BOTTOM LINE: A pleasantly innocent musical respite from the more typical gritty, grungy and edgy fare one tends to encounter at theatre festivals. Appropriate for the entire family.
Irving Berlin, one of the greatest songwriters in American musical history, wrote an estimated 1,500 songs over the course of his life, providing Melanie Gall, the playwright and star of this production, with ample material from which to select the dozen numbers she strings together in relating this very abbreviated story of Berlin's life. Playing the role of Berlin's childhood friend, vaudeville singer Rebecca Rosenstein, Gall uses her well-trained operatic voice to belt out number after number in a fashion designed to remind us of the relative innocence of America in the early 1900s.
Gall, who is accompanied on the piano by John Murphy, eschews the traditional Berlin classics such as "White Christmas," "Easter Parade," "There's No Business Like Show Business," and "God Bless America," all of which you've probably heard so often that you wouldn't care if you never heard them again. She opts instead for a number of his lesser but more humorous tunes that you may never have heard before, including "If You Don't Want My Peaches, Don't Shake the Tree," Don't Take Your Beau to the Seashore," "If That's Your Idea of a Wonderful Time," and "Keep Away From the Fellow Who Owns an Automobile." Her choices are good and risque by the standards of the early 1900s but perfectly innocent by today's standards. It all makes for an enjoyable hour's entertainment.
(My Pal Izzy: The Early Life and Music of Irving Berlin plays at the Kraine Theatre, 85 East 4th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, through March 5, 2011. Remaining performances are Wednesday, March 2nd at 9pm; Thursday, March 3rd at 7:30pm; and Saturday, March 5th at 4pm. General admission tickets are $16, Student/Senior/Military tickets are $14, and can be purchased at smarttix.com. For more festival information visit frigidnewyork.info.)