Updated: Sep 24, 2022
Easily one of the trailblazers of the American musical songbook, Irving Berlin wrote over 1,500 songs during his monumental, 40+-year career. He was also a pioneer of American musical films, creating some of the most enduring and recognizable songs to hit the silver screen, including 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," "Blue Skies," and the Fred-and-Ginger hit, "Cheek to Cheek."
Now, modern audiences have the chance to acquaint, or re-acquaint, themselves with Berlin's impressive body of work through "Cheek to Cheek: Irving Berlin in Hollywood," the latest Off-Broadway production by the award-winning York Theatre Company.
The lighthearted production is perfectly suited to the times. Amid the chaos of our current world, "Cheek to Cheek" is a blissful, nostalgic reprieve. It is a reminder that, sometimes, it's okay to simply "face the music—and dance!"
"The show originally opened in November of last year and had to close shortly after due to COVID-19. It was unfortunate because it was receiving rave reviews at the time. Nevertheless, we are back and selling out nearly every night! — Riki Kane Larimer, Producer and VP of the Board of Directors at the York Theatre Company
The production features six talented actors and actresses who perform a chronological setlist of Berlin's best film songs. From the moment the show begins, the audience is transported to the early, golden era of film musicals. Its minimalist set, which Larimer describes as "perfect for touring," utilizes old-school film projections to create the setting. The rest of the experience relies solely on the cast and orchestra—and they do not disappoint.
Songs in the show are interpolated with playful skits that describe what led Berlin to each project, from 1927's "The Jazz Singer"—the first movie musical, which many credit with marking the end of the silent film era—to 1954's "Easter Parade," starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.
The production moves seamlessly from beginning to end, with each performer giving it their veritable all. The cast includes the likes of Melinda Porto—popular for her previous role as Catherine of Aragon in "SIX"—and Broadway Actor and Dancer Jeremy Benton, whose swift footwork would have likely impressed Mr. Astaire himself.
The show's masterful choreography was envisioned and executed by Randy Skinner, who has garnered multiple Tony Award nominations for his work with shows like "42nd Street" and "Dames at Sea." The five-piece orchestra, led by David Hancock Turner, had all of the gusto and brassiness of a musical ensemble three times its size.
"'Cheek to Cheek'" is a timeless show that is perfect for all ages. I was so impressed by the cast and the quality of the production overall." — Marsi Gardiner, BHS Agent and Tony-Winning Broadway Producer
At times when the world might seem heavy, musicals like "Cheek to Cheek" underscore the beauty and value of the escapism live theatre provides.