I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am a Hershey Felder fan. My fandom is based on three of his productions, the most recent of which I saw on Saturday night, September 14 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in The Lyceum Theatre.
This new show by Felder is entitled Monsieur Chopin and runs through October 6. The show is a complete synthesis of Chopin as both man and artist.
Full confession: I’ve never moved freely about in Chopin’s ouvre. I understand he is an important composer and I recognize most of his music, but I can’t name it in the same way I can with other composers. To be honest, I can’t name the piano music of several composers in the same way I can their orchestral or opera compositions.
I’m not a pianist.
Since Chopin has no significant compositions outside the piano, I’ve neglected him, save his two piano concertos. Monsieur Chopin provides a crash course in the musical, which is to say emotional, grammar and syntax of Chopin.
The format of the show is that we, the audience, have arrived for a piano lesson with Chopin. There is an invitation for anyone who wants to play for a room of strangers to come down and play the piano. No one accepted.
As Felder spins the yarn he takes three of four breaks to accept questions from the audience. The questions are addressed to Chopin and answered by Chopin. In the process of answering the questions a la Chopin, Felder offered examples on the piano to elucidate the information.
As much as the show is a narrative of Chopin’s life, the narrative is based upon and dictated by Chopin’s music, as it should be. There is the danger of a show such as this decaying into a “jukebox musical.” I would say in many ways the Beethoven movie Immortal Beloved fell into this trap. The music served as a motion picture score to Beethoven’s story, but Beethoven’s story is the music.
Felder keeps Chopin’s music front and center from beginning to end and that is what makes it such an effective and moving experience of theater.
Garrett Harris on Hershey Felder
Garrett and his friend gush about Felder's version of Chopin on #ClassicalRebellion