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Irving Berlin's 'Piano' is noteworthy at Gateway

If you love a good old-fashioned song, you'll probably fall for Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano."

You can't get more patriotic than the Act I closer, "God Bless America," the unofficial national anthem and post-9/11 hymn. It's immediately preceded by the top-selling single of all time, "White Christmas," both written by the Jewish immigrant from Russia.

The show's loose story-line pastiches put 57 numbers in rough chronological order, making it all about the songs. An appealing cast ranging from young-love pairings (Kristen Maloney-Ryan Lammer and Ashley McKay-Jody Madaras) to a more mature couple (Deborah Tranelli-Christopher Vettel) sings and dances its way through this impressive chunk of Berlin's songbook without giving any tune the bum's rush.

No small feat, that, with a roster of songs everyone knows: "Alexander's Ragtime Band" shows off the hot licks of music director Justin Fischer's not-so-big band; "Puttin' on the Ritz," ironic in a Depression-era set; "Cheek to Cheek," with everyone ballrooming to director Bob Durkin's dreamy choreography; "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," a wartime lullaby soothingly crooned by Vettel; "Easter Parade," led by an amusingly downscale Maloney and Lammer; "The Girl That I Marry," sung by Madaras, the sextet's hopeless romantic; a sassy "Anything You Can Do" by the younger foursome; a robust "There's No Business Like Show Business," introduced in been-there, done-that fashion by Tranelli, and McKay's reminiscent take on the title song.

The story, such as it is, revolves around a vintage 1910 piano with a broken key, which moves from Alexander's Music Shop to a Roaring '20s speakeasy, a 1930s Lower East Side street sale, a 1940s ballroom and a World War II canteen. And that's just the first act. The brisk Act II is confined to a postwar USO canteen, a junkyard and a 1950s summer stock theater during auditions for "Annie Get Your Gun."

It all plays out in front of set designer Brittany Loesch's huge piano-keyboard bandstand, scenes accented by Kim Hanson's mood lighting and period costumes by Jose Rivera that transport us from decade to decade.

Irving Berlin's great American career spanned most of the first six decades of the last century. But his songs never get old - or feel old as rejuvenated at Gateway.


WHAT Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano," conceived and written by Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley


WHEN | WHERE 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and next Wednesday, 8 p.m. Friday and Tuesday, 3 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, through July 3, at Gateway Playhouse, 215 South Country Rd., Bellport


INFO $50 to $56, $25 students; gatewayplayhouse.com, 631-286-1133

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