published Friday, April 20th, 2012

Sing us a song, with the CSO

IF YOU GO

What: "The Piano Men," featuring Jim Witter with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera.

When: 8 p.m. today.

Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

Admission: $19-$79.

Phone: 267-8583.

Website: www.chattanoogasymphony.org.

Jim Witter has been performing the hits of Billy Joel and Elton John for 11 years now, but he only recently saw the two perform together.

"It was about two years ago that I finally, finally saw them," said the Hamilton, Ontario-based performer, who brings his show "The Piano Men," to the Tivoli Theatre tonight.

The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera will back up Witter and his small band, all under the baton of CSO Pops conductor Robert Bernhardt.

Bernhardt conducted "The Piano Men" in Edmonton, Canada, and was eager to work with Witter again.

"The only thing he needs me for is to bring the orchestra in, tell them when to play and stop them when they're done," he said.

The admiration is mutual. Witter referred to Bernhardt as being "a delight to work with."

Witter said he was inspired by the show Beatlemania and wanted to produce a show in the same fashion.

"As I was researching that decade, I did notice Billy Joel and Elton John's names popping up," he said.

More than a decade later, "The Piano Men" is still touring.

The show combines some of each artist's most memorable songs -- "Your Song," "Movin' Out," "Just the Way You Are," "Crocodile Rock" and, of course, "Piano Man" -- with facts, trivia and images.

For example, Witter said, during Joel's "Movin' Out," images of cars driven in the '70s will be projected on a screen.

"If people want to watch the screen and take in what's going on up there, it kind of aids in taking us on that little trip back in time," he said.

Witter said some of his favorite songs that are not featured in the show include Elton John's "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" and "Breakin' Hearts," as well as Billy Joel's "Captain Jack" and "Summer, Highland Falls."

Mixed in with the hits of Joel and John will be a bit of a nostalgia free-for-all. Witter invites members of the audience to shout out favorite television shows from the 1970s, and he performs the theme songs.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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