for close to 20-plus years, a seven-year performer at the original Old Schoolhouse Theater, and for three years, Artistic Director at the Off Broadway Palm Black Box, Legarreta has done it all. Brought to the island by J.T. Smith, the late Old Schoolhouse Theater Encore Players Music Man, to some of us he never really emerged from J.T.’s formidable shadow as a revue-producer.
But as a singer and dancer, he can’t be beat!
Most people have had some kind of relationship with a piano in their lifetimes. “I Love A Piano” follows the life of one such piano — a venerable upright — through several owners and several moves during the early part of the 20th Century. In the process, it relates us and itself to the musical output of one man, Irving Berlin, who, to quote another great songwriter, Jerome Kern, “has no place in American music. He is American music.”
And the rest of the cast in this show are just as outstanding. Elizabeth Loos (Sadie) played Mama Rose in “Gypsy” here five years ago and just completed a run of “I love a Piano” at Broadway Palm West in Mesa, Ariz. Owner of a glorious voice, she brought the entire audience to its feet when she launched into “God Bless America” at the end of Act I.
Jonathan Van Dyke (who, I swear, looks like those other theatrical Van Dykes) is not only a talented singer and dancer, but a movie actor and a member of the Dramatists Guild with three produced plays under his belt. On stage and performing for a great deal of this show, he exhibited elegant timing and true dance ability.
Especially for this show, since the “star” was a piano, I would be most remiss if I didn’t specifically applaud pianist and conductor Loren Strickland for his (always) enormous contribution to the show. I’m not sure how he does it — time after time… perfect timing, a perfect grasp of the how and why of the music, just exactly how it fits and just where the em-pha’-sis should be… every time. Thanks, Loren, you’re as much a part of the show as the on-stage performers. (‘Course, half the time, you’re on stage too!)
“I Love a Piano” is directed and choreographed by Amy Marie McCleary. Known for her diverse choreography, Amy is making her Florida directorial debut with this show. She directed and choreographed “I Love A Piano” at Broadway Palm’s sister theater in Mesa where she received stunning reviews for her work.
All in all, this was a delightful production, tracing Berlin’s music from some of his earliest — “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” and “Play a Simple Melody” through one of the best versions of “You’re Just in Love” I’ve ever seen… including that of Donald O’Connor and Ethel Merman in “Call Me Madam.” Musically, the song is one of Irving Berlin’s three well-known songs that use true counterpoint — a main melody with a secondary melody running at the same time, both with independent lyrics. His two other best-known counterpoint songs are “Play a Simple Melody” and “An Old-Fashioned Wedding,” the latter of which was part of “…Just in Love” in this production.
Go see it, folks! “I Love a Piano,” Broadway Palm’s 128th production, runs through Oct. 2. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. with dinner starting at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets can be reserved by calling 239-278-4422, by visiting www.BroadwayPalm.com or by stopping by the box office at 1380 Colonial Boulevard in Fort Myers.