George Gershwin Alone, Hershey Felder's one-man show about the legendary composer, opens at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre April 30. Previews for the limited run through July 22 began April 17. The show is directed by Joel Zwick. Felder is the playwright and performer.
In the 90-minute show, Felder sits at a piano, playing several Gershwin songs, including parts of "Rhapsody in Blue," "An American in Paris" and "Porgy and Bess." In between numbers, he talks about his childhood, his parents and his siblings Ira, Arthur and Frances. He also discussed where and when songs were composed and offers a peek into how a composer and lyricist work together. "It's a story of an artist," said Felder. "It's very difficult and very demanding. You have to focus all your attention on the role. I keep thinking its going to get easier but it doesn't."
After doing five years of research on Gershwin, Felder got the rights from the late composer's estate to develop a solo show. A workshop was held in March, at which the Gershwin heirs were present and gave the actor the go-ahead to perform. Felder, 32, is the first person since George Gershwin's death in 1937 to be allowed to play the composer in a major stage production.
Martin Markinson, the owner of the Hayes, is co-producer of George Gershwin Alone, along with Richard Willis.
* The booking of Gershwin into the Hayes marked the end of a horse race between the show and the Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Alan Ayckbourn musical comedy By Jeeves. In recent weeks, the smallish By Jeeves has tried mightily to secure the jewel-box-like Hayes.
Gershwin opened back on June 2, and sold a half-million dollars in tickets, becoming that rare thing: a Los Angeles commercial theatre hit. The show was extended several times in Los Angeles, finishing on Dec. 17 a six-month run at the Tiffany Theatre. From there, it traveled to Florida, where it played a four-week stand, Jan. 3-28, 2001, at the Cuillo Center in West Palm Beach. It then ran at the Coral Gables City Center.