The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts welcomes Felder’s return to Beverly Hills in the premiere of CHOPIN IN PARIS, a play with music conceived of and written and performed by virtuoso pianist Hershey Felder and directed by Joel Zwick. Following 28 years of continuous stage work and over 6,000 live performances throughout the U.S. and abroad, Felder created Live from Florence, an arts broadcasting company which has produced more than 15 theatrical films to date. And now Felder returns to the stage for his first live performance in California since 2019.
What better master musician to portray on stage than Fryderyk Chopin? Set in the Polish composer’s Paris salon, Chopin teaches a piano lesson that actually took place in March 1848 – just days after the February 1848 revolution and just over a decade before the American Civil War. As revealed by Felder, this charming and quirky musical genius is ready to reveal secrets about the art of the piano and composition – but also ends up sharing himself in an intimate and profound way with the audience. Considered the “Poet of the Piano,” Chopin has created the beautiful and enduring melodies which flow from Felder’s talented fingers. But, to paraphrase Chopin, it is not really the fingers; it is the sound that counts and makes this music memorable.
Wallis Annenberg’s intimate Lovelace Theatre is the perfect setting for Felder’s CHOPIN IN PARIS. Barriers between the stage and the audience vanish as Felder/Chopin chats and jokes with audience members who are invited to ask the most revealing questions they can think of. The result is so life-like that it is possible to almost be in the 1848 salon and experience the man himself with all his pain, fears, and triumphs. By proxy, it also seems that Madame Georges Sand has stepped out of a page in time to share the mystery that is Chopin. Did I mention that Felder’s set is sumptuous and inviting? Enchanting and emotional, Felder has scored another triumph.
CHOPIN IN PARIS will appeal to music lovers, Chopin aficionados, pianists and dabblers, and anyone with a craving to really know others on a deep, moving, and personal level. This reviewer has seen many of Felder’s productions – and enjoyed all of them. But CHOPIN IN PARIS was special. Who knew that Felder was not only a great pianist, actor, writer, and Renaissance man – but also a master of improvisational repartee? Clearly, Felder has the special skill of digging to the core of the musicians he studies and portrays. In the end, he climbs into the skin of the individual he knows so very well. Felder’s super power is his talent, which permits him to share a unique human being – warts and all – so effectively and realistically. This is a not-to-be-missed production.
CHOPIN IN PARIS runs through July 24, 2022, with performance at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is located at 9290 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, California. Tickets range from $39 to $99. For information and reservations, call 310-746-4000 or go online.