June 29, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Hershey Felder’s “Abe Lincoln’s Piano” Closes At The Geffen Playhouse:

Hershey Felder has carved out a very successful career in the United States and Europe as a composer, musician, and actor, primarily known for his one-man shows that embody some of the greatest composers including Chopin, Beethoven, Liszt, Leonard Bernstein, and the award-winning “George Gershwin Alone” for which he received a Los Angeles Ovation Award for Best Music and Best Actor. But alas, even the most feted must sometimes fail as did his last production, “Abe Lincoln’s Piano,” which just closed after a limited run at the Geffen Playhouse.

Based on the music of Stephen Foster, the play was akin to sitting through a rambling, boring lecture on the circumstances immediately following President Lincoln’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth at the Ford’s Theatre. In the first half hour or so, Hershey gives an autobiographical profile of the genesis of his piano playing which apparently began as a young child of eight in Montreal when, after experiencing someone playing the piano, demanded that his mother buy a piano and arrange for lessons.  One cannot dispute the fact that Felder is a most accomplished pianist and that his relationship with the piano is definitely an extension of his body. But where was the story about Lincoln, I kept asking myself and do we really need to know about Felder’s childhood, which seemed rather self-indulgent.

Impatience finally unsatisfactorily paid off, as it was slowly revealed that following a performance at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., and his subsequently playing Lincoln’s piano at the White House, Felder became intrigued with the president’s assassination and specifically to a private accounting by Dr. Charles Augustus Leale, a young Army surgeon who ministered to the mortally wounded Lincoln.

In 1909, at the age of 90, Leale finally broke his silence about his experience. Hershey, taking some theatrical license with Leale’s material, as the good doctor, cradles Lincoln’s head in his arms and breaks out in song, singing “My Old Kentucky Home.”   

So, now we know the ensuing, rather disjointed narrative, punctuated with a sprinkling of famous American music compositions from great composers such as Steven Foster, Louie Gottschalk, and George Gershwin, the “lecture” will be presented through the eyes of the unsung Lt. Leale. At one point in Act 2, Felder did not miss an opportunity to bang out that evergreen, Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” always guaranteed to garner an audience’s wild approval.

The narrative was clumsy, as was Hershey’s acting, as he introduced a variety of characters, trying to change his tone, pitch, and inflection in his singing and speaking voices, but the alteration in the sound was barely perceptible and all of characters bled into each other resulting in almost all of them sounding the same. What was truly lacking were fully actualized characterizations with inner lives and subtext.

The credit or blame for this production must be equally shared by Felder, who wrote the book and certainly by the director Trevor Hay who failed to reign in and shape the disjointed narrative which should have been a cohesive journey through one of the most horrendous, murderous acts in American history. Hay also failed to elicit the kind of strong performance from Felder that he has exhibited in his previous one-man shows.   

Technically, the Scenic Design by Hershey Felder and Trevor Hay beautifully reproduced the Ford’s Theatre proscenium stage, and was draped in a lush velvet curtain.  Lighting Design by Christopher Rynne was fine but Erik Carstensen’s Sound Design occasionally overwhelmed Felder’s dialogue.  Hershey Felder shared Music By credit with Stephen Foster & Others.

When a poor play gets a standing ovation, as a critic, it falls under the heading of “what??”  So, despite it’s approval by the audience the night I attended, I must be a “spoiler” and declare that the emperor was, indeed, not wearing any clothes.

The Geffen Playhouse

10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024

For more information, call 310.208.5454 or visit www.geffenplayhouse.com.         

in News
Related Posts

Six Family-Fun Westside Fourth of July Events

June 29, 2022

June 29, 2022

Fireworks, parades, runs and more taking place across the Westside  By Ashley Sloan  Pacific Palisades  The Pacific Palisades will be...

California Credit Union Awards Grant to Santa Monica Teacher

June 29, 2022

June 29, 2022

Building electric circuit friendship detectors and applying engineering principles to solve real world problems are Westside school projects receiving funding...

Santa Monica’s Building Bridges Art Exchange Presents: J.J. Martin’s “Role Models”

June 28, 2022

June 28, 2022

A traveling exhibit in partnership with Indianilla Cultural Center, Mexico City and Real de Catorce Cultural Center, Real de Catorce,...

Santa Monica City Council Approves New Rules to Streamline Meetings

June 28, 2022

June 28, 2022

Pilot program will run through end of year By Dolores Quintana At the Santa Monica City Council meeting on June...

Banning Construction of New Gas Stations in Los Angeles?

June 28, 2022

June 28, 2022

Motion from LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz calls for banning the building of any new gas pumping facilities By Sam...

Child Of Elon Musk Receives Approval For Name And Gender Change: Santa Monica Beat – June 27th, 2022

June 27, 2022

June 27, 2022

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* Child Of Elon Musk Receives Approval For Name And Gender Change * Smash...

Pico Boulevard Affordable Housing Project Tops Out

June 27, 2022

June 27, 2022

Brunson Terrance coming to 1819 Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica By Dolores Quintana Community Corp. of Santa Monica has completed...

The Los Angeles Real Estate Market May Finally Be Slowing Down

June 24, 2022

June 24, 2022

Real estate sales drop 21 percent in past year By Dolores Quintana The Los Angeles real estate market is showing...

Redevelopment Complete of Former Westside Pavilion Macy’s

June 24, 2022

June 24, 2022

Developer announces complete of West End at Pico and Overland Developer HLW, on behalf of GPI Companies and in partnership...

Mayor Himmelrich’s Tax Transfer Measure Is Favored to Qualify for the November Election

June 24, 2022

June 24, 2022

In a cursory review, the City Clerk’s office verified 10,277 of the over 11,000 signatures  By Dolores Quintana Santa Monica...

Active Shooter Training Set for Santa Monica Middle School Friday

June 23, 2022

June 23, 2022

Drill to take place at John Adams Middle School Friday morning By Sam Catanzaro ​​An active shooter training will take...

Metro Church and Cafe Fundraising To Keep Space in Santa Monica

June 23, 2022

June 23, 2022

Non-profit church and coffee shop shut down following false vermin complaint By Dolores Quintana Metropolis Santa Monica is a multi-use...

New Coffee Shop Open on Montana Avenue

June 23, 2022

June 23, 2022

Go Get ‘Em Tiger up and running on corner of Montana and 10th  By Dolores Quintana A new coffee shop...

15-Year Department Veteran Selected as Santa Monica’s Next Director of Library Services

June 22, 2022

June 22, 2022

Erica Cuyugan leads Santa Monica Public Library After performing a nationwide search, the City of Santa Monica recently selected Erica...