By Ed Kliszus
Moments after entering the theater, it became obvious that the producers of this production took great care and paid attention to detail. As the audience assembled, the sound system projected recordings of singers like Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney with songs like Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade, “Snow,” and “Sisters.” Two reminders immediately came to mind: how Irving Berlin’s nostalgic, brilliant music can brighten the day of even the most sardonic or sad heart; and Berlin’s significant and timeless musical contributions to the art of musical theater and film.
The program booklet was an object of pride, from its introductory comments from Producing Artistic Director Jim Morgan to the detailed listing of Berlin’s songs and their provenance. Initially veiled behind a scrim, the orchestra was set backstage akin to a band in a swing dance era dance hall.
Throughout the performance, the visual character of the splendid dance and song numbers were enriched by marvelous multi-media support. This combination of multimedia and live performance capitalized fully on available technologies to provide a rich, multi-dimensional musical experience. Despite being set on an intimate stage space, the sophisticated dance sequences, costumes, singing, songs, and staging provided an almost cinematic experience.
The cast was draped in period clothing with accompanying coiffures. We experienced the life and career of Berlin through his music and dance, from his humble beginnings in Tin Pan Alley to Hollywood film and Broadway. The men were dapper, the ladies elegant, they were all beautiful, and together drew viewers into the time best befitting each song’s historical context. As we followed Berlin’s career, we heard charming anecdotes while reveling in the choreography, lighting, sound, costumes, dancing, singing, and the orchestra — it was all as it should be.
This was a joyous evening of smiling and nostalgia with wonderful music, singing, and dancing. It’s a limited run so hurry!
Runtime is about 90 minutes with no intermission.
Cheek to Cheek: Irving Berlin in Hollywood
Conceived, directed, and choreographed by four-time Tony Award nominee Randy Skinner
Jeremy Benton, Darien Crago, Kaitlyn Davidson,
Danny Gardner, Darrell T. Joe, Melinda Porto,
Book by Barry Kleinbort, Scenic design by James Morgan, costume design by Nicole Wee, lighting design by Jason Kantrowitz, sound design by Julian Evans, vocal arrangements and orchestrations by Fred Lassen, and dance arrangements by Rob Berman.
Music Director and Piano David Hancock Turner, Drum/Percussion Louis B. Crocco, Reed I Noelle Rueschman, Reed 2 Amy Griffiths, and on Bass Joseph Wallace.
150 East 76th Street
New York NY 10021
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Oscar Hammerstein Solo Contest, The Life, Exception, and The Music Man.