Piece of My Heart OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Danny Ghitis
  • Piece of My Heart
  • NY TIMES

  • TIME OUT

  • VULTURE

  • EW

  • TM

Opening Night:
July 21, 2014
Closing:
September 14, 2014

Theater: The Pershing Square Signature Center/The Irene Diamond Stage / 480 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10019

Synopsis: 

Piece of My Heart tells the story Bert Berns, of one of the most successful songwriters of the 1960s. His hits, which were recorded by such artists as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie and Otis Redding, include "Twist and Shout," "Tell Him," "I Want Candy," “Hang On Sloopy,” "Cry, Baby" and many more.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Piece of My Heart

    She Never Knew Dad, Just His Hit Songs ‘Piece of My Heart’ Tells the Story of Bert Berns

    Laura Collins-Hughes

    July 21, 2014: “Does it bother you that your songs are everywhere but you aren’t?” the beautiful dancer asks, lounging in the handsome songwriter’s bed. “No one ever knows who writes the songs, right? Just who sings ’em.” Filling that gap in our rock ’n’ roll awareness is the mission behind the gorgeously tuneful, new jukebox musical Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story — and if your first response to that title is “Bert who?,” well, that’s exactly the point. But if, somewhere in your head, Janis Joplin just ripped into “Piece of My Heart,” you already know Berns’s music.  When Bert Berns died at 38 in 1967, he left a voluminous catalog, and Piece of My Heart — presented by Merged Work Productions at the Pershing Square Signature Center — taps it expertly. “Twist and Shout,” “I Want Candy,” “Hang on Sloopy” and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” are among the many familiar songs that the show’s stellar singers and splendid eight-piece orchestra may lodge in your brain.

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  • TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF Piece of My Heart

    Piece of My Heart: Theater review

    Adam Feldman

    July 21, 2014: “No one ever knows who writes the songs, right?” says a young woman in Piece of My Heart. “Just who sings ’em.” Correcting that problem is the goal of this jukebox musical, which shares the story of 1960s hit maker Bert Berns (Resnick, likable in a passive role), who died of a heart attack in 1967, at the age of 38. In a framing device that takes up nearly as much stage time, the show also tells of how his devoted adult daughter, Jessie (the gifted Kritzer, in sourpuss mode), saved Berns’s song rights from her deceitful and money-grubbing mother, Ilene (Hart, looking like Sally Field doing Eartha Kitt). Guess which of those characters (and her brother) produced this show? As a labor of love and copyright control, Piece of My Heart does its job to some extent. Its focus stays on Berns and his family; except in the case of “Twist and Shout,” where it’s a plot point, the performers who made his songs famous are never even name-dropped. (His cowriters aren’t mentioned either.) The glossy production has been blessed with a large, high-level cast whose excellent voices do credit to Berns’s Brill Building standards. The performers include Teal Wicks as the young Ilene, Derrick Baskin as Berns’s singer pal and De’Adre Aziza in the somewhat insulting role of a black bohemian who brings out our Jewish hero’s sensual side. And director-choreographer Denis Jones gives his six main dancers an abundance of exciting moves to keep the audience engaged when the narrative fails. In Daniel Goldfarb’s book, alas, that is most of the time.

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  • VULTURE REVIEW OF Piece of My Heart

    Theater Review: Piece of My Heart Really Needed Some Brains

    Jesse Green

    July 21, 2014: Jersey Boys, which should have been a cautionary tale, has become instead a how-to guide. (Half a billion in Broadway receipts will do that.) It has not only spawned an infestation of jukebox biomusicals but also codified the key elements of the genre. First among these is that there should be a baldly narrated framing device (a Carnegie Hall concert, a death, a reunion) from which the plot flashes back to the difficulties of the songwriter’s early life (an overprotective mother, the Holocaust). The intervening years should be précised as quickly and hysterically as possible — crises only — leaving plenty of room for songs whose necks have been twisted so their unlikely emergence in the narrative will elicit a gasp of surprise. (Optional: These songs should be plunked out on a piano by a Jewish shlemiel before a trio of bespangled black singers magically materializes to apply the shamalamadingdong.) Throughout, characters should use dialogue not to advance the plot but to provide information everyone onstage would already know. And all this must lead to a curtain-call sing-along of the musician’s catchiest hit. Nothing good has yet come of this formula — certainly not Beautiful or Motown or Soul Doctor. But until Piece of My Heart, nothing irredeemably horrid had come of it either. So: Cause to celebrate! We have hit rock bottom.

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  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF Piece of My Heart

    Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story

    Melissa Rose Bernardo

    July 21, 2014: You may not know Bert Berns, but you know his music: ''Twist and Shout,'' ''Cry Baby,'' ''I Want Candy,'' ''Tell Him,'' and ''Piece of My Heart.'' And even after two hours and 20 minutes of Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story, the jukebox musical at Off Broadway's Pershing Square Signature Center, you still may not know Bert Berns. A Berns biomusical is a fine idea. After all, many of his contemporaries have gotten the same treatment. (See: the current Broadway hit Beautiful: The Carole King Musical; last year's Off Broadway sensation What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined; or 1995's Smokey Joe's Café, a revue of the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, which ran for five years on Broadway.) And there's plenty of drama in the life story of a man who wrote and produced 51 hits in seven years and died tragically young at age 38 after a teenage bout of rheumatic fever wreaked havoc on his heart. Yet in Piece of My Heart, Berns (played by Zak Resnick) is almost relegated to supporting-character status. Playwright Daniel Goldfarb uses Berns' daughter Jessie (Leslie Kritzer)—a sort of composite of the songwriter's children—and a convoluted scenario involving his witchy widow Berns (Linda Hart) attempting to sell his songs to a gangsterish guy named Wazzel (Joseph Siravo).

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF Piece of My Heart

    This toe-tapping good time of a musical will tell you sweet little lies

    Zachary Stewart

    July 21, 2014: 1650 Broadway is on its way to overtaking 42nd Street as the most overexposed bit of Manhattan real estate. This unassuming office building (also the location of Beautiful — The Carole King Musical) was the address of some of the most important pop songwriters of the 1950s and '60s, many of whom are now seeing their songs reimagined for the stage. The latest such dramatized song catalog hoping to capitalize on the nostalgia and disposable income of baby boomers is Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story, now making its off-Broadway premiere at the Pershing Square Signature Center. As far as these things go, it's not bad. That doesn't mean, however, that you don't get the sinking feeling that a lot of the story you're seeing onstage is baloney (to put it lightly). Berns, the songwriter behind such hits as "Twist and Shout" and "I Want Candy," died at the shockingly young age of 38. Like many of the songwriters of his day, his songs are mostly remembered in association with their original recording artists, while Berns languishes in obscurity. His lost story is revealed through the vantage point of his daughter, Jessie (Leslie Kritzer), herself a struggling singer-songwriter in Seattle. She receives a mysterious tip that her mother is about to sell the rights to all of her father's songs, so she rushes to New York to try to learn more before it's too late. There she meets Dad's old mobster friend, Wazzel (Joseph Siravo). Over cannoli he tells her the "real" story of her father, who is a far cry from the goody-two-shoes Juilliard graduate that Jessie's mother, Ilene (Linda Hart), has described.

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