BWW Review: HERSHEY FELDER AS GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE at Berkshire Theatre Group is S'wonderful, S'Marvelous, and Magnificent.
GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE provides an intimate portrait of George Gershwin's early years, his personal life and his artistic genius. The play-with-music tells the story of one of America's great composers, who is widely regarded as having brought jazz into the concert hall, changing the musical landscape forever.
Over a surprisingly short period, Gershwin wrote more than 1.000 songs for the stage and screen, as well as works for the Opera and Symphony Orchestras. Many of them with his older brother, Ira, and many that became American Standards. Actor, playwright, composer, producer, director, and piano virtuoso, Hershey Felder, is truly phenomenal as he takes the audience on a journey that includes a wealth of information and facts about Gershwin's brief but brilliant 38 years that includes anecdotes from those that knew him. The performance includes a number of Gershwin's best known and popular pieces and compositions that includes: "Embraceable You", "Fascinating Rhythm", I Got Rhythm, "Someone to Watch Over Me", "Swanee", "S'Wonderful", "The Man I Love, "They Can't Take That Away from Me", An American In Paris, Porgy and Bess, and Rhapsody in Blue. Felder's singing is often tender, sweet, and lovely. We learn that although Gershwin became one of America's greatest composers, critics of the day were unappreciative of his work and not very kind to the virtuoso who was clearly well ahead of his time.
Felder's performance is sublime. Watching his hands manipulate the keys of the Steinway Concert Grand Piano is a thing of beauty almost like watching the seemingly effortless movements of Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in American In Paris. So much so, it felt as if I were floating, gliding, and soaring above my seat throughout the production. Felder's performance is so genuine and strong, tears were brought to many an eye when he setup his performance of the duet from Porgy and Bess. He explains the evolution of this and other pieces providing fascinating insight and showing what an absolute genius Gershwin was. Felder's performance of the entire Rhapsody in Blue itself is well worth the price of admission. Happily, the show provides much more including both Q&A and sing-along segments.
GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE was first performed by Hershey Felder in 2000. Since then he has created similar presentations focused on Chopin, Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Franz List, Irving Berlin, and Tchaikovsky. Anyone who has an appreciation for great music would be wise to experience this masterful performance, but you will have to move quickly. George Gershwin ALONE continues at Berkshire Theatre Group's Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA only through August 31st. Visit: www.berkshiretheatregroup.org for tickets and more information.