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Bringing joy through music at Walnut’s ‘I Love A Piano’

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STORY WRITTEN BY RITA CHARLESTON
For Digital First Media

“I Love A Piano,” the Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio on 3, concludes its season with this musical that captures the spirit of America through the timeless songs of Irving Berlin. The production continues through June 28.
“I Love A Piano” follows the journey of a piano as it moves in and out of American lives from the turn of the century to the present time. The production features classic Berlin songs, including “Blue Skies,” “How Deep is the Ocean,” and, of course, “I Love A Piano.”
Owen Pelesh, one of four performers featured in the show, admits he’s been a long-time fan of the songs of Berlin so he’s excited to be in this show and able to sing some of Berlin’s most enduring melodies.
“There are 64 songs in all including those we all know and love and some of his more obscure works. And Berlin,” Pelesh continues, “was the epitome of an immigrant; a Russian Jew who came here and wrote such American classics as ‘God Bless America,’ ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Easter Parade.’ All his life he tried hard to be the quintessential all-American.”
A graduate of Temple University with a degree in musical theater, Pelesh says he was first drawn to the theater through his love of music, playing piano when he was a young boy. In fact, aside from singing in this production, he also plays the piano in the show.

Owen Pelesh, Denise Whelan, Ellie Mooney and Scott Langdon star in "I Love A Piano."  Photo by Mark Garvin

Owen Pelesh, Denise Whelan, Ellie Mooney and Scott Langdon star in “I Love A Piano.”
Photo by Mark Garvin

“But I think the real turning point was my parents taking me to see shows,” he explains. “I look back to when I was seven or eight, excited to be going out on a school night, and being enchanted by the whole thing. It was such special time for me and I think that’s what brought me to the theater.”
Pelesh is making his Independence Studio on 3 debut, but he’s appeared in many productions on the Walnut’s mainstage. He’s also appeared at the Kimmel Center, at the Arden, Act II Playhouse, and many more.
While “I Love A Piano” is basically a musical, there is some dialogue, and each of the four characters in the show is given a name to help move the story along. Pelesh plays George, Ellie Mooney appears as Eileen, Scott Langdon is Alex, and Denise Whelan performs as Sadie.
And with as many as 64 songs in the show, Pelesh says the sheer amount of material has given the performers much to learn and subsequently convey to the audience. And it’s that very audience that brings Pelesh his greatest joy as a performer.
“For me, it’s always the audience. Sometimes I forget how much joy these songs bring them, until I hear their feedback. That’s when I realize what I do and what I sing helps them relive some of the happiest times in their lives.”
IF YOU GO: Tickets for “I Love A Piano” are $35-$40. For information call (215) 574-3550 or (800) 982-2787.

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