Review: Samuel L. Jackson stars in a not-always-in-tune Broadway revival of ‘The Piano Lesson’
At one point, Sam Jackson as the piano tutor in “The Piano Lesson” sounded downright scary, with his voice low and barely controlled, as he explained the intricacies of Beethoven and Brahms, and demonstrated the joy of the blues. But the show’s performance was still worth watching, even with Jackson’s vocals miked up at times.
Jackson and the rest of the cast play Mozart and Brahms in a revival by the American Music Theatre of Minnesota. The show is one of more than 40 that have traveled the country over the past few years. (Some have gone on to be remounted and turned into shows by regional companies.) The production is on display at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theater through May 19.
“The Piano Lesson,” which was directed by Jeremy Sams, who directed “The Color Purple” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” to critical and public acclaim, opens at the Kerr on May 23. The show was first produced in 1989 with John Kander and Fred Ebb at the helm, and has featured other big names from the American Theatre including Jason Robards and Michael McKean. (Jackson has played in other productions.) The play has become an enduring pop culture phenomenon, with Jackson playing the piano (it was reportedly difficult for him to sing) and the audience is often given the keys to the piano.
The show explores how music shapes life. Jackson says he thinks it’s important for a person to know how to play the piano, but not to consider it a gift. He adds that the best way to learn how to play music is to do it yourself, by listening to the music you love and then playing it.
“You don’t have to know anything about it. You just have to find a way to feel it, and then you have to make that your own,” he says. Jackson also says he doesn’t think you have to be a musician to appreciate