Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin Review - Returning to Chicago and Still Going Strong

I managed to miss Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin several times, in Chicago and in Mountain View, CA. Fortunately for me, the smash hit Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin has returned to Chicago for a limited, four-week engagement-which has been extended- in Felder’s Chicago theatrical home, the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted Street, Chicago.

 

Hershey Felder, the young and old Berlin

What a delight. It is charming and light but with an undertow of sadness and tragedy.  And it is a very powerful immigrant story.  In Hershey Felder’s hands, story, staging resulted in a production that was beautiful and powerful. For me it brought new insight to songs I have known seemingly forever. The words took on new and deeper meaning. My companion pointed out to me that while this production touched the two of us deeply, it might not resonate in the same way with younger patrons who don’t recognize the songs or the people who made the songs famous.

 

Hershey Felder-impressive on the piano

 

There is no question the Hershey Felder is multitalented, singing, playing the piano, taking on several characters and much more.  His messages ranged from humorous; to startling as in the number of songs that Berlin wrote that just won awards, to tragedy. Just the bare facts of Berlin’s life is an amazing story-a powerful immigrants story but in Felder’s hands, it becomes a life in which the audience is deeply immersed.  Of course, the songs are captivating as they roll out one after another.  I kept thinking I know that, I remember that and the words were right there when the audience was asked to join Felder.

  

Hershey Felder with projections, behind

I was particularly moved by the use of selected parts from movies that were projected on to the stage-especially Al Johlson and Irving and Ellin Berlin.  Felder looked very much like Irving Berlin.

  

Hershey Felder as Berlin - tellin the story

Jerome Kern famously said, "Irving Berlin has no place in American music—he is American music." George Gershwin called him “the greatest songwriter that has ever lived.” Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin brings the man behind the iconic music to life in an evening reflecting his remarkable journey from child immigrant to America’s most beloved and prolific songwriter.

 

  

Hershey Felder-impressive on the piano

 

It is an amazing journey from Tin Pan Alley to Carnegie Hall, from The Great White Way to The Silver Screen, and from the pop charts to the steps of the nation’s capital, Berlin’s music provided America with the soundtrack of a century. Berlin’s catalogue includes over 1,500 songs, 18 Broadway shows, 16 feature films, 232 top 10 hits and 10 #1 hits. The songs have been performed by a diverse list of artists including: Fred Astaire, Aretha Franklin, Ethel Merman, Willie Nelson, Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, Luciano Pavarotti, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Barbra Streisand, Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe, and Lady Gaga. The evening features some of the composer’s most popular and enduring songs including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Always,” “Blue Skies,” “God Bless America,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and “White Christmas.”

  

Hershey Felder, belting it out on the piano

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin features a scenic design by Felder, lighting design by Richard Norwood, projection design by Christopher Ash and Lawrence Siefert, and sound design/production management by Erik Carstensen. The show is produced by Eva Price, Samantha F. Voxakis and Karen Racanelli.

  

Hershey Felder as Berlin at 100

This was so well received that “With its continuing success both nationwide and here in Chicago, the smash hit Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin is extending its return to the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St. Chicago, until Friday, May 22, 2016. The Chicago presentation will immediately be followed by a special One-Night-Only New York Presentation at The Town Hall on June 6, 2016, broadcast internationally by the WFMT Radio Network with the entire Berlin family in attendance.”

  

Hershey Felder as Berlin, Ellin and Irving Berlin behind

Don’t wait until the last minute, see it now.

 

Performances of Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin begin Thursday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. and continue as follows: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.

 

All tickets are $60. Tickets will be on sale at The Royal George Theatre and may be purchased by calling 312.988.9000. Box office hours are 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Tickets may also be purchased online at   Ticketmaster  TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE.

 

 Photos: Eighty-Eight Entertainment

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