Rousing 'Piano Men' features music of Billy Joel, Elton John, Ray Charles and other keyboard wizards at Tropicana
The French Canadian production team that put the "Best" in the Best In Broadway show that played at the Trop earlier this year is back with another terrific music revue at the casino. Premier Choix and producers Mario Bazinet and Nathalie Le Gruiec have cobbled together a large collection of "songs the whole world sings" in presenting Piano Men, a dazzling tribute to such masters of the keyboards as Billy Joel, Elton John, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Barry Manilow.
In a brisk 75-minute show, the talented foursome of Martin Lacasse (Billy Joel, Little Richard), Stéphane Ménard (Elton John, Jerry Lee Lewis), Dennis Matthews (Ray Charles, Fats Domino) and Francis Mondoux (Barry Manilow) unleash 55 songs. There is also a fifth piano man -- musical conductor Michel Ferrari -- a terrific, horn-heavy backing band and three solid female back-up singers, Christine Quesnel, Karine Arsenault and Karine Monette.
At some point the pianists are bound to produce a favorite song or two ... or a dozen.
Adorable Martin Lacasse provides plenty of energy and excellent vocal skills as the most impressive of the piano men. He was a show stopping dynamo in the Billy Joel segment with "Honesty," "She's Always A Women To Me," "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me," "Tell Her About It" and "Uptown Girl."
|The Burt Bacharach tribute portion|
The evening begins with a rapid-fire dueling-pianos format that never really slows down until the final curtain. Conductor Ferrari gets the evening started with a touch of classical music ("Concerto No. 1" by Tchaikovsky) followed in breathless fashion by Mondoux's Barry Manilow introduction, "I Write The Songs," then Lacasse's first bit of Joel "Just The Way You Are."
Next up is Ménard introducing his Elton John persona with "Daniel," then Philadelphia native Matthews laying down a Ray Charles riff with "I've Got A Woman."
After Mondoux does his complete Barry Manilow segment, with "Mandy," "Can't Smile Without You," "Looks Like We Made It," "Could It Be Magic" and "Copacabana," it is time for another quick paced piano battle, this time a medley of songs from the 1950s. There's Fat Domino's "Blueberry Hill" by Matthews; Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Lucille" and "Trutti Frutti" by Lacasse and the piano-pounding sounds of Jerry Lee Lewis -- "A Whole Lot of Shaking" and "Great Balls of Fire" -- by Ménard.
The opening half of the show is full of great music, including a chance for the ladies to shine, providing the vocals as Ferrari plays the piano for a Burt Bacharach tribute. Luckily they decided not to try and recreate the vocals of Bacharach, whose strength is as a pianist and as composer, not as vocalist. Instead, Karine Monette in particular, did a nice job of presenting songs from the Bacharach/Dionne Warwick songbook with ""I Say A Little Prayer" and "Do You Know The Way To San Jose."
|Dennis Matthews, who performs as both Ray Charles and Fats Domino in the show|
It is the second half of the show that provides the top highlights. Besides Lacasse's Billy Joel tribute, there is Ménard's Elton John tribute ("Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Don't Let The Sun Go Down," "Bennie and The Jets"), and Matthews channeling Ray Charles ("What I Say," "Georgia On My Mind," "Hit The Road Jack" and "Unchain My Heart") with some help from the ladies as his Raylettes.
This is followed by the grand finale, featuring such favorite piano songs as "For The Longest Time," "Ebony and Ivory," "Imagine," "Let It Be," "We Are The Champions," "We Didn't Start The Fire" and "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting."
Naturally, the show concludes, as it should, with all five pianists contributing to Joel's classic "Piano Man."
What a great show, and at only $25 a ticket, what an incredible deal as well.
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