A spring 2001 Broadway engagement is still very much part of the plan for the producers of George Gershwin Alone, Hershey Felder's hit one- man show about the legendary composer. Gershwin Alone — which had been extended several times in Los Angeles — finished (on Dec. 17) a six-month run at the Tiffany Theatre. It will now travel to Florida, where it will make a four-week stand, Jan. 3-28, 2001, at the Cuillo Center in West Palm Beach, and then play Feb. 2-4 at the Coral Gables City Center.
Felder told Playbill On-Line in September that the show will then proceed to New York, possibly aiming for the Helen Hayes Theatre, and that is still the plan, according to a representative for the show. "I've got my eye on the Helen Hayes as do the producers," said Felder, "but it all depends on what happens with Dirty Blonde." The latter Claudia Shear play is currently ensconced in the jewel-box Hayes. Kathy Nijimy will take over the lead role in that production in the new year.
Martin Markinson, the owner of the Hayes, is co-producer of George Gershwin Alone, along with Richard Willis. Markinson is reportedly eager to see Gershwin in the Hayes. Asked if the show's producers might consider an Off-Broadway house should the Hayes be unavailable, the spokesperson reiterated that Broadway in the spring was the goal. Aside from the Booth, which may say goodbye to The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe in February, every Broadway house is booked through Tony Awards time.
Gershwin opened back on June 2, and has since sold a half-million dollars in tickets, becoming that rare thing: a Los Angeles commercial theatre hit. The show is directed by Joel Zwick. Felder is the playwright and performer. After doing five years of research on Gershwin, he 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. In the 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 Francis. 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."
—By Robert Simonson