Reviewer: Howard Steven Frydman aka “The Howard”
Theater: The Hartford Stage
Production: Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin
Book: Hershey Felder
Music & Lyrics: Irving Berlin
Director: Trevor Hay
The Howard’s Exhale – “PianoMan Felder’s Berlin – It’s Wonderful”
Hello stage-mites all across the state – that piano impresario, singer and on stage actor, Hershey Felder, makes a triumphant return to the Hartford Stage in his one man, limited engagement production tribute – “Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin”.
Fans of Felder are well versed in his other one man “piano personification presentations” including, “Our Great Tchaikovsky, “George Gershwin Alone”, “Monsieur Chopin”, and “Franz Liszt in Music.” Here Felder treats us to a remarkable musical recreation of the life of composer, lyricist, performer and fellow piano player – Irving Berlin.
Felder sets an extraordinary visual image on stage, here the setting is Christmas Eve, snow is freely flowing through the windows, the townhouse home is decorated for the Christmas Holiday, outside fans of Berlin are serenading him on his 100 birthday with a rendition of “White Christmas”. Unexpectedly, Berlin in intro is portrayed more as an Ebenezer Scrooge-type seen in his decline, as Felder rolls back the years, showcasing Berlin from his “rags to riches” jazzy heyday ragtime star in the making with his first hit “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”. It is through this vehicle that we relive the life, the loves, the losses and music of this American icon who states, “I wrote for love. I wrote for my country. I wrote for you” – and we are so richly grateful.
A scholar in residence at Harvard University’s Department of Music, Felder’s presentation oftentimes resembles a “Teacher at the podium” – giving a schoolroom-lecture – here the students/audience are indeed enraptured by the subject matter of Berlin’s life and career, (he wrote over 1,500 songs), that it comes so naturally when Felder, while he is playing or singing a Berlin tune, gives a nod to the attentive audience, and they naturally join in song, btw- so do I!
Dubbed the “Singing Waiter” in his youth, Berlin’s tunes comprise a majority of what is now called the “Great American Song Book”. Felder does these renditions including, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Always”, “Blue Skies”, “Easter Parade”, “Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In the Morning”, and “God Bless America” in “OK” fashion – believe you me Felder is no Frank Sinatra and if you heard Berlin’s real voice, neither was Berlin, but the presentation is exact, highly enjoyable, and we give high marks to this endearing tribute to a remarkable musical visionary. Enjoy!
Tickets for the Hartford Stage production of “Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin” are on sale now and can be purchased by calling (860) 527-5151 or by visiting http://www.hartfordstage.org. Weeknight and evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances are Saturdays, Sundays and select weekdays at 2 p.m.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com