I Love a Piano: American History Captured through the Music of Irving Berlin

Contributed To The Press • Mar 29, 2018 at 8:18 AM

The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is thrilled and honored to bring to its stage the music of Irving Berlin in I Love a Piano. This nostalgic, beautiful, and funny musical revue runs March 30 through April 15 at the theatre located at 125.5 W. Main St., Jonesborough.

“I think the wonderful thing about this show,” choreographer and cast member Lindy Ley said, “is that even if you don’t know the name Irving Berlin, you almost certainly recognize a lot of his music. He’s such an iconic composer that his songs really permeate our society.”

For those of you who are familiar with his name, it should bring to mind songs such as “White Christmas,” “God Bless America,” “Easter Parade,” and others that span the 20th century.

“Irving Berlin captured the soul of America in his music,” cast member Tiffany Matthews stated. “His lyrics told stories of dreams, dance, rally cries, and anthems that we all know and love.”

In 1893, when Berlin was a young child, he immigrated to New York from Tolochin, Byelorussia. In 1907 he published his first song, "Marie from Sunny Italy," and by 1911 he had his first major international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Over the next 50 years, Berlin expressed the emotions, tension, struggles, and successes of America through his songs, musicals, dance numbers, and ballads. And the piano was his instrument of choice.

“He loved the piano so much,” director Jennifer Ross explained. “That was his instrument, so it is the focal point in every scene of this show. The same piano takes the journey through the play. It carries us through the decades from a music shop to the speakeasy, from a silent movie to a 1950s summer-stock theatre.”

The piano moves from scene to scene thus moving us through the dynamic history of 20th century America.

“Irving Berlin's music served to give Americans a voice on their circumstances during many pivotal times in America's history,” cast member Lucas Schmidt said. “Whether it was the mischief of the prohibition era, the hard times of the depression, or the loss and tumult of World War Two, Berlin's music conveyed just what Americans were feeling and what they needed to hear.”

“Irving Berlin created masterpieces of music that became anthems for American culture,” Hollie Matthews, another cast member, noted. “Masterpieces which are still cherished today. His music channeled values of patriotism, love, and hope.”

“This show is funny, sweet, and entertaining,” Jennifer said. “It’s got something for everyone. The music covers the decades from 1910 through the1950s, when the greatest music about our country was composed because people were patriotic; they loved their country; they supported each other; and they helped each other.”

I Love a Piano features 64 of Berlin’s most loved songs, including “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

“Irving Berlin’s music was as American as Mom and apple pie,” cast member Austin Bird remarked. “A symbol of the best of us.”

“I think this is a show that’s really accessible,” Lindy expressed. “The music is fun, there are lots of little stories that we tell, and the dancing is a blast. Just come, take a load off, and let us entertain you for a couple of hours.”

I Love a Piano is written by Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. The show is directed by Jennifer Ross, assisted by Alexis Turner, and choreographed by Lindy Ley. The JRT is thankful for the show sponsors—Denny Dentistry, Morningstar Farm, and Sonia King/Mary B. Martin.

Rounding out the cast are Heather Allen, Josh Baldwin, Andrew Duncan, Shawn Hale, Hope Heister, Ashley Light, Hannah Love, Alayasha Martin, Sarah Sanders, Don Squibb, Sharon Squibb, Alexis Turner, and Lucas Wilcox.

Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm; and Thursday, April 5, at 7:30pm. There is no show on Easter Sunday. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 423.753.1010 or go online to www.jonesboroughtheatre.com.

Contributed to the Press

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