George Gershwin Alone, at Pasadena Playhouse

GG and Kay

***

A consummate performer, Hershey Felder has forged a career over the past ten years of presenting one-man biographical shows about legendary composers. Having tackled Beethoven, Chopin and Bernstein, Felder returns to the L.A. stage at the Pasadena Playhouse with a revival of his musical play George Gershwin Alone, an intimate examination of the legendary American jazz-age composer.

Review by Pauline Adamek

With soft and haunting piano notes, and plaintive singing, once again Felder opens his self-penned show, directed by Joel Zwick, by deconstructing a famous melody, this time from Gershwin”™s vast and ambitious opera Porgy and Bess. Pointing out the intervals of thirds and minor sevenths, Felder demonstrates how Gershwin, with his unique style and musical approach, doesn”™t select the obvious note progression. Rather, he uses a bass note to root the harmony, which leads Felder to observe “”¦ and by God it floats!”

He outlines how Gershwin collaborated with his brother Ira, who insisted that, “”¦absolutely everything must be in the music and lyrics.” He describes how, as a young boy, Gershwin became captivated by the Jazz music that was emerging in the early part of the 20th Century, which he describes as “free-form with a beat.” Felder goes on to sketch an impression of the era, touching on the politics and mood of the day.  We learn how he played his first hit “˜Swanee”™ at a party and how it captivated the host, Al Jolson, who went on to popularize the tune. Felder plays samples from other hit tunes, such as “˜I Got Rhythm,”™ “˜Someone to Watch Over Me”™ and “˜Embrace Me,”™ and describes how, on a train journey to Boston for an opening, Gershwin came up with the early ideas for his musical kaleidoscope “˜Rhapsody in Blue.”™

GG at desk - Photo by Mark Garvin.

The thrilling jazzy feel of this music perfectly captures the era. Throughout this engrossing show, Felder inhabits the persona of Gershwin, as well as adopting various other personae, and takes us through the legendary composer”™s eventful life. It”™s a tight, single act and musically-infused show (100 minutes) with a special bonus at the end. At the conclusion, Felder invites the audience to join in with a sing-along of some of Gershwin”™s more famous songs. He listens for strong voices in the audience and invites them up front to lead the sing-along. It”™s charming and fun.

Once again, with George Gershwin Alone, Felder gives us a captivating performance of a fascinating creative life, vividly and emotionally recounted.

In addition to the GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE engagement, The Pasadena Playhouse will present two performances of Hershey Felder”™s Great American Songbook Sing-Along on Monday April 25 and Monday May 9, 2011. Audiences will join Hershey Felder for a tour through an entire century of American music. Beginning with Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and the Gershwins through Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, featuring selections from The Sound of Music, Showboat, Fiddler on the Roof and more.

WFMT Radio Network, the leading producer and distributor of classical music radio programming in the U.S. for over 30 years will host a live global broadcast of the entire production of GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE from the stage of The Pasadena Playhouse beginning at 7:00 p.m. PST on May 2, 2011.

George Gershwin Alone

The Pasadena Playhouse

39 S. El Molino Avenue,

Pasadena CA  91101

Performances:

Runs through May 8, 2011

Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m.;

Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.;

and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Running time:

Approx 90 minutes, no intermission

TICKETS:

Regular ticket price range is from $39.00 – $69.00, with Premium Seating available for $100.00.

Box Office:

Tickets are available by calling the Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529 or by visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, Monday from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Tuesday – Sunday from 12:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. during non-performance dates and Tuesday- Sunday from 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. on performance dates.

Additional info here.

Hershey Felder”™s Great American Songbook Sing-Along will perform on Monday, April 25 and May 9 at 8:00 p.m.

Ticket prices are $39.00 – $59.00 with Premium Seating available for $100.00 and may be purchased through The Pasadena Playhouse box office, phone lines or online.

Tickets for the WFMT Radio global broadcast performance of GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE on Monday, May 2, are available for $55.00 – $75.00, with Premium Seating offered at $100.00 through The Pasadena Playhouse box office, phone lines or online.

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