54 Sings Irving Berlin
Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, April 5, 2017
Reviewed by Ron Forman for Cabaret Scenes
When Jerome Kern was asked, “What is Irving Berlin’s place in American music?,” his reply was, “Irving Berlin has no place in American music, he is American music.” Scott Siegel’s production, 54 Sings Irving Berlin, featured a dozen Berlin songs chosen from different periods of his more than 50 years of productive songwriting. Siegel put together an outstanding cast of singers, each chosen appropriately for the number that he or she performed. His introductory comments were informative and gave the audience a glimpse of Berlin’s life and career.
The marvelous Brian Charles Rooney (pictured) opened the night by showing that a male voice could work wonders with “Heat Wave.” Stephanie D’Abruzzo followed with a song from the film White Christmas, “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me.” She would return for a poignant performance of “What’ll I Do?,” written when Berlin was experiencing a forced separation from his future bride, initiated by her father. With appropriate humor, Joshua Israel sang and tap danced to “Oh, How I Hate Get Up in the Morning.” He would return to do ”It’s Lovely Day Today,” which had him delightfully twisting and turning at the conclusion of the number. Joanne Shea was particularly effective with “I Got Lost in His Arms.” Siegel led into Jill Paice’s performance of “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” by telling how Berlin got the idea for the song from a visit to his psychiatrist to deal with insomnia. Musical Director Matt Baker nicely wove “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” into his arrangement. The combination of Alex Getlin‘s vocal and Baker’s dramatic work on piano made “How Deep is the Ocean (How High Is the Sky)” memorable. Next to closing, Jillian Louis led the crowd in a rousing “God Bless America.” The show ended on a high note with Rooney displaying his operatic voice for a particularly moving “The Song Is Ended (but the Melody Lingers On),” a phrase which I had engraved on my father’s tombstone.