The North Augusta Cultural Arts Council has a celebration of the music and lyrics of Irving Berlin in store for its first theater production.
I Love a Piano follows the journey of a piano as it moves in and out of American lives from the turn-of-the-century to the present. The show will be staged Friday, Jan. 31, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 1, at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. at North Augusta High School Auditorium, 2000 Knobcone Ave.
“I’m excited,” said Angela Burkhalter, the production manager. “This is a first in many ways. There were a few shows done back in the ’80s and ’90s, but not by the NACAC. Not only is this production offering the community the opportunity to see a show put on by their own town, but it also offered them the opportunity to work with the show and to use their talents and skills. Also, this particular show is new to CSRA audiences.”
Burkhalter said board members realized they had the talents and abilities to do the musical.
“We’d had a theater committee for awhile,” she said. “It had been basically inactive. My daughter and I enjoy the theater, as do many others. We all began talking. The board finally said, ‘Here we have two board members (Carol Terry and Diana Combs) who can bring their talents and experience in the theater community. Let’s put together a theater production.’ ”
Terry, who serves as music director of the production, said she is glad they are expanding their community-wide arts emphasis to include theater.
“Those of us who were involved in organizing the NACAC 17 years ago always envisioned having a vibrant arts community,” she said.
“Already there are instrumental and vocal concerts, student talent showcase and exhibition art shows for adults and students. To offer patrons dramatic performances will develop fully all areas of the arts.”
Combs, who has directed plays in California, serves as artistic director.
Planning for the show began in August, and auditions were held in September and October.
An ensemble of six players (three women and three men) carry the show with their movement, singing and acting, said Burkhalter. They are: Julie Gozda, Lisa Snider, Beth Ann Young, Jerry Channel, Ralph Sapp and Daniel Oliver. All have vocal and performance experience through church choirs and local theater.
“I’ve viewed the show on YouTube and other places online and I feel our talent is comparable to anything I’ve seen online,” said Burkhalter. “The cast had a huge volume of songs to learn. They take the audience through six decades of Irving Berlin songs, staged in the context of the era. I think the actors and actresses have done a great job along with everyone else. Plus, the show didn’t come packaged. It uses projections worked up by Kris Harwood.”
“However,” she added, “The real star of the show is an upright, 100-year-old player piano that accompanies the cast through all their musical experiences.”
The NACAC Web site bills the show as “a fitting tribute to the man Jerome Kern famously said ‘has no place in American music – he IS American music.’”
Conceived by Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley, the show contains such songs as Cheek to Cheek, Always, Puttin’ on the Ritz, There’s No Business Like Show Business, God Bless America, Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better; Blue Skies and, of course, I Love a Piano.
Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the Arts and Heritage Center of North Augusta, Parks Pharmacy, Jim Bush Florist and Portman’s Music in Evans, or call Angela at (803) 507-4316.