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Theater's season finale a revue of Irving Berlin songs

Irving Berlin's music echoed through the Roaring '20s, the Great Depression and two World Wars.

But the 20th century musical icon's work will feature a youthful twist in the Eight O'Clock Theatre's newest production, The Melody Lingers On, The Songs of Irving Berlin, that continues through July 19 at the Largo Cultural Center.

Oh sure, you will hear God Bless America, White Christmas and There's No Business Like Show Business. Just don't expect to see any AARP members on stage.

For its season finale, Eight O'Clock selected a troupe of actors ranging in age from 16 to 30.

"I'm thrilled to be a part of this,'' said Michael Raabe, the show's 31-year-old musical director. "Although we stay true to the original work, we want to let the young cast bring their own interpretation. The cast definitely makes it so you see a fresh approach to Irving Berlin's songs.''

The young cast was not necessarily intentional, said Melody Craven, 42, the show's director.

"But I'm thrilled because it's both a production that can take the audience on a fresh musical journey, and it also gives the young cast an opportunity to have a good time while giving them skills for the future,'' she said.

The musical revue is based on a memoir by Berlin's daughter, Mary Ellin Barrett, and it is Irving Berlin's repertoire that drives the story forward.

Bobby Bowman, 18, who portrays Berlin, believes passion is the key to Berlin's timelessness.

"He wrote about life and (the songs) are true today,'' Bowman said.

He, along with Allison Piehl as Berlin's second wife, Ellin Mackay, sing Always in a romantic scene.

The show is exposing the youngest performer in the troupe, Julia Namm, 16, to the classic Blue Skies for the first time. The song is her solo number.

"I knew many of his songs, like Always, which was my grandparents' song, but I didn't know Blue Skies. It starts off as a solo, then a duet, then it rises to five-part harmony,'' said Namm, a junior at East Lake High School.

Namm expects the older people in the audience to be singing along with tunes they recognize from days gone by.

"But I also think the show will be a fun introduction to younger (theatergoers)," she said. "It's a story about the American dream. Irving Berlin lived the American dream.''


Eight O'Clock Theatre's season finale

What: The Melody Lingers On: Songs by Irving Berlin.

When: 2 p.m. today; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m. July 19.

Where: Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive.

Tickets: $26 for adults, $16 for students age 19 and younger with identification.

For tickets or more info: Call (727) 587-6793 or visit

Theater's season finale a revue of Irving Berlin songs 07/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 11, 2009 4:30am]
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