There are a series of plays that Hershey Felder has done based on the lives of famous composers. I have seen them all and they are all amazing and highly recommend. He tours with these shows so be sure to see them if you are a songwriter or even if you are not. Here are my reviews of some of them:
HAPPY’S THEATRE REVIEW: George Gershwin Alone by Hershey Felder
At The Old Globe Theatre
4 Happy Face (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 hyper-critical 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.
The playwright and actor has two other plays in this style and will be doing a special one-week show of one of them at the end of October, it’s a mark of how much I enjoyed this that I shall be buying my ticket tomorrow.
HAPPY’S THEATRE REVIEW: Monsieur Chopin By Hershey Felder
at The Old Globe Theatre (and touring)
4 Happy Faces (Out Of 4 possible)
This is one of series of one-man plays about different composers by Hershey Felder.
My favorite moment was at the end where he said we should ask him questions and he would answer them as Chopin. I asked him “Mr. Chopin what do you think of Gershwin”, whom one of Felder’s other one man plays was about. It took him and the audience a few seconds to wrap their mind around that and they all started laughing hilariously. And he answered “well Gershwin wasn’t around when I was alive but Gershwin did say that music should be performed lightly, not like in the style of Chopin” Then “Chopin” gets his revenge and sits at the piano and plays one of Gershwin’s tunes in the style of Chopin. It was hilarious.
As usual there were lots of great quotes regarding music that I hurried home to write down, probably don’t have them exact:
“God gives everyone an appreciation of music. To be an artist, pray he gives you the energy to sit at the piano several hours a day and MAKE music.”
“Don’t write music for other people. Write music because you are an artist. That’s what we do”
“I just sat down and listened for the music I wanted to hear.”
“Practice three hours a day, no more, otherwise you become an automaton. Practice for 45 minutes then go do something else.. An artist needs to live so he has something to write about.”
“[After a heartbreak] I didn’t cry. Artists aren’t allowed to cry. That is a right reserved for the audience”
“Always be prepared for when attractive woman are in the audience. Tell them that you were so entranced by their beauty that you made up an improvisation on the spot just for them.”
By Happy Ron Hill
HappyRon is a songwriting, performer, speaker, music coach, and the author of the free ebook “7 Steps To Learn Any Instrument Quicker And Easier” and many articles online at www.happyron.com/blog