Wednesday, August 23, 2017

CT Theater Review: Our Great Tchaikovsky -- Hartford Stage

Hershey Felder. Photo courtesy of Hershey Felder Presents.

Our Great Tchaikovsky
Written and Performed by Hershey Felder
Directed by Trevor Hay

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
It's all about Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the Russian composer who brought us "Swan Lake," "The 1812 Overture" and "The Nutcracker Ballet" among many works. He is portrayed by Hershey Felder, who writes the book, plays all of the music (some containing many musical parts) on a grand Steinway that sits stage left among some other props and furniture to transport us back in time to the mid 19th century (Felder also designs the set, but leaves Direction to Trevor Hay). Biographical information is harmonized with music by Tchaikovsky and some of the other great composers who influenced him. Felder steps into characters of Tchaikovsky's mentor and other to round out the storytelling, which also is enhanced by enchanting backdrops that come to life with Lighting and Projection design by Christopher Ash.

What Are the Highlights?
A wonderful evening at the theater, experiencing some wonderful classics and dramatic counterpart. Those projections are breath taking. Felder has carved a niche for himself as the premiere teller of music biography. His previous works include George Gershwin Alone, Monsieur Chopin and The Pianist of Willesden Lane, which he adapted and directed. Our Great Tchaikovsky proved to be just what I needed after a very stressful day.

What Are the Lowlights?
The biographical information includes details about the composer's closeted gay lifestyle -- only he really seems to be more of a pedophile -- with some of his most recognizable tunes apparently written for his "loves." Some disturbing images will come to mind when I hear those tunes now, unfortunately.

The night I attended a post-show discussion was forced on the audience along with an encore. Though the time was entertaining, people who might not wish to extend the run time to two hours and 15 minutes might prefer to be given an opportunity to exit before the post-show discussion begins, as is the usual format.

More Information:
Our Great Tchaikovsky runs through Aug. 27 at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford. Abigail Haywood designs the costumes

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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