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Once again, Hershey Felder has landed at TheatreWorks with a song in his heart. Over the years he has transformed himself from Irving Berlin and George Gershwin to Chopin and Beethoven in an ongoing quest to romance us with the enduring legacy of classical music. Now the ever-versatile virtuoso is wooing us with “Our Great Tchaikovsky” and despite its distinct narrative flaws, the melancholy piece seems destined to smash TheatreWorks box office records as hard as the rest of his tuneful canon. The solo show runs through Feb. 11 in its regional premiere at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

Felder traces the arc of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s life from his humble beginning in a dacha in the hinterlands of Russia to his christening of Carnegie Hall, In this wistful 105-minute one-man show, the Canadian actor and musician plays passionately, evoking the dawning of Tchaikovsky’s genius and his lifelong battle to stay true to his own sound despite the fickleness of the public appetite, Immersed in a shifting landscape of projections that transport ladies yoga shoes us from a grove of birch trees to the ballet, Felder narrates the flow of the composer’s often tormented life in 19th-century Russia, He remains far more deft as a pianist than as a biographer and there are moments when the text cries out for trimming..

The universality of music emerges one of Felder’s core motifs. As Tchaikovsky puts it, rising above the pettiness of his era and our own: “To me, music doesn’t have a nationality. To me, music is very simply human.”. That idealism runs afoul of the Russian government, where freedom and art are touchy subjects.As always, Felder has great panache as a pianist, rousing us with pieces from “The Nutcracker” and “Swan Lake” to the “1812 Overture,” and the truth of the music resonates. Some of the composer’s most famous works went unappreciated during his day, tormenting a musician always craving recognition.

But Felder has a lot to say about the battle for identity that haunted the ladies yoga shoes composer, Throughout the piece he breaks character to address Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality and the injustices that still face gay people today.However, Felder doesn’t weave the politics and the music together very nimbly and that diminishes the allure of the piece, which feels longer than it is, If he went deeper into the sociology of Tchaikovsky’s times it might illuminate the dramatic conflict more keenly, Instead he crams the play with too many details that aren’t telling about the man or the music..

While the set is richly appointed with mahogany furniture, candles, and even a samovar, there are also points when the projections (designed by Christopher Ash) seem too ornate and literal when a more abstract evocation of the music would give the piece more subtlety. The “Nutcracker” visuals in particular feel overwrought. Director Trevor Hay also lets the pace drag here and there. However, Felder still plays the crowd like it was a Steinway. The play might lack a symphonic sense of emotion but his ability to conjure the great Russian master certainly swept the opening night audience away.

When Bay Area theater patrons ponder great composers from Beethoven to Bernstein, it’s only natural if they picture all of them looking a bit like Hershey Felder, The ladies yoga shoes Canadian playwright, actor and musician has carved out a unique theatrical niche for himself with a string of one-man shows about famous composers, all played by himself at the piano, The latest of these, “Our Great Tchaikovsky,” makes its Bay Area premiere with TheatreWorks Silicon Valley at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts..

Felder quickly became a fixture at Berkeley Repertory Theatre after the success of his show “George Gershwin Alone” in 2013. Later that same year “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” played Berkeley Rep, the one-woman show he adapted and directed for performer Mona Golabek based on the book Golabek co-wrote about her mother’s escape from Nazi-controlled Austria as a child. That show was such a hit that it returned two years later. In 2014 he brought Berkeley not one but two of his own solo shows, “Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro” and “Monsieur Chopin.”.

He first charmed TheatreWorks audiences in 2016 with “Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin” (which played Berkeley Rep the following year), then he returned to TheatreWorks in 2017 with “Hershey Felder, Beethoven.” Both shows broke box office records for the company, ladies yoga shoes so his latest is keenly anticipated, “Our Great Tchaikovsky” debuted at San Diego Rep last January, where it became the highest grossing show in that company’s 41-year history, As a writer and performer and composer Felder does more than just these biographical composer pieces, but the demand for them keeps him busy, The Gershwin piece was the first one he did in 1999, and they soon took on a life of their own..


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