Ludwig von Beethoven was not only a renowned composer, but, according to Broadway pianist and award-wining cabaret performer Charles Lindberg, he was also one heck of a fun guy.
Well, maybe not fun in the broadest sense of the word, but the way he comes across as played by Lindberg in Ludwig Live!, a new musical stage comedy making its Philadelphia premiere Jan. 12 to 29 at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio, involves him in a pretty funny show.
Created by Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Nancy Holson, Ludwig Live! is an irreverent song-filled cabaret about the famous composer. Dressed in a wig, period regalia and ensconced behind a grand piano, Beethoven, a.k.a. Lindberg, entertains audiences with his swinging new lounge act.
“The basic premise of the show is that Beethoven is still alive and decides since he never did a cabaret show before it’s about time he did,” said Lindberg. “And then, right before the opening of his show, he’s had one of his typical tantrums and everyone quits. Apparently, he had quite a temper and didn’t get along with anybody.”
That’s where Katherine Pecevich, his “stage manager,” steps in. Dressed in assorted wigs and costumes, she plays a variety of roles including, among others, all of Beethoven’s girlfriends, Mozart, Elvis, Napoleon, Justin Bieber and Beethoven’s mother.
“It takes the stage manger to calm him down because he’s always flying off the handle,” said Lindberg, 53.
Sitting at the piano, Lindberg performs Beethoven’s “best hits,” as well as those of Johann Strauss, Joseph Haydn, John Phillip Sousa and Barry Manilow.
“Throughout the show, Beethoven talks about different composers and how he felt about them, so there’s an excessive amount of classical music in the show,” Lindberg explained. “Also, we sort of play it over the top. Beethoven himself becomes quite a character, and that’s what gives us broad comedy.”
Over the years, Lindberg has worn several musical hats. Starting with piano lessons at the age of 8, he thought he might become a music teacher, but eventually wound up playing on Broadway instead.
“My first job was playing the piano at a country club when I was about 17,” he said. “At college, I studied voice, both because I could sing and the requirements were much easier than for those of piano majors. It all worked out, because by the time I was around 22 or 23, I did my first Broadway show, playing the piano for West Side Story.”
Later he got to perform with or accompany such notable stars of stage and screen as Liza Minnelli, Jerry Orbach, Bernadette Peters, Glenn Close, Mickey Rooney and many others.
Lindberg has headlined cabarets at nightclubs throughout New York City, and has won both the Bistro Award (Backstage magazine) and the Nightlife Award for Best Entertainer in Manhattan.
“The best thing for me about doing Ludwig Live! is that it’s a lot of fun and incorporates so much. I’m doing the arrangements, the musical direction, the acting, the singing,” said Lindberg. “I also enjoy being on stage very much. It’s a blast for me.”
And for those who would like to follow in Lindberg’s footsteps, the only thing he can offer is to “enjoy yourself. This is a very tough business, and usually the people who do make it are the ones who don’t feel they have a choice to do anything else. It’s either this or nothing.” ••
For times and ticket information, call 215-731-3333.EndFragment