I entered the Mac-Haydn a little on the grumpy side. I am not a fan of “revue-sicals” and I couldn’t imagine Irving Berlin’s I Love a Piano being anything but. But at the conclusion, as many in the audience rose to their feet cheering the talented cast, who were clearly pleased with the work they had just done, I was happy as a clam. This is indeed a revue of songs by the inimitable Irving Berlin, but creators Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley have crafted the piece with a singular flow and have avoided one of the major pitfalls of the genre – too much exposition painfully forced into dialogue.
You really don’t need to know that Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was born Israel Isidore Baline in Russia, emigrated with his family to New York City in 1893, dropped out of school at age eight to become a newsboy and discovered that he could sell more papers if he added a little song to his sales pitch in order to enjoy this show. Chatty critics like me can tell you all of that, and there are plenty of good biographies of Berlin out there too. You just need to know a good song, well sung, when you hear it.
They are all good songs, well sung, with some pretty nifty dancing in there too, thanks to sisters Karla and Kelly L. Shook who have directed and choreographed the show here at the Mac-Haydn after being involved with it professionally for many years. They also both appear on stage, along with Mac-Haydn favorites John Saunders and Andrea Dotto, and newcomers Tim Quartier and Carl Hulden. The combination of the Shooks personal experience with this show and with this theatre, and with Saunders and Dotto, have allowed them to tailor this production to fit the cast and venue like a Kate Middleton’s wedding gown. Perfection!