Hershey Felder's one-man show, George Gershwin Alone, about the legendary composer, returns to American Repertory Theatre's Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge, after playing the Massachusetts venue earlier this summer. The special engagement is scheduled for a Sept. 27-Oct. 12 run.
The play with music directed by Joel Zwick features the playwright-performer Felder as Gershwin sitting at a piano playing several songs, including parts of "Rhapsody in Blue," "An American in Paris" and "Porgy and Bess." Between numbers, he speaks about his childhood, parents and 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 at which the Gershwin heirs were present and gave the actor the go-ahead to perform. Felder is the first person since George Gershwin's death in 1937 to be allowed to play the composer in a major stage production.
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 solo-show made it to Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre April 30, 2001 for a run through July 22 the same year.
Felder has also performed with James Barbour at A.R.T. in their Back From Broadway...A Musical Experience featuring selections from classic musicals like Carousel, Fiddler on the Roof, Man of La Mancha and Camelot. Gershwin Alone helmer Zwick also directed Back to Broadway, which enjoyed successful runs in Los Angeles and Florida in December and January. For tickets to Gershwin Alone at A.R.T.'s Loeb, 64 Brattle Street, in Cambridge, MA, call (617) 547-8300 or visit their website at www.amrep.org.