STORY WRITTEN BY RITA CHARLESTON
For Digital First Media
The Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio on 3 continues its season with a tribute to “Mr. Showmanship” himself. “Liberace,” starring Jack Forbes Wilson, continues through April 12.
Interwoven with a piano score that spans classical music from Chopin to Chopsticks and Rachmaninoff to Ragtime, Forbes says that even after Liberace’s death in 1987 his songs continue to entertain audiences, while his life story continues to fascinate the world.
“There have been books, a film and TV biopic about him,” Wilson explains. “He wasn’t a composer. He was primarily a live performer. But there was a magic about him on stage. He was able to communicate with an audience. He always said he loved his audiences, and the more I got to know him, the more I realized how much he really meant that.
“So he lives on in that way,” Wilson continues, “as well as leaving behind a lasting legacy. Michael Jackson was a friend of his and admired his showmanship, as did Elton John and Elvis Presley. Even today, Lady Gaga has often been compared to him.”
Wladziu Valentino Liberace was born in Wisconsin in 1919. A child prodigy on the piano, he went on to become one of the most iconic performers of the 20th century, selling millions of records and performing in sold-out concerts across the country. He performed frequently in Las Vegas, was awarded two Emmy Awards, six gold albums, and two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. FOR A REVIEW OF THE PRODUCTION, CHECK HERE.
Wilson, who has lived in Milwaukee most of his adult life, and has contributed original music compositions and arrangements to this production, says he doesn’t so much impersonate Liberace as he does an interpretation of the man.
“I heard a lot of his music and spent a lot of time practicing the piano,” Wilson explains. “Honestly, I didn’t know much about him and was not a Liberace fan until I was approached to do this role, which I originally did about five years ago.”
With a Master of Music degree from the University of Wisconsin, Wilson has been performing as a pianist singer and actor for more than 25 years. Asked to repeat his role as Liberace, Wilson says he first declined, but later changed his mind. He admits he’s glad he did and is thrilled to be working again with Brent Hazelton, the man who wrote and directs the production.
“Liberace’s love of his audience, his dedication and his hard work paid off, and I hope that comes across in my interpretation” Wilson concludes. “Every night, this show seems to take on a personality of its own and, honestly, it’s been one of the best experiences of my life.”
Tickets for Liberace are $20. Call 215-574-3550 or 215-336-1234.