Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
The basics are three very talented performers singing and playing the songs of Ray Charles, Carole King, Elton John, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow, and others. Michael Maricondi, Madalyn McHugh, and Nygel D. Robinson have past history with FST's cabaret shows. All work together seamlessly and vocalize in support of each other when necessary. Most of the songs are arranged for one person leading. "Old Time Rock and Roll" is the opening number and introduces our three artists: Mr. Robinson on the stage right piano; Ms. McHugh at the upstage keyboard; and Mr. Maricondi on the stage left piano. Everyone is in spangles, blue jacket for Mr. Robinson and red for Mr. Maricondi, with Ms. McHugh in a long, flowing dark pink dress courtesy of Susan Angermann's costume designs.
The early part of act one covers some material from the 1950s, as rock and roll asserted itself from rhythm and blues, like "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." "One Fine Day" is performed as a salute to the beginning of Ms. King's career, and "Crocodile Rock" marks the beginnings of Elton John's stardom trajectory. Next are the iconic tunes "Blueberry Hill" and "Georgia on My Mind". A tribute to Stevie Wonder, both his childhood career and as a fully mature artist, leads to Barry Manilow for a first act finale.
Act two opens with a brief nod to pianistic showmanship, "Liberace Chopsticks," then segues into highlighting Freddie Mercury and Queen, with jokes that that part of the show might be renamed Three Guitars since there was nothing piano-based in that group. More songs for the trio are "Just the Way You Are," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "I Feel the Earth Move," from Ms. King's brilliant Tapestry album, "Higher Ground," and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," recognizing the importance of Paul Simon. "I Made it Through the Rain," "Beautiful," and "I'm Still Standing" serve as valedictory songs for their composer/performers to end the show.
All three performers show solid voices and the men excellent keyboard skills. Ms. McHugh might have equal keyboard skills but is not called on to use them as much. As they reach the final arc of the 90-minute show, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" really raises the roof on the theatre, although there is plenty of excitement all through. This is one of the best casts I've seen in a cabaret series show at Florida Studio Theatre, totally attuned to the styles they are sampling.
Stage setting by Bruce Price is elaborate, as multiple keyboard arches fill the stage. Sarah Durham has designed a fantastic array of projections which make a concert into a theater piece.
Three Pianos is proving so popular at the box office that multiple extensions have been announced; it is now scheduled to end May 9, but don't bet on it. Best tickets will be available midweek.
Three Pianos runs through May 9, 2021, at Florida Studio Theatre, Gompertz Theater, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information, please call the box office at 941-366-9000 or visit floridastudiotheatre.org.