Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Re-Creating the Iconic Composer George Gershwin on Stage

April 9, 2012 6:44 pm 0 comments

Hershey Felder in "Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein." Photo: Michael Lamont.

As the composer of such international smashes as “West Side Story” and “Candide,” and the musical director of the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein has a legacy that lingers large in the annals of arts and academia.

As an award-winning musician and playwright who married to the former prime minister of Canada, A. Kim Campbell, Hershey Felder has carved out his own legacy in music and theatre.

Now, Felder is enhancing Bernstein’s story with his enchanting embodiment of it. In his latest performance, “Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein,” the man who has brought the legendary likes of George Gershwin, Beethoven and Chopin back to life on stage is now turning his talented hands and historically accurate mind to the tale of Bernstein.

As much as Felder’s shows may help keep the memories and legacies of his lofty subjects alive, he admits that they also do a great deal for his own career. “The reality is that no one knew who I was some 20 years ago,” Felder says, “but people do care about Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven [and Bernstein]…and I care a great deal about these artists.” According to Felder, sharing their lives and music with others is “part of being an artist.”

“The growth of the style was really organic,” Felder explains when asked how the format of his worldwide shows came to be. “It started with an idea about communicating the music and stories and grew into what it is.”

As he had established himself as a pianist with a 1988 London performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” at age 19, Felder knew Gershwin’s work, but not much about the man himself. In performing and exploring Gershwin and his music, Felder discovered how “beloved” his music is and thought that Gershwin would make a good candidate for theatrical presentation. “I thought that would be a good place to start,” he says, “with something very popular.”

Felder recently premiered his latest work—”Lincoln: An American Story”—in California, and directed Mona Golabek in “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. After bringing Bernstein back to Boston and New York, Felder will go right into a run of his popular performances of “George Gershwin Alone.”

“My repertoire for at least 15 years has been driven by the needs of the presentations,” Felder explains when asked how he decides what to do when, “and the performance schedule has been based on the audience and theatres’ requirements.”

Though he is now able to go from show to show with little more than a wig change, Felder says that each new incarnation involves a good amount of research and preparation.

“I spend a great deal of time learning everything I can,” he says, noting that he often has to spend just as much time doing biographical work as he does musical rehearsal and travel. “I know that I can never capture entire lives in a 90-minute presentation, but what I can do is give the essence of what the individual was about, and to do that, one has to know pretty much everything there is to know.”

Felder says he is pleased to act as a gateway to the lives and music of noteworthy artists.

“The Bernstein piece has proven to be interesting because I am playing someone from the not too distant past,” he says. “In fact, I am playing someone from our collective conscious memory.” As a result, he notes, making Bernstein “real” was “both the goal and the challenge.”

Many who played with or for Bernstein are still alive and still remember him, especially those in Boston and New York, and Felder says that adds meaning to his shows.

“Many who knew him and played under his baton feel that what I am presenting is the essence of the real man,” Felder says. “Hopefully…audiences get a sense of what that great life may just have been like.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Relationships Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Millionaire entrepreneur Yossi Vardi credited his success in start-ups to his Jewish mother continuously pushing him to do better, Daily Mail reported on Thursday. “Jewish mothers are never satisfied and nothing is ever good enough,” he said, adding that his mother, who died 15 years ago, used to compare him with his cousins and say he was “an idiot.” “For most of my life I have been trying to show her I’m not,” he continued. “I keep on trying even now.” Vardi, […]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Famed actor Seth Rogen on Tuesday unveiled with typical comic fanfare the trailer for his new Christmas film. The movie “was made by Jews… and opens on Thanksgiving,” Rogen pointed out on Twitter. The Night Before tells the tale of three “ride or die homies” celebrating one last debauchery-filled Christmas Eve reunion before they become too busy to keep up their annual tradition. In an effort to make the night as memorable as possible, they set out to find the “Nutcracka Ball – the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →