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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 18 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 29
Victor Janusz' 'Hands Solo: Pianoman' is a brilliant celebration of Janusz' life in music
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Victor Janusz' 'Hands Solo: Pianoman' is a brilliant celebration of Janusz' life in music

by Rick McKinnon - SGN Staff Writer

VICTOR JANUSZ'
'HANDS SOLO: PIANOMAN'
ACT THEATRE
BULLITT CABARET
Through July 20


It was pure enjoyment and delight to see and hear longtime Seattle pianoman and cabaret artist Victor Janusz in his one-man show 'Hands Solo: Pianoman,' directed by Lori Larsen, at ACT Theatre's Bullitt Cabaret last Friday. Victor Janusz is a multi-talented actor and musician who has been playing the piano at public venues and private events around Seattle for many years - including gigs at The Sheraton, The Camlin Cloud Room, Nordstrom and currently at Salty's on Alki's weekend brunches. (He also has a jazz band - the Victor Janusz Trio.)

It was a great privilege to see and hear Janusz recount and reenact in both hilarious and poignant detail important moments in his life - with his loving parents, his siblings, his childhood piano teacher, his high school English teacher, his life in LA in the '70s and his initial confusion about his sexuality (with a nod to his loving sister and to pianoman Elton John), his studies as an actor in New York, his work as a pianoman at Nordstrom (with his audience of mannequins), his experience meeting and playing piano for then presidential candidate Barack Obama, his loving tributes to his parents and to his lover and partner, Lance Butler, who passed away in 1993 (they wanted to get married), his hopes for the 168 married couples (including two same-sex married couples) whom he has had the privilege of accompanying in their nuptials, and his passion for Marriage Equality - all expressed through monologue and song with his own piano jazz accompaniment, his stories sometimes illustrated with photographs projected above the stage.

It was great fun to see Janusz move in and out of character as he portrayed and interacted with the notable people who have been a part of his journey. Like the mega-talented Lily Tomlin, Janusz moved in and out of character with great dexterity as he introduced us to them, and then they engaged him and he engaged them in conversation, and his banter with the audience was lively and congenial.

'Hands Solo: Pianoman' includes both original songs written by Janusz (among them, 'Mannequin Blues') and songs written by other artists that speak to him, including Phoebe Snow's 'Poetry Man.' Janusz is a talented singer who makes each song his own - so much so that I sometimes didn't immediately recognize a song because the song had already become a Janusz song - not a Beach Boys song - and I was drawn into the song and I would listen to hear each nuance and note so as to be drawn closer to both Janusz and the song's meaning.

This walk down memory lane with Janusz was intimate and heartwarming with much laughter and great jazz piano and song along the way. Janusz has a big heart and a great sense of humor and his reflections on his life and the lessons he's learned are full of hope and resilience in the face of life's challenges. Janusz has taken important moments in his life and shaped them with love, wit, and poignant reflection into an extraordinary musical cabaret to share with his audience, and we who have had the privilege of spending this evening with Janusz are richer for that experience.

Making its Seattle debut at ACT Theatre this month, 'Hands Solo: Pianoman' was first workshopped in 2008 at the 6th Annual International Cabaret Conference at Yale University, had its world premier at New York City's The Duplex (2010), and had a very successful engagement at the Arthur Newman Theatre in Palm Springs (2012).

Lori Larsen has served as director and dramaturg for 'Hands Solo: Pianoman' in all its incarnations.

'Hands Solo: Pianoman' continues this weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, July 18, 19 and 20, at 7:30 p.m. at ACT Theatre, Bullitt Cabaret (700 Union St.). Tickets: $25. 292-7676; www.acttheatre.org.

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Victor Janusz' 'Hands Solo: Pianoman' is a brilliant celebration of Janusz' life in music
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