Rich Galassini, co-owner of Cunningham Piano, got a call not too long ago. More of a request, really.
“They needed a modern sleek look and an instrument that had a beautiful warm tone as there would be actual playing,” Galassini explained. “We were pleased they chose a new Cunningham model 161 in polished ebony.”
“They” were people involved with the mini-series “Political Animals,” which premiered Sunday night on the USA Network. It stars Sigourney Weaver as Secretary of State and is set around her character’s high-powered political family whose adult son is a pianist.
“They ended up sending out a musician to test out the sound, and made the decision through his recommendations and photos,” Galassini said. “I think they chose this one for ease of performance and looks. It’s a high-polished sleek-looking instrument.”
On that debut, the character played an authentic Philadelphia-made Cunningham Piano.
“There’s a good 30 seconds … where you can clearly see it being played,” said Galassini. “In a way, it’s like seeing a member of my family in a movie.”
Not their first time on screen
The piano company, located at 5427 Germantown Ave., has been a part of the Germantown section of Philadelphia since it was founded in 1891 by Patrick J. Cunningham.
In that time, they have rented or sold piano props for dozens of other productions that were filmed in the area including “Limitless,” “The Sixth Sense,” “The Village,” “Twelve Monkeys” and the TV-series “Hack.”
In most cases, the pianos are rented and returned. For the movie “Limitless,” however, a piano was pushed out of a window. That made it unreturnable.
“In the scene, the character is shooting a gun and hits the piano, so they had bullet holes in it,” Galassini said. “They even emptied out the insides so that he could push it alone. A baby grand weighs 700 pounds and it takes three people just to roll it on wheels.”
Galassini was sad to learn the piano was destroyed, but understands “that’s just showbiz.”