Repertory Theater presents “I Love A Piano” in
the Stackner Cabaret. It features Kelley
Faulkner, Eric Shorey, Jane Labanz and Steve
MILWAUKEE — I’m having a “Ragtime” moment, which
translates to what I felt when experiencing that musical
treat three years ago. I was almost beyond words after
that show. The same is true of “I Love A Piano,” which
features the music of Irving Berlin a la 50 songs and
four dazzling performers. I considered writing “Wow” 500
times and calling it quits.
productions offered at the Milwaukee Rep’s Stacker
Cabaret are usually very good, but occasionally a show
comes along that deserves the highest award for stunning
entertainment. This time Berlin provided the tunes;
James Zager, the amazingly creative and fast-paced
choreography; William Boles, the scenic design that
bespoke many reminders of our American past; Sally
Dolembo, whose costume design reminded us of fashion
changes; and JC Clementz and Dan Kazemi, who contributed
excellent overall direction.
the greatest admiration belongs to the deserving four
actors/singers/ pianists who occupied that stage for two
hours and gave us one of the most rousing performances
I’ve ever witnessed.
piano itself should be mentioned as the key prop. It was
an old upright with one sour key, a piano that was
wheeled around frequently and played with gusto by one,
two, three or even all four actors together at times.
Berlin’s works, which included more than 1,000 songs,
several musicals and scores for many films, represent
the best of American music. He composed beyond half a
century, after which he started his own music publishing
company and built a theater called the Music Box. He was
remembered for his range of music, his philanthropy and
his love of America. His classic “God Bless America”
attests to his love and respect for the beauty and
privileges we are blessed to share.
repertory included some of his most popular tunes, such
as his first big hit, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,”
“Easter Parade,” White Christmas,” “Puttin’ on the
Ritz,” “Blue Skies,” “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” “I’ve
Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” “Always” and “There’s No
Business Like Show Business,” but there were many others
not as popular though still memorable, such as “All By
Myself,” “Anything You Can Do,” “Count Your Blessings”
and “We’re a Couple of Swells.”
Songs that came out of the World War II experience
included, “O, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,”
“This is the Army,” “I Left My Heart at the Stage Door
Canteen” and “Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army.”
Beautiful ballads that were very moving included “How
Deep Is the Ocean,” “What’ll I Do,” “Suppertime,” “Say
It Isn’t So” and “Russian Lullaby.” Berlin was born in
performer has a unique style, but when they blend
together it is a beautifully nuanced mix.
Kelley Faulkner has a brassy Broadway-belter style; Jane
Labanz, a softer, mellower sound; Steve Watts, a range
of emotional tones and facial expressions; and Eric
Shorey, a strong, but almost dulcet resonance. They can
all strut, stomp, dance, cavort, amuse and move. They
made complexity look easy and kept us enthralled without
a lapse. Their last number, “I Love a Piano,” has a
nostalgic feeling about it. We didn’t want the show to
end. It was WOW, WOW, WOW all the way, period, amen.
Because this show has such a long run, you might want to
give a couple of tickets as a Christmas gift.
“I Love A Piano”
musical runs through Jan. 15 at the Stackner Cabaret
Theater, 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. Call 414-224-9490
or visit www.MilwaukeeRep.com.