George Gershwin Alone, Hershey Felder's one-man show about the legendary composer, will end its limited Broadway engagement July 22. Although an extension to Sept. 2 was announced, Felder was not able to get out of regional engagements, scuttling a plan for him to play "Rhapsody in Blue" at the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway through Labor Day, a spokesperson said.
The play with music opened April 30. Previews began April 17. The show is directed by Joel Zwick. Felder is both 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 discusses 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.
Gershwin opened back on June 2, 2000, 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 the Cuillo Center in West Palm Beach. It then ran at the Coral Gables City Center.
The Broadway premiere of the long-aborning musical, By Jeeves, by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Ayckbourn, is thought to be the next tenant at the intimate Helen Hayes Theatre.