/

MIYAGI, HYOGO, NARA

Works of songwriter Berlin showcase love, friendship

by Chris Cook

“I Love a Piano,” an off-Broadway musical penned by famed songwriter Irving Berlin (1888-1989), is enjoying its first run in Japan.

After shows to fired-up audiences in Hokkaido, Aichi and Shizuoka prefectures, the performance will be staged in Miyagi Prefecture on Dec. 5 and Hyogo Prefecture on Dec. 8-9. The show will wrap up its tour in Nara on Dec. 11.

“The show has received a very warm welcome here,” says Joyce Presutti, the production’s associate general manager. “Ultimately, because the show deals with universal themes — love, friendship, leaving and missing home — it resonates with the crowds more than we could have imagined.”

The producers have added Japanese translated script on screens on both sides of the stage to help audiences better understand the plot and explain the songs.

“This is a five-week tour, almost a ‘test the waters’ type of tour,” adds Presutti. “If the response continues, we would hope to return” — and maybe even play to audiences in Tokyo and Osaka.” The six cast members, all professionals and members of Actors’ Equity working under director Ray Roderick, bring alive some of Berlin’s masterpieces, including “God Bless America,” “There’s no Business like Show Business” and “White Christmas,” sung to music from pianist and music director John Baxadine’s magic fingers on a Steinway grand piano.

“There is a lot of energy on stage,” says Michael Graetzer, the show’s technical director. “It is a huge song, dance and acting show. In technical terms, a Broadway triple threat.”

“I Love a Piano” will be performed at Natori-shi Bunka Kaikan in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, on Dec. 5 (¥3,000; 1 p.m., 6 p.m.; [022] 384-8900); Arukaikku in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, on Dec. 8-9 (¥4,500 adv.; 6 p.m.; [06] 6487-0910); and Hyakunen Kaikan (Centennial Hall) in Nara on Dec. 11 (¥1,000-¥3,000 adv.; 2:30 p.m.; [0742] 34-0111). For more information, visit www.pianomusical.com.