If you enjoy both classical music and classical theatre, and want to chance the PCH some evening, there is an interesting production at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, in Beverly Hills for the next few weeks. entitled “Beethoven.”
As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the production includes selections from some of his most well known compositions, woven into a dramatization of several troubled periods of his life.
Beethoven’s life indeed is known to have been, in a word, miserable. Unloved and unappreciated as a child, he struggled through a lifetime of hostile relationship, with his family and friends, but all the time composing. He was further beset in old age by infirmities and deafness.
You can almost hear the production being heralded by Beethoven’s opening four note motif of his Fifth Symphony. “Da,da,da, dahh.”
A little schmaltzy? Perhaps. But then the life of Beethoven indeed was a little schmaltzy, as hinted at in the production’s advance description:
“An extraordinary one man musical play that brings the composers to life as it dramatizes the true story of a Viennese doctor who spent his boyhood by the maestro’s side as the son of Beethoven best friend.”
It is truly a one man musical, with the Canadian born Hershey Felder doing it all, as the writer, actor, and pianist, under the direction of an experienced Joel Zwick. Felder is even given credit for the set designs.
In particular, Felder’s piano playing was described in the world premier of the musical in a Silicon Valley theatre last year, as “gifted.” Said the critic, “we see him taking a few simple notes and making them into unique pieces, even as a child.” adding “we feel like we are there at the dawn of Beethoven’s genius.” It was a rave review, though I’m not sure it was of Beethoven or Felder.
Actually, I’ve always been a little wary of bios, on film and on stage, with the actors mimicking the words and gestures of their subject, the effect being that of a caricature rather than a true character study.
Hoping this will be the exception. The production runs through August 19th.