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Neil Berg plays us a song with his "Pianomen"

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Neil Berg has brought the world "100 Years of Broadway" and "Broadway Holiday." But his latest endeavor takes him off the Great White Way and into another part of his musical heart and soul.

"Pianomen" is Berg's tribute to Billy Joel and Elton John, favorites since his own formative days at the keyboard. "I started playing piano in the 70s, so my GErshwin, the people I admired the most, whose songs I learned top lay when I was growing up and that got me into playing piano in the first place were Billy Joel and Elton John," Berg, 52, says by phone from New York.

"So I wanted to do their songs to pay tribute to them. This is the other side of me. I've done all the Broadway stuff; There's a rock 'n' roll side of me that I wanted to express, and this is it."

But Berg was adamant that the show be about the songs and the artistry -- including lyricist Bernie Taupin's contributions to John's work -- than to the artists themselves.

"I'm not trying to BE them," he explains. "There's tribute bands that dress up and try to sound exactly like those acts. But we're not doing the Vegas thing. What we're doing is a tribute to their songs and to them. No one's decked out in costumes or anything like that. It's a really authentic approach to the music. It's really about the lyrics and the stories behind the songs. "

Berg is not alone in his "Pianomen" pursuit. The show features "Jesus Christ Superstar" veteran Danny Zoli and Trans-Siberian Orchestra singer Michael Lanning, along with second pianist Brian Walters, who's been in "Titanic" and "The Who's Tommy." Berg hasn't gotten feedback from the Joel and John camps yet, but the response from audiences so far tells him he's scored another hit show.

"People have gone ballistic in a wonderful way," says Berg, who's currently working on a Broadway version of his musical "The Twelve," about the Apostles of Christ. "And hopefully they listen and look at the songs in a different light after they see this show. That's my true goal."

Neil Berg's Pianomen

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 10

City Theatre, 2301 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

Tickets are $35.

Call 248-645-6666 or visit olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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