Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Rapturous Production of Monsieur Chopin
Hershey Felder, who presented Leonard Bernstein earlier this year and George Gershwin last year at Berkeley Repertory, executes this new role with charity. His musical ability is perfect and you see this amazing character come to life before your eyes. His acting ranges from distant to overly sentimental as he charms the audience. He also brings wit to the character and talks about Chopin's love for his native Poland and his hatred of the Russian occupiers. As Chopin, the artist reveals how Polish themes and rhythms give shape to the mazurka and polonaise and how the tragedy of his younger sister's sudden death gave rise to the familiar "Marche Funèbre." He brilliantly plays some of Chopin's greatest works, including the "Prelude in C Minor," "Mazurka in A Flat Major," "Polonaise in A Major" and the elegant "Nocturnes."
One of the great highlights is his interpretation of "Grande Valse Brillante." He exposes the various themes revealed with the piece: the Baron, host, with his baritone laugh; the wife and others giggling; chattering women; and the arrival of carriages to the ball. He brings this all together when playing the waltz with elegance and boldness.
The artist brings this time period piano lesson to an end, and artist Hershey Felder takes questions from the audience about the life of the great composer.
The set by Yael Pardess is gorgeous. It is as if you are in a Paris salon of the 19th century. There is scrim material surrounding the back of the stage where Richard Norwood's lighting from blue to red suggests the mood of the composer when he relates certain events of his life. Also remarkable are the projections dimly lit on the scrim by John Boesche and Andrew Wilder.
On the evening attended, the Polish consul general of Los Angeles gave Hershey Felder a medal for promoting Poland and the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin.
Monsieur Chopin runs through August 10th, 2014, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets call 510-647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org. Coming up next is the world premiere of An audience with Meow Meow, opening September 5 and running through October 19.