Good Songs and Good Cheer: NEIL BERG’S 100 YEARS OF BROADWAY

Uncredited photo snagged from Larcom Theatre Facebook page.

Presented by Spectacle Management
By composer, lyricist and producer Neil Berg

Larcom Theatre
Beverly, MA
May 9th – May 11th, 2014
Larcom Theater on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) It is regrettable that Broadway too often is a business for the young, as this cult of youth cuts out so many talented actors who have finely honed their abilities through years of practice. Instead of making use of this talent in New York, actors over 35 too often are shunted off to regional tours or repertory theaters.

The show Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway, stopping in Beverly for the weekend, shows that New York’s loss is the country’s gain. A straightforward concert of some of Broadway’s most memorable tunes, this show smartly forgoes the spectacle that consumes cruise ship concerts to give the performers space to truly connect with their audience and showcase their abilities to entertain.

Each of the five musicians (three singers, one drummer, and one piano player) bring their own unique skill set and personality to the show in a beneficial way. Danny Zolli, the lone male singer, delivers his songs with the straightforward charisma of a rock performer; this makes sense since he apparently holds the record for most performances as the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar. Andrea Rivette sings beautifully with an improvisatory spirit, working the crowd while showcasing pitch-perfect timing and a joyous voice. Rebecca Pitcher lacks the charisma of the other singers, although she tries the hardest to be bubbly, but she more than makes up for it with her bringing-down-the-house pipes.

The trio are backed strongly by brilliant young pianist Brian Walters, who also hosts the show. Walters’ youthful energy is a nice counterweight to the experience on stage, as he can’t seem to stick to any form of canned lines or canned piano arrangements without injecting his passion for song craft. And even though Alex Aitken seems to be the only drummer I’ve ever seen who is an quiet introvert on stage, even this demeanor brings its own fresh energy.

The song selection is certainly far from groundbreaking and at times seems strange (choosing the title song from Phantom of the Opera over “Music of the Night” for a duet? Really?). But the show never drags, as the performers bring the right amount of stagecraft and showmanship to keep us entertained with the simple beauty of well-written songs performed by great musicians.

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