Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Piano Bar' Revives Old Oceanfront Restaurant

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Piano Bar' Revives Old Oceanfront Restaurant

Article excerpt

Byline: Tamara McClaran

Beaches musician Gene Nordan is bringing his semi-autobiographical musical Piano Bar back for another run at Players by-the-Sea. Although the name is the same, Nordan said this is a new version of the show, which opens March 3.

"We don't want people to think that they are seeing the same old show again," Nordan said. "There are eight new songs, along with new characters and stories in this show."

Piano Bar has been one of the community theater's most successful productions. The show brings Le Chateau, an Atlantic Beach oceanfront bar and restaurant, back to life. Although condominiums now sit at its former site at the foot of Seventh Street, the elegant restaurant used to be the place to go for drinks, dinner, music and romance.

"It was like something out of Casablanca," Nordan said. "It was built in the 1930s and so close to the water that during a full moon, the waves would splash up against the windows."

Piano Bar features about 30 original songs by Nordan. The heart of the show is his memories of the colorful characters he encountered while performing at the landmark, which was demolished in the 1980s. Nordan performed there six nights a week for 13 years until the restaurant closed in 1983.

"I signed a three-month contract in 1970 and I never left," said Nordan, who now plays three nights a week at Mackenzie's Steakhouse in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Piano Bar started as a way for Nordan to explain to his wife what his career at Le Chateau was like. Nordan secured a grant and the musical premiered at the University of West Virginia in 1998. Nordan's friend, Richard Adkinson, who traveled to see the premiere, convinced Nordan to bring the musical back to the Beaches.

"Gene and I have been piano bar buddies for a long time," said Richard Adkinson, who is directing the show along with his wife, Lynn. …

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