Sunday, December 23, 2018

Day 214- Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin- Meet the Man behind a Lifelong Love of Song and America

In Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, Felder transforms into this American composer, telling his life story and playing his songs. Berlin has a long list of legendary compositions with a resume of 18 Broadway shows, 16 featured films, 232 top 10 hits and 10 number one hits.  This  was a night to meet the man behind the music- a  man who loved music and America, a man with a philosophy that “if you can sing you will never give up” in life.     


Felder looked, sounded and gave an intimate encounter with Irving Berlin
Reflection
Felder, an accomplished pianist not only looked, sounded and could play the music of  Irving Berlin, but his portrayal  gave the audience an intimate encounter with  this great musician. The play opens in Berlin’s living room with a baby grand piano, front and center, on Christmas eve.  Fedler as Berlin took us on a historical ride as he tells the stories behind Berlin’s music from 1880’s to 1980’s (watch here). 


Berlin lived a song filled life for over  a century. His family escaped Russian persecution immigrating to America where their family of six shared one room in NYC. His father, a canter, instilled the love of music in his soul. Although he had no formal training, this self -taught artist navigated through life by writing songs.  The audience sang along to his first hit  Alexandra’s Rag Time Band, that established him as an international song writer for most of the  20th century.  

 I did not know much about this composer but Felder’s research gave us a vivid glimpse  of the man who had a resume of over 1000 compositions. Felder animated the stories behind music often times with punches of humor.  Even if you did not know some of the songs, you enjoyed celebrating Berlins life that epitomized the American dream. He was a man that went from singing on the street corner and a singing waiter in Chinatown, to finding successes in Hollywood (composing musicals for dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers) and  on Broadway (Annie Get Your Gun).  

Felder in this one man show within minutes  had you believing that you were having an encounter with Irving Berlin. We laughed with him, felt the sadness of the passing of his first wife, felt excited when  he found love again with socialite, Ellin Mackay and more.
       

The show portrayed the binding thread of   Berlin ’s lifelong heartfelt affection for writing songs and his desire to gift his songs to the country that he loved.  He served in World War I composing, Hate to Get Up  in the Morning and donated all the  proceeds to Army Relief . I was surprised that he authored, God Bless America, and again gave back all the proceeds to Boy Scouts of America.

 Felder gave us all an amazing ride of this showman’s life as he skillfully played the songs live. Ending as a 101 year old Berlin, Felder reminded us that just like in the love song Always, written for his second wife of 62 years, Berlin  “always” had a song in heart that expressed the “American experience” of the time.

(Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin runs from  December 19-30, 2018 at the O’Rielly Theater. For tickets go to ppt.org.  PPT's next show should be a new experience, the Shakespeare classic  The Tempest, with an all female cast and  film and Broadway celebrity, Tamara Tunie.)

Spiritual Source
Though he my stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
(Psalm 37:24)

Other Sources

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