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'Mozart to Pop Chart' showcases Nat Zegree's virtuosity and fun

Nat Zegree performs in 'Mozart to Pop Charts' at the Flat Rock Playhouse. Nat Zegree performs in 'Mozart to Pop Charts' at the Flat Rock Playhouse.

The question arises, when it comes to the show "From Mozart to Pop Chart," Is it more Mozart or Pop Chart?

In the hands, and nimble fingers, of Nat Zegree, it's plenty of both.

Zegree (rhymes with degree, and his playing is always blazing hot) mixes fabulous piano playing with an edifying (not stultifying) serving of musicology, his irrepressible antics and dancer's physicality in a two-act show that's sure to have Playhouse patrons applauding when they're done laughing.

Opening at 7:30 tonight and running for just five shows, "Mozart to Pop Chart" showcases Zegree's gifted keyboarding and his versatility in holding together a solo show. He gets help from a 15-piece backup orchestra, music-enhancing light design by CJ Barnwell and a set by Dennis Maulden and Sandra Lopez. Whether he's playing in a more sedate concert pianist mode (rare), banging away a la Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard or teaching a bit of music history as Professor Nat, Zegree delivers a fast-paced two-act show. Whatever spell Zegree casts, the show never stops being fun.

DSC 0018Nat Zegree performs in 'From Mozart to Pop Charts' at the Flat Rock Playhouse.Known to Playhouse patrons for his leading role as Mozart in "Amadeus," Jerry Lee Lewis in "Million Dollar Quartet" and as Nat Zegree in previous one-man shows — "One Nat Only," "The Nat Before Christmas" and "Dark Nat Revue," — Zegree is a welcome regular in Flat Rock. He's one of those performers that comes along every so often who makes local theater audiences think, "How did we get lucky enough to see this guy over and over."

Co-created by Matthew Glover and directed by Lisa K. Bryant, the show strings together pieces from Strauss to Beethoven,  the Beach Boys to Barry Manilow, to illustrate not how music is so different in a 400-year span but how it is invented and re-invented in a long march of creativity.

Zegree's expository performance of Pachelbel's "Canon in D" shows how artists have appropriated the same chord progression in a mini-library of pop hits, from the Beatles' "I want to Hold Your Hand" to Elton John's "Your Song." Act I closes with a robust performance of Mozart's overture for "The Marriage of Figaro" while the second act features Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, Billy Joel, Earth Wind & Fire and — you read this right — the Jackson Five ("I'll Be There/I Want You Back").

DSC 0048Viola player Audrey Bass is among the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra musicians who back up Nat Zegree in 'From Mozart to Pop Charts'Artistic director Bryant deserves a shoutout for bringing Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra musicians to the stage for the first time. Joining the splendid Playhouse house band of Bill Altman (Guitar), Ryan Guerra (Electric Bass), Paul Babelay (Drums), and Andrew Rogelberg (Key 2) to provide a fullness of sound behind Nat's virtuosity are HSO musicians Mariya Potapova (Violin), Kristin Candler (Violin), Audrey Bass (Viola), Jim Lestock (Cello), Sabrina Kumar (Flute), Jim Anthony (Clarinet), Chris Imhoff (Trumpet), Thomas Cotter (Trumpet), Linda Davis (Trombone), Rex Gallatin (French Horn), Brian Tinkel (Timpani)

'Mozart to Pop Chart' is a great show. It's a fun show. And it promises to be, once again, "A Nat to Remember."

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"From Mozart to Pop Charts" opens tonight and runs through Sunday. Performances are 7:30 tonight, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For tickets call 828-693-0731 or visit