Tickling the Ivories Review- Piano Tribute Hits the Right Notes

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From the moment pianists Sarah Statler and Michael Friedman play the opening notes of the Stage Door Theatre’s world premiere of Tickling the Ivories, their talent and charm set the tone for this captivating musical revue. These highly gifted musicians play snippets from classical music to contemporary pop, swiftly moving from one genre to the other, as sounds of Mozart artfully blend into those of Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Carole King and many others. The show provides an immersion into the beauty and scope of the instrument while joyfully highlighting its prominence in the soundtrack of our lives.

Tickling the Ivories truly is a showcase for the piano and a celebration of its role in musical history.


Sarah Statler is an ASCAP award winner and has performed both as a pianist and as a vocalist in musical theatre productions across the country. Michael Friedman has previously performed at the Stage Door Theatre in Swing!Swing!Swing! and in Rock Odyssey at the Adrienne Arsht Center. In addition to being a pianist for Tickling the Ivories, he is assistant musical direction for this show.

Performing the wide range of songs in this production are four talented vocalists: Sandra Marante, Devon A.A. Norris, Candice Shedd-Thompson and Ryan Stutz, with both pianists Sarah Statler and Michael Friedman also singing some solos and adding to the ensemble. Sandra Marante has performed in both opera and musical theater including performances in Madama Butterfly and My Fair Lady with the Ashlwn Opera.  Devon Norris has performed in a wide range of musical theater productions including Big River, Next to Normal, Forever Plaid, Les Miserables and Full Monty. Candice Shedd-Thompson has been a vocalist for Celebrity Cruises as well as performing in shows such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Mary Poppins and Spitfire Grill. Ryan Stutz has been part of national and international tours of Rock of Ages, Saturday Night Fever and DreamWorks’ Madagascar. Each of these wonderful vocalists has the opportunity to display their individual talents as well as showcase their harmonies when singing together.

Pianists Michael Friedman and Sarah Statler are ‘tickling the ivories’ for the production. They are accompanied by percussionist Roy Fantel and bassist Rupert Ziawinski. Vocalists Sandra Marante, Devon Norris, Candice Shedd-Thompson, and Ryan Stutz round out the ensemble.

Percussionist Roy Fantel and bassist Rupert Ziawinski accompany the pianists.


The musical arrangements for Tickling the Ivories are by Ben Bagby, Kevin Black, Sarah Statler and Michael Friedman with vocal arrangements by Ben Bagby and Kevin Black. Ben Bagby is also the show’s musical director. His musical theater credits include the original Broadway cast of My One & Only and the first national tour of Dreamgirls. He has performed in regional productions of Aida, A Chorus Line and Sophisticated Ladies and is an acting, dance and voice coach.  He was  the musical director of previous shows at the Stage Door Theatre including The Soul of Motor City and Swing! Swing! Swing!


Director Kevin Black is the owner of Kevin Back Productions, a global company that provides entertainment to cruise lines, corporate events, resorts, musical theater productions and tours.  His tours include original works as well as productions of La Cage Aux Folles, The Jazz Singer, Smokey Joe’s Café, Funny Girl, Victor/Victoria and Cabaret. Previous credits at the Stage Door Theatre include Swing! Swing! Swing! and Soul of Motor City. He is the artistic director for CAST (Career in the Arts, School of Talent) in Cooper City.

The show’s intimate set is designed by Michael McClain, with lighting by Ardean Landhuis and costume design by Jerry Sturdefant. Paul O’Donnell is the production manager.

Do not miss this charming and engaging tribute to piano music and its great role in musical history.

Photo Credit:  George Wentzler

Tickling the Ivories runs from October 13-November 19 at the Stage Door Theatre. The theatre is located at 8036 Sample Road in Margate. Tickets are $48 (student prices are available with valid ID). Tickets may be purchased at the Stage Door Theatre box office at 954 344-7765 or at the stage door website.





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