Pianist Prepares to Debut Musical West Virginia University Staging Gene Nordan's 'Piano Bar'

Article excerpt

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

interesting idea."

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. …