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12 Bars

cabaret & variety · foolsicals · Ages 12+ · world premiere · one person show · United States of America

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Review by GUY PICOT

June 10, 2017 fringe review (fringereview.co.uk) · original article
tagged as: pianoman

What I liked

Much.

What I didn't like

Not much.

My overall impression

Richard Levinson is career pianist and song-writer who found he had enough songs set in bars to put together a show. He wrote the songs and co-wrote the script for last year’s Fringe hit ‘Thanks a lot, the Gratitusical’ for which he he also provided piano accompaniment. This year he edges center-stage and unpacks his basket of wares.

The opener, “Welcome to the club” sets the tone, it’s a breezy waltz about men who have probably made bad choices but ostensibly have few regrets. Levinson the lyricist is meticulous and perceptive, characters are captured in a phrase, flaws are illuminated, but somehow without too much judgment, these places wouldn’t be so interesting if they were just filled with nice guys.

“Just Another Face” is a witty subversion of the “Cheers” theme song, extolling the virtues of a place where you can be anonymous.

Between songs, Levinson does scripted introductions to give some background on when and why he wrote the next song.

As a pianist he seems to be as good the the current song requires him to be, when fast and difficult playing is required, he can do that, but he never does anything flashy. One gets the impression that these tricks don’t impress him anymore, so why should they impress anyone else? The singing is similarly workman-like, sometimes bringing to mind Randy Newman, but equally able to evoke the Beach Boys, again without ever seeming to seek our approval. The words are served more attentively than the music and it is as a lyricist that Levinson is exceptional.
There’s a short, bonus song about nostalgia, which neatly sums up the appeal of the show as a whole, we feel we know these people and places, they’re part of a shared but largely mythical past.

As an encore, we were treated to Levinson’s biggest hit, “Let’s do something cheap and superficial” which was a novelty release for Burt Reynolds. It’s a somewhat crude but clear distillation of the themes from the evening, men who should know better hitting on women who probably do.
The show is produced by Brian Wallis and though short on spectacle, nothing is out of place. All tickets are pay-what-you-choose so please, tip your pianist. I recommend this show.

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