Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

George Gershwin Alone

George Gershwin AloneGershwin Alone hershey felder

Written and performed by Hershey Felder

Directed by Joel Zwick

At Drury Lane Water Tower Place, 175 East Chestnut , Chicago, ILDecember 29 & 30 at 7:30 pm, Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes with a 15 minute sing-along, tickets $55, call 1-312-642-2000

Update review December 27, 2009: Hershey Felder has his famed George Gershwin Alone down pat after performing the show thousands of times around the world. He played Gershwin with zest and his show ending A Rhapsody in Blue was deftly moving. Any actor thinking about doing a one person show needs to use Hershey Felder as a model. He is simply the best at that art form.

I completely believe my review from 2004 still applies and couldn’t be improved anymore that Hershey Felder could make Gershwin Alone better that it is—he realizes never to fix a perfect show:; September 29, 2004 review of Gershwin Alone:

“If science had invented a time machine, one of the places I’d like to visit would be a concert by George Gershwin. I got my wish on Tuesday, September 28, 2004—I spent an evening with Gershwin listening and singing his famous songs. It was magical, it was marvelous, it was S ’Wonderful! Hershey Felder, a George Gershwin look-alike, convincingly portrays the American genius of 20th Century music. Blessed with outstanding acting ability and able to enchantingly tell a story, Hershey Felder totally captivates.

Hershey felder in Gershwin alone

He makes Gershwin come a live with a mixture of early 20th Century optimism, Jewish humor and passionate focus on his art. Felder deftly explains Gershwin’s creativity, his inspirations and his composing process—then—utilizing words and music, enlightens us as to how a genius arrives at greatness. Gershwin comes alive visually and musically in this entertaining evening.

Felder gives Gershwin charm to spare yet demonstrates his unwavering passion for music—and—his need to “be famous.” Gershwin’s story mirrored America’s boundless manic affair with entertainment. Gershwin’s music was misunderstood and under appreciated in his lifetime much as Mozart. He fused contemporary jazz and blues rhythms with classic forms to create an “American Style.” I believe Gershwin is the reigning genius of American music.

Felder, a terrific actor, expert musician (and composer) and playwright, reverently presents favorites like “Swanee,” “Someone To Watch Over Me,” “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and others until our ears are ringing with Gershwin’s melodies. The scene featuring Porgy and Bess music was breathtaking! Felder presents hints into Gershwin’s character, his loves, his need for fame and his loyalty to his family—and his extreme passion for creating music. Felder spends ample time showing us how “Rhapsody in Blue” was first presented in 1924 and how Paris taxi horns influenced “An American in Paris.” Our appreciation of Gershwin grows with each anecdote as Felder translates the stories through the genius’ music. It is Felder’s own love for the audience that connects us to him (and Gershwin). Felder’s enthusiasm is contagious, his passion for Gershwin rivals Gershwin’s passion as both are fanatics about music. It takes a major talent to present a genius and Hershey Felder is equal to the task. Felder’s robust playing of the complete “Rhapsody in Blue” was thrilling!

Take a trip into the world of the 20’s—30’s with Gershwin and bring your singing voice along since Felder leads a sing-along reminiscent of an after-show party Gershwin frequented. It’s S’ Wonderful fun!”

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

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