If This Piano Could Talk
captions by Jeanne Lieberman
A word from our president Martha Pitkin
The Arts Project of Cherry Grove’s “community” show on
Labor Day this year was Dell Harbin’s brainchild “If This Piano Could Talk”, it
was a reprise of 64 years of Arts Project history using archival footage from
past shows with fresh new takes on classic numbers. The cast was choreographed
by the inimitable Dale Lally (is there NOTHING that man can’t do?) and Darius
Frowner helmed the piano and provided expert musical direction. Modesty
forbids discussing my solos, but let me share some of the highlights from
The most performed number on the stage at the Community
House is “Broadway Baby”, but we’re actually “BoardWALK Babies”! The ensemble
put our hearts out there – why we do what we do? Because we MUST!
The cast trodding the boards on the
Next was a mature take on “God, I Hope I Get It” from
“A Chorus Line”, where the ensemble made a quick change into dance belts and
Stretch for the dance part
Do what??? Is he kidding???
Did it look like this?
Whew! I think we got it!
while Panzi auditioned for “Zach” (Dale as chameleon,
changing even MORE quickly than the rest of us!) Somehow, Panzi didn’t make the
cut, but the show went on.
Some of my favorite numbers were ones that I hadn’t
seen done originally, but enjoyed watching friends perform –
Lynn Belensky serenading Pat Wagnis, on “The Man in the
Moon is a Lady” with the two of them harmonizing at the end. The clip of the
original number featured a moon large enough for the Lady (Pat) to recline
“The Miracle of the Bells” Linda Dickerman and Barbara
Hirsch were featured in the first act as nuns,
and in the second act, their sing along “Never on a
Sunday” a la the Barry Sisters with rainbow hankies and follow-along lyrics had
the audience laughing when they weren’t attempting to sing in phonetic
Sallyann Piacentino’s hilarious rendition of Medea’s
torturous route to renown via a dramatic scene from the opera Adriana Lecouvreur where her co-star (a huggable baby doll)
learned what it meant to cross Mommy Dearest.
One of the Grove’s most
accomplished lip synchers, this time Sallyann chose Italian – as befits a
Singing live (with cards)
Ruth and Susan Freedner did a fabulous mashup on “Mad About the (Girl)” and
“Mad About (Her) Blues”. Ruth was successful getting her words in edgewise,
for the record.
Tim Webster and Martha
Pitkin paid loving tribute to the Freedners as the
Other featured performers
included Gusty Winds (Dan Alita) doing a star turn on “I Am What I Am”,
Bella doing a superb Totie
Fields on “Stunning Me” from Ms. Field’s Vegas show complete with audience
Demi Tasse pouring her
heart into “With One Look” from “Sunset Boulevard”
and Homecoming Queen Robin
Kradles sending up Billie Anne Miller with “Falling In Love Again” while her
boys (Dell Harbin and Sallyann Piacentino) cuddled up to each other, rather
Tony Bondi reprised his
early 2000s “Raining In My Heart” with fluttering eyelashes that may have
caused tornadoes in New Jersey!
Soon joined by
the chorus girls (note Sallyann’s umbrella malfunction – the beauty of live
Linda doing an
almost exact replica (as we later saw) of the revered Dixie in “If I cant’sell
And then there was the
In addition to the opening
numbers, James Lyons, Dale Lally and Eric Coyne wove together three favorites
around the piano. James lamented and loved “My Man” with brilliant tenor
passion, then passed the torch to Dale whose “The Man that Got Away” had verve
and bittersweet longing. Then Eric’s beautiful rotund voice reminded them,
they “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man of Mine”.
When they combined in a
barbershop harmony at the end, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house! Kudos to
the Lone Arranger, Darius Frowner – his musical wit and energy are infectious.
sang the optimistic “Look for a sky of Blue”
sang “So in Love” to a piano!!! Never sounded better as both songs showed off
her vocal versatility and acting skills.
The ensemble then came together
for a special tribute – Gerrie MacWhinnie reprising “Glorious Food” paying
homage to her mother, Jeanne Skinner’s performance in the Sal Piro classic
“Class Reunion”. Adding new wrinkles to her mother’s performance, another star
is born in Cherry Grove!
Despite acquiring a new
projector for the show, the ghosts of the theatre must have their fun. The
projector worked in rehearsal, but did not cooperate to show the video ‘til the
Philomena’s rendition of
“Send in the Clams” on video was an audience favorite, with her comic timing
and antic wit.
Finally, “Sgt Pepper’s
Lonely Hearts Club Band” from last season’s “Glay”, featuring Sallyann
Piacentino on vocals, played before the cast sang a spirited “When I’m 64”, in
honor of the Arts Project.
& CURTAIN CALLS (pix courtesy of Bruce Michael Gelbert)
Martha and the
bartenders played an unrehearsed major part in the evening when, to fill in the
time to fix the projector, the decision was made to empty the frig and enlist
the likes of Lorraine et al to serve free drinks to the audience. “We are not
allowed to sell drinks for money – it would cost $800 per show for the license.
So we did what we always do, give it away for a donation” – but a great idea
which lent merriment to otherwise awkward moments
Intrepid audience members
stayed to see the clips that couldn’t be shown earlier. You could hear a pin
drop – the audience was rapt and giving love to the Arts Project that it’s been
returning for 64 years, and counting.