When it comes to piano cabaret, I’m spoiled; I’ve attended the last several years of Justin Hayford’s informative, charming cabaret series at Davenport’s. Hayford’s a compelling storyteller and his detailed, scholarly approach to single-artist biography leaves no audience member behind.
Peter Saltzman could take a page from Hayford’s book. Saltzman, a successful composer and pianist, fails to use the creative options the theater offers to bring his “Piano Diaries” blog to the stage. His book makes assumptions it shouldn’t; the average theatergoer doesn’t know Bach’s contribution to composing, or how the work of Stevie Wonder and Sting compare. Nor do they care; it’s Saltzman’s job to make them care and his narrative isn’t gripping enough. He’s a talented piano player, sure; but technical proficiency isn’t enough to make his story watchable.
It doesn’t help that director Edwin Wald’s stagnant staging doesn’t add anything to the piece; the show’s projections have a certain cheesy charm but don’t really advance the storyline. It’s maddening that, in a show about the importance of sound, Saltzman’s performance has to compete with the audio levels of his background music. When it comes down to it, all the complex music theory in the world can’t make us care. (Lisa Buscani)
Salt Muse, Inc. at Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 North Southport, athenaeumtheatre.org, (773)935-6875, $12-$27. Through July 6.