HAPPY’S THEATRE REVIEW: George Gershwin Alone
At The Old Globe Theatre
4 Happy Faces (Out of 4 possible)
Going to this play is like going to a workshop on songwriting technique, as well on what the life of songwriter is like. Being a songwriter himself, the Happy Man found this to be quite a profound experience. A memorable moment came right at the beginning when he laid out the theory behind one song and said the normal thing would be to go to certain thing during the song, but that since he didn’t do the “normal thing” he did something else. The whole play was filled with songwriting tidbits like that; I can’t remember any work of art that delved more deeply into the art of songwriting and music since the play and movie Amadeus. I wanted to take notes and ended up buying a copy of the CD so that I could hear some of the insights into music again.
When Gershwin talked about his life it was generally comical material about his hypercritical Jewish parents. Perhaps the most moving part of the play was how he seemed genuinely confused by why his girlfriend left him, “she said I didn’t need her anymore, I have no idea why.”
The entire play was simply the one actor sitting at and in front of a piano talking about Gershwin life, up to and including his death, as well as playing and singing many of Gershwin’s songs. Afterwards the actor broke character and asked the audience what songs they would like to hear. He then memorably lead the audience in the singing of several songs, expertly feeding us the lines as he went – not an easy task to teach people a song as they are singing it. At one point he warned that a song was somewhat “inappropriate” and I said “yeah inappropriate!!!” and the whole audience laughed, probably the largest crowd to laugh at something the Happy Man did.