Imaginative and educational, Melanie Gall’s My Pal Izzy – The Early Life And Music Of Irving Berlin combines a healthy dose of fact and fiction as we are given a panoramic view of the life of brilliant composer Irving Berlin during his early formative years through his ill-fated albeit loving marriage to Dorothy Goetz. Our narrator, Rebecca, shares small stories behind several of his songs (many of which, in this fictionalized narrative, are based on their friendship) while the character also weaves in a considerable amount of history about the famed Berlin, who was born Israel Baline, and his childhood dreams that he hustled and worked so hard for to make a reality. As she describes the songs, she also shares them – with her opera-trained voice and pianist (John Murphy). Gall’s character of Becky is quite interesting, as is her use of this fictional character to weave a story behind the legendary lyricist and his songs, through the idea of friends helping each other succeed creatively in the tough streets of New York City.
Combine with this Gall’s beautiful voice and the history lesson, and you have an evening of possibilities. Two of my favorite songs from the evening were “If You Don’t Want My Peaches” and the heart-wrenching “When I Lost You”.
My problem with the show was the actual acting. When Ms. Gall was giving a historical narrative of Berlin’s life, she had my full attention, and I felt I learned a great deal about his life. When she was singing, her voice and the songs were lovely, so her hamming it up on several songs was acceptable because it seemed fitting with the type of music she was doing.But there were the little moments when the actress was sharing her make-believe world, or when she would create people she was talking to or things she saw that I just didn’t buy, and it was troublesome for me to become as absorbed as I would have liked to have been.
Despite this, My Pal Izzy provides an interesting glimpse of a moment in time we probably take for granted – for example, Berlin had to sing songs at an early age in an opium den just for pennies a week. In doing so, it provides a charming presentation of the songs of one of the greats who paved the way for composers and lyricists today.
~~~My Pal Izzy – The Early Life and Music of Irving Berlin Written by Melanie Gall & Directed by Karen Gall Presented by Sisterscene Productions Brooklyn, NY The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street) $16 Thu 2/24 @ 6pm, Fri 2/25 @ 7pm, Sun 2/27 @ 2:30pm, Wed 3/2 @ 9pm, Thu 3/3 @ 7:30pm, & Sat 3/5 @ 4pm
FRIGID New York Festival 2011 will run February 23-March 6 at The Kraine Theater & The Red Room (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1sr Ave and Ave A). Tickets ($10-$16) may be purchased online at www.FRIGIDnewyork.info or by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444. All shows will run 60 minutes long or less.