MUSICAL THEATRE PREVIEW: AN EVENING WITH GENE NORDAN & FRIENDS

Sometimes we wish we could enter a time machine and travel back to some of the super entertainment events in North Florida history. Think of being transported to the Florida Theatre to see Elvis Presley, or the Gator Bowl to celebrate an appearance by the Beatles.

Well, we have a tip and a suggestion for a time travel trip that’s happening in the very near future, when North Florida residents will have the opportunity to experience the piano styling of Gene Nordan, composer, playwright and performer! He will appear on-stage in “An Evening with Gene Nordan and Friends,” on January 30 and 31, at Players by the Sea, in Jacksonville, Florida.

During the evening, Gene will take you back with his music and his friends to the days when he charmed city visitors and area residents who chose the elegance of Le Chateau in Atlantic Beach as their favored venue for dining, dancing, and listening to the remarkable Mr. Nordan. He was in the spotlight there from 1970 through 1983 when, due to illness, the owner regrettably had to sell the property; the buyer replaced the club with condominiums.

Since the closing, Gene has played at a number of supper clubs, private parties, and charity events. Several years ago, he wrote a musical called “Piano Bar” with over forty songs; he composed more than twenty of them. The show was successfully staged to sold out crowds filled with adoring fans at Players by the Sea.

In 2012, Gene and playwright Richard Wolf collaborated on “Fetterhoff for Hire,” a musical built around a private eye and a murder mystery, which featured Nordan’s original songs. The play debuted at Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre; Judy Hulett directed, Aaron Marshall was the musical director.

What will the evening be like? Well, like a recreation of Le Chateau, with nine talented singers, many of whom you may have seen previously in musicals on our local stages.

Peg Paschal has performed in solo shows at ABET and has been in a number of shows at the Alhambra.

Harry Leeds, who was in the original “Piano Bar,” may even sing the infamous “Mortgage Song,” as he did in that production, and who knows, he may still have the zoot suit he wore. Leeds has performed professionally with “Harry & Sally.” Sally Kinney, another original Piano Bar cast member, has also been a professional performer with “Harry & Sally” in local night clubs for a number of years.

Juan Carlos Unzueta, whose musical credits include all types of music, has performed in many shows, including “Three Penny Opera,” “Pippin,” “Tommy,” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” Phyllis Johnson, who has been in two of Gene’s previous shows, has a commanding voice and sings regularly at Community Presbyterian Church.

Patty Eyler performs regularly at the Alhambra, as well as in theatres throughout Florida. Hector Gonzales has previously appeared in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Drowsy Chaperone.” Leonard Cross has portrayed Stan the Man, the singing bartender from “Piano Bar.” And finally, Milton Threadcraft has starred in “Ain’t Misbehavin” and “Ragtime.”

You will truly feel as though you are experiencing Le Chateau, as Players will be serving elegant hors d’oeuvres and cocktails before the show. Enjoy an evening with the legendary Gene Nordan, who was recently honored by the Beaches Area Historical Society as an individual making significant contributions to area history: the Beaches very own “piano man.” Call 249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org for information and reservations.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

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