Theater Review: GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE (L.A. – Pasadena)

by Harvey Perr on April 30, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

Post image for Theater Review: GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE (L.A. – Pasadena)

TIME SPENT WITH A MUSICAL GENIUS

If ever a production fitted so perfectly within the walls of the elegant Pasadena Playhouse as George Gershwin Alone, I can’t imagine what it may have been. This is, quite simply, what refinement and good taste is all about. Even Yale Pardess’s stage design evokes the thirties in a kind of deco-graphic way. It was truly like being transplanted back in time. And, regardless of whether Hershey Felder really looks like George Gershwin or not, he projects a brashness (which seems as quintessentially American as Gershwin’s music), and an authority, and a brooding handsomeness that explains why so many people found Gershwin so seductive and appealing. Nor does he stint on Gershwin’s Jewishness. This is a fully-rounded portrait of the man.

George Gershwin Alone at the Pasadena Playhouse with Hershey FelderIt is even a more fully-rounded portrait of the composer and musician. When he performs “Rhapsody in Blue,” transposed for the piano exclusively, we may as well be watching Gershwin himself. The intensity and dedication with which he delves into the music is startling. And startlingly pleasurable. His analysis – and his wonderful singing – of the songs he chooses is both ingratiating and informative. Listen in particular to the depth he brings to “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” the last song Gershwin wrote.

There is nothing that one can say that could in any way replace the experience of watching Felder become Gershwin. Except, of course, that Felder is not entirely on his own; the shiny finish is provided by his director, Joel Zwick. And, without beating the point to death, Felder makes clear that Gershwin was not usurping black music but was, rather, trying to find a synthesis between Jewish liturgical music and the roots of African-American jazz in order to create a whole new American musical style. Through Felder’s fingers and in a voice that is wedded to his heart, the man I love is George Gershwin Alone.

Harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Mark Garvin

George Gershwin Alone
scheduled to close May 8 at time of publication
for tickets, visit http://www.pasadenaplayhouse.org/

Comments on this entry are closed.