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Merged Work Productions Presents "Piece of my Heart", The Bert Berns Story, at The Pershing Square Signature Center
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Merged Work Productions Presents "Piece of my Heart", The Bert Berns Story, at The Pershing Square Signature Center

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Merged Work Productions Presents:
Piece of my Heart:
The Bert Berns Story
www.pieceofmyheartmusical.com
(Bert Berns Web Page)

Book by Daniel Goldfarb
Music by Bert Berns

Directed and Choreographed by Denis Jones
Music Supervision, Orchestrations,
Arrangements: Garry Sherman
Conductor, Music Direction,
Additional Vocal Arrangements: Lon Hoyt

At
The Irene Diamond Stage
The Pershing Square Signature Center
480 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
212.279.4200

Starring:
Zak Resnick, Leslie Kritzer, Joseph Siravo
De’Adre Aziza, Derrick Baskin, Bryan Fenkart
Teal Wicks, Linda Hart

With an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Scenic Design: Alexander Dodge
Costume Design: David C. Woolard
Lighting Design: Ben Stanton
Sound Design: Carl Casella
Hair & Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe
Props Supervisor: Kathy Fabian/Propstar
Production Stage Manager: Matthew DiCarlo
Casting: Telsey + Company/
Rachel Hoffman, CSA
Additional Arrangements: Adam Ben-David, Lon Hoyt
Production Supervisor: Production Core
Press Representative: O&M Co.
Advertising and Marketing: The Pekoe Group
Exec. Producer: Jack Thomas
General Management: Snug Harbor Productions,
Steve Chaikelson/Kendra Bator


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 10, 2014 Matinee


The Merged Work Productions new Off-Broadway musical, Piece of My Heart, now running at The Pershing Square Signature Center, has sensuous soul and swinging songs. Before seeing this show, I knew nothing of songwriter Bert Berns, even though I was the first to dash to the dance floor, every time “Twist and Shout” wound up. I’d almost forgotten about “Tell Him”, “Hang On Sloopy”, and “My Block”. Lon Hoyt, Orchestra Conductor and keyboardist, keeps the eight-piece orchestra in pulsating tunefulness. No fewer than 26 songs are sung, either by lead actors or the ensemble, sometimes merging lyrics to the story, and sometimes referencing historical gigs or tryouts. With the success of Broadway’s Jersey Boys and Beautiful, my prediction is that Piece of My Heart, also the name of the show’s title tune, has a good chance of finding its way to the big stage. Director and Choreographer, Denis Jones, has a precise choreographic eye, in his staging of song and dance routines that rivet the viewer. The intimacy of the small stage, with musicians in side boxes above the action, keeps the music intense.

This show, even without the unfolding story and drama, could be hugely successful as pure song and dance, with anecdotal asides. After all, 26 songs is at least a two-set gig. With the inclusion of Daniel Goldfarb’s book, the show is intriguing, but could it be a guaranteed winner with tighter scene scenarios and resolutions. Zak Resnick, as the young Bert Berns in the early 60’s (he never grew old, having died at age 38 in 1967), knows he’s destined for an early grave, with cardiac warnings since childhood, but he chain smokes, drinks, and parties it up. Mr. Resnick is a crooner with personality, endearing and engaging. Mr. Goldfarb’s recreated bio has Bert falling in love with the sultry Candace (De’Adre Aziza), a smooth nightclub diva, with vocals like cognac. She seduces the shy lover, but bolts when life almost gets serious. Ms. Aziza was a high point of this superb cast. Berns’ next lover, Ilene (Teal Wicks), also a club dancer, becomes a lady before our eyes. In fact, she’s the one who matures, as her older self (Linda Hart), as mother to Jessie (Leslie Kritzer), brings down the house with “I’ll Be a Liar”. The story shifts from Bert’s life to Jessie’s valiant mission to bring her father’s hidden legacy to life, which is apparently art imitating life.

Two of Bert’s friends, Wazzel (Joseph Siravo) and Hoagy (Derrick Baskin) have central roles, as Hoagy lights up his own version of “Twist and Shout”, with Cuban rhythms. As for Wazzel, Bryan Fenkart is his own tough, younger self, in a fateful trip to Cuba (“Up In the Streets of Havana”) and in a fateful mob-related threat to save Bert’s record label (a confusing and prominent subplot). Mr. Siravo has huge charisma as the older Wazzel, and he’s definitely taken with Jessie, whom he drew to New York, cuing her onto Ilene’s scheme to sell Bert’s recordings for cold cash. From perusing the biography of the songwriter, Bert Berns, the record deals, mob stories, and Cuba saga, need to be retold in sequential clarity. Yet, this show could be a long-time winner, with some minor adjustments. Two additional characters, Carlos (Sydney James Harcourt) and Jerry (Mark Zeisler), exuded persona and power, Carlos in Cuba and Jerry in the studio. Denis Jones worked the Mr. Goldfarb’s book for pathos and romance, while his choreography, as noted above, was stunning. Alexander Dodge’s scenery made use of a wide bed and a busy desk, plus shiny, confetti streamer doorways in Cuba. David C. Woolard’s costumes were best in the nightclub and song ensemble scenes. Ben Stanton’s lighting was quite effective with dramatically changing milieus, while Carl Casella’s sound design could be adjusted for not drowning the opening lyrics. Kudos to Bert Berns.



The Cast of "Piece of My Heart"
Courtesy of Jenny Anderson



For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net