Happy return for show-tune pianist

Deep Creek Restaurant and Marina to offer music by Dick Gessner

Arundel Live

March 22, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Broadway aficionados know "Come Ye to the Fair" as a bright, up-tempo ditty from Lerner and Loewe's "Brigadoon."

But for a generation's worth of Annapolitans, that theme song became an invitation to draw nigh and revel in the genius of the American musical stage with Dick Gessner, the capital city's show-biz pianist extraordinaire.

For more than 30 years at the Maryland Inn, the now-defunct Red Coach in downtown Annapolis, the old Wagon Wheels Restaurant on Ritchie Highway or the legendary Marmaduke's in Eastport, an evening with Gessner and his musical followers brought home the magic of the Great White Way.

Gessner left Maryland for Florida's Gulf Coast in 1994, but now, at the age of 71, he is poised for a return to the music scene he once dominated.

Beginning next week, Gessner, and (no doubt) many of the talented singers who followed him to those assorted piano bars of years past, will be holding forth on Friday, Saturday and Monday evenings at Deep Creek Restaurant and Marina in Arnold.

The reason for the Gessner reprise is simple: Though he kept busy directing musical productions in and around Sarasota, and performed in many Florida venues over the past seven years, the pianist never quite settled into that southern environment.

"I had plenty of jobs in clubs and restaurants all over the Tampa area," Gessner says, "but found too many people who didn't know anything about `Man of La Mancha,' or who thought I was in the place just to provide background music. It drove me nuts. I've been missing audiences who really understand what I do. And in Annapolis - believe me - they know!"

In a survey of area locations conducted by Gessner and some of his local fans, Deep Creek caught his eye. "It's a very nice, attractive, classy place," he says, "and the food is wonderful. I couldn't be more pleased to have connected there."

Phil Hundemann, Deep Creek's owner, hasn't brought entertainment into his restaurant before, but was intrigued when Gessner approached.

"I remember Dick from the Marmaduke's days," Hundemann says, "and I know the general appeal he had to people of all different ages who enjoyed show tunes. He's had a strong following, and I know that people are going to be glad to welcome back something that's been missing from our area. I think this will be a real plus for all of us."

So come this Sunday, Dick Gessner, a native of Carlisle, Pa., will be heading north on Interstate 95, and back to his artistic hometown by the Chesapeake.

"I'm already dreading it," he grumbles good-naturedly. But when the hits from "Oklahoma!," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Little Shop of Horrors," "Guys and Dolls" and, yes, "Brigadoon" start echoing along the Magothy, and Gessner fans new and old begin flocking to the musical fair once more, a road trip will no doubt seem a small burden to have endured.

Gessner's playing begins at 9:30 p.m. For directions or information about his appearances, call 410-757-4045 or 410-974-1408.

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