Irving Berlin! Live! On Stage! Mondays and Tuesdays on 13th Street

By ROB LESTER****Santa Claus brought an early gift in the form of Irving Berlin reincarnated as the ever-engaging entertainer Jon Peterson in the one-man musical show Irving Berlin: In Person. Written and directed by Berlin expert Chip Deffaa, it is full of songs familiar and rare by America’s granddad of composer-lyricists.  While his classics “White Christmas” and “Happy Holiday” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” are in the air this month and his Holiday Inn was a recent visitor to Broadway, this biographical bonanza of Berlin bon-bons and beauties gives a broad scope of his output, put out on stage by the ebullient and mega-charmer performing Peterson who also starred memorably in Deffaa’s George M. Cohan Tonight!, another one-person hit parade (plus another Cohan bio piece with other actors playing his family and colleagues).

Peterson (Left) and Deffaa 

Jon Peterson recently played the Emcee in the tour of Cabaret, and his own cabaret work has included an Energizer Bunny kind of salute to several fellow song-and-dance men in his tapping steps he follows.  The guy’s a prize and Irving Berlin’s lyrics are find fine, fond form in his lyric-loving interpretations and the melodies are in good hands with him and the actual two hands of pianist/music director Richard Danley. The Danley/Deffaa partnership is a long and fruitful one.  This musician has a flair for making old styles stylish with respect and panache. It was my pleasure to attend an early performance and get a boost of joy.  In between his other writing assignments, such as reviewing musical theatre for and varied topics for he has been busy creating an invaluable series of CDs of Irving Berlin material, some never before recorded, with various vocalists and Mr. Danley.

Irving Berlin: In Person plays on Mondays and Tuesdays at 7:30 PM at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre, the cozy and historic Greenwich Village mainstay at 50 West 13th Street.  It runs through December 18, and that number of 18 is also the more-than-fair number of dollars it will cost you to get in if you get a ticket at the box office.  But advance purchase is a safer bet since the theatre is small and the interest is big as the buzz is positive.

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