Gene Nordan is a piano man.
Maybe he's even The Piano Man in this part of the world.
Certainly he was The Piano Man when the oceanfront Le Chateau
was the place to go for drinks, dinner, music, for the romance
of watching the sea slide up the sand under the spotlights
trained on the surf.
Nordan played the songs that made that old world sing for 13
years at Le Chateau, an upscale, almost legendary, bar and
restaurant on the ocean at the foot of Seventh Street in Atlantic
Beach. He came to Le Chateau in 1970, left when it closed in 1983.
Chateau, 1970 to 1983.
"That old Chateau, what a great historic happening place it
was. I always have these wonderful stories to tell about it
because it's a wonderful corner of my heart," Nordan said. He was
sitting in Shelby's coffee shop just around the corner that is
Atlantic Beach's present happening place. Beach types glided in
on Rollerblades to grab a latte, or settled into a spot of sun to
read the newspaper.
Nordan, 55, was talking about a musical he's written music and
lyrics for that's two months from opening. Piano Bar (at the
chateau de la mer) will be given its premiere April 23 at West
Virginia University in Morgantown.
He got hooked up with West Virginia University through
happenstance. Nordan had some songs, some ideas for a musical
based on a piano bar. He played a few songs from his unborn show
for Phil Faini, dean of the College of Fine Arts at WVU, who was
in Florida for a football game.
The material ended up with Frank Gagliano, a playwright and a
professor who holds the Benedum Chair in Theatre at WVU.
"I heard the tape and I said, 'Yeah I think it's a
possibility. Let's start talking,' " Gagliano recalled during a
Jacksonville-Morgantown telephone conversation. "I've been
working on this with Gene for the past two years."
Gagliano has written Piano Bar's book. He and Nordan did their
consulting over the telephone and through exchange of tapes when
new or revised musical material was needed.
"It's strong material," Gagliano said. "Strong material and an
The show, set in a piano bar in an old mansion, has a ghost, a
romance, a hurricane, a happy ending and a ton of songs. There
are 32 original songs, which works out to almost a song a minute
in a show that runs about 1 1/2 hours. Nordan will sing the songs
in the production, a piano man playing a piano man. Who else?
Nordan spun his material from the view behind the keyboard. …