BWW Review: Seattle Rep's HERSHEY FELDER AS IRVING BERLIN Spotlights an American Icon

BWW Review: Seattle Rep's HERSHEY FELDER AS IRVING BERLIN Spotlights an American Icon
Seattle Repertory Theatre presents
Hershey Felder AS Irving Berlin
Photo credit: Courtesy Hershey Felder Presents

Dear Readers, if you're anything like me you grew up with a love for old standards. Those songs from a bygone era that used to dominate the radio waves, many of which came from musicals of the day. And if you love those old standards then you know and love the name Irving Berlin as a hefty number of those gems came from the prolific genius of Berlin. So, you can imagine spending an evening with the man and those songs would be heaven and the Rep has brought that heaven to us with "Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin".

Berlin may have begun as a simple immigrant piano playing waiter but became an American icon as he gave us staples in the American songbook such as "White Christmas", "What'll I Do?", and of course, "God Bless America" to name just a few. Felder has made a career out of taking icons such as Berlin and examining their works. He's delved into Chopin, Gershwin, Beethoven and more but he doesn't simply tell about their lives and works, he becomes them. And that, Dear Readers, is how the Rep was able to give us an evening with the man himself.

Felder disappears into the character and into multiple characters from Berlin's life as he tells the tale from immigrant child through success, failure, love and loss. And he doesn't simply convey a bland list of hits he goes into the history of these pieces. You may know "White Christmas" but do you know why he wrote it and what he really meant in the lyrics? Did you know "God Bless America" was dismissed as trite and shoved in a drawer for years? Felder thoughtfully goes into these and other stories through the man's history giving us a peek behind the curtain of how these standards came to be. It's an engaging, funny and sometimes heartbreaking journey.

Felder's talent on the piano is only matched by his talent as a storyteller. He locks you into the ride from the beginning and never lets go. You need someone with presence to be able to carry a one-man show such as this and Felder has that presence in spades but it's an unassuming presence, so you feel like you're just listening to a friend and not a performance. He draws you in with heart and humor and delightfully with a couple of sing-a-longs into which the audience gleefully joined. And adding to the storytelling is a magnificent set from Felder that looks like a living room but then doubles as a backdrop for amazing lighting and projections from Richard Norwood and Christopher Ash & Lawrence Siefert.

This was an absolute delight from beginning to end as memorable song after memorable song, story after story came washing over us. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin" at the Seattle Rep a blissfully nostalgic YAY+. You do not want to miss this genius portray another genius.

"Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin" performs at the Seattle Rep through March 18th. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Rep box office at 206-443-2222 or visit them online at www.seattlerep.org.

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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