For those of us fortunate to grow up during the 60’s with a television there is one name that is synonymous with classical music. I am of course talking about Leonard Bernstein. It was through his series of fifty three “Young Peoples Concerts” that the youth of America were educated in the finer points of Classical Music. What made these shows so special was the fact that Maestro Bernstein did not talk down to us as children but taught as if we were mature adults. It is because of these wonderful shows and his body of work that we hold such reverence to the man.
It is no easy task to portray Leonard Bernstein. He was a complex man from a complex background who by shear talent and hard work was able to elevate himself to the position of the world’s best known conductor. Hershey Felder does an extraordinary job in his portrayal of the man, showing both the maestro’s strengths and weaknesses. To be on stage for two hours and engaging the crowd is quite a feat. Through Mr. Felder we see a portrait of the man just as he was: passionate, driven, hopelessly romantic and flawed as all humans are.
Along the way we discover about Leonard’s upbringing and the effect it had on his career. We also learn of the good fortune he had to be the pupil of some of the most prominent conductors of the day who became much more than teachers to the young genius. In the course of the evening, some surprises are shared that makes for an interesting show.
The stage setting is very impressive indeed. It consists of a gargantuan sheet of music that begins at the ceiling and rolls down across the stage. It also serves as a screen for the various video clips and projected photos. On stage is an old television camera from the 60’s as well as two movie lights. Center stage is a Steinway Grand with a hard back chair in lieu of a piano bench. Off to the sides of the piano and stage forward are two easy chairs right out of the 60’s. In a word, it is uncluttered and does not detract from the exceptional performance.
During the two hours, Hershey Felder talks, recites, does accents, conducts, plays and sings. While his piano work is spot on I did have issues with his singing. It is not that he is a “bad” singer; it is just that he is not a great singer. It might have been better to relinquish the singing parts to a professional with a better set of pipes.
Shooting From The Lip (My Last Words): Maestro: Leonard Bernstein is a show that people who grew up on “Young Peoples Concerts” will love. It is a tribute to greatness that for many of those in our golden years owe our love of classical music. Singing aside, Hershey Felder does a fine job.
Directed by Joel Zwick, Book by Hershey Felder, Scenic/Lighting/Projection Designer Francois-Pierre Couture, Projection Designer Andrew Wilder, Sound Designer Erik Carstensen, Lighting Director/Assistant Lighting Designer Margaret Hartmann, Production Manager/Technical Director Matt Marsden, Production Stage Managers Trevor hay and Erik Carstensen and Production Consultant Jeffrey Kallberg
Tickets: $39-69, available now through www.clevelandplayhouse.com, the State Theatre Ticket Office at PlayhouseSquare, or by calling 216-241-6000. Tickets for anyone under age 30 are $30 and students under 24 are $15 each.
Maestro: Leonard Bernstein Schedule
July 19 FRI 7:30 p.m.
July 20 SAT 2:30 p.m.
July 20 SAT 7:30 p.m
July 21 SUN 2:30 p.m.
July 23 TUE 7:00 p.m.
July 24 WED 7:30 p.m.
July 25 THU 7:30 p.m.
July 26 FRI 7:30 p.m.
July 27 SAT 2:30 p.m.
July 27 SAT 7:30 p.m.
July 28 SUN 2:30 p.m.
July 30 TUE 7:00 p.m.
July 31 WED 7:30 p.m.
Aug 1 THU 1:30 p.m.
Aug 1 THU 7:30 p.m.
Aug 2 FRI 7:30 p.m.
Aug 3 SAT 2:30 p.m.
Aug 3 SAT 7:30 p.m.
Aug 4 SUN 2:30 p.m. – CLOSING PERFORMANCE
About Hershey Felder
Playwright and performer Hershey Felder has appeared on Broadway and London’s West End in George Gershwin Alone. His “Composer Sonata” – George Gershwin Alone, Monsieur Chopin, Beethoven, As I Knew Him and Maestro: Leonard Bernstein – has been presented at dozens of theatres across the U.S. and around the world. He also performed Monsieur Chopin for the Polish Ambassador to the United States. His compositions include Aliyah, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Fairytale, Les Anges de Paris, Suite for Violin and Piano, Song Settings, Saltimbanques for Piano and Orchestra, Etudes Thematiques for Piano and An American Story for actor and orchestra. George Gershwin Alone received worldwide live broadcasts in July 2005 and May 2011. Felder’s current projects include the new musicals An American Story and Hershey Felder as Franz Liszt in The Piano Show. Felder has been a Scholar in Residence at Harvard University’s Department of Music.
About Cleveland Play House
Founded in 1915, Cleveland Play House is America’s first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, Cleveland Play House has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate and entertain diverse audiences in Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. It has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,300 CPH productions. Today, under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Bloom and Managing Director Kevin Moore, Cleveland Play House looks toward its centennial while performing in three state-of-the art venues at PlayhouseSquare in downtown Cleveland.
Cleveland Play House is funded through the generosity of Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, and The Ohio Arts Council helps to fund Cleveland Play House with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.