Author: Alan Bresloff
Category: Theatre Reviews
When it comes to music appreciation/history, there is no better professor than Hershey Felder. who once again brings one of his showcases to Chicago. Over the years we have seen him do Berlin, Gershwin (George), Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Chopin as well as stories such as “The Pianist of Willesden” ( where he does not appear) and Liszt. In all of his solo performances, not only does he take us into the lives of these artists, but when it is his solo, he performs as the artist. Over the years, we have watched his work at The Royal George Theatre on Halsted and while it is a wonderful venue, in reality, the new home for his current piece, Steppenwolf Theatre’s Upstairs stage, is even better. A more intimate space that can be configured as needed and allows for more people to view Felder’s hands ( the artists at work!).Felder is more than a great pianist! He is a historian that brings history to life on stage, so while we are able to hear the works that his subjects have created, we learn a great deal about their lives. While most of the American public is familiar with the works of Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Russia’s “greatest composer”, very few know the details of his life and his death.
Tchaikovsky, is a story that takes us into the depths of culture and politics of another time and place. The 100 minute piece, on an amazing set ( designed by the creative Felder) features his signature grand piano, center stage, under a spot. By the way, if you can sit in the center section, seats near the aisle or on the left side, allowing you to witness his hands, great. When Felder enters the stage, he begins his tale by sharing a letter, or invitation for him to bring his show to Russia. Later, he refers back to this invitation in a rather comical way. By the way, it is real!
During the 100 minutes ( no intermission), Felder recreates the life of Tchaikovsky who during a troubled time in his country ( politically) and life, was able to create some of the finest music with memories that will last forever. “Swan Lake”, “The 1812 Overture”, “The Nutcracker” and of course his “6th Symphony” are all memorable and famous. Many of the audience members, familiar with the works, were unaware of how they were created and in some cases, why. We learn a great deal through Felder’s history lesson and under the brilliant direction of Trevor Hay, who truly uses the lessons of Felder to their true advantage, and the powerful use of projections ( Christopher Ash, who also did the wonderful lighting effects) one finds their eyes glued to the stage.
The final pieces of the technical aspects of the show are provided by Abigail Caywood ( costumes), Erik Barry ( who worked with Ash) and Meghan Maiya ( research). From start to finish, this is a tight show that has no open space or dull spots. Even after the conclusion of the story, when Felder comes out to take his bows and answers questions, every little part is sheer perfection. “Our Great Tchaikovsky” will continue at Steppenwolf Theatre ( upstairs) located at 1650 N. Halsted Street thru May 13th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
If you are a music-lover, classical, or not- this is a show that you will love! If you are a history buff, make this a “must see” on your “bucket list”
If you have enjoyed the previous Hershey Felder productions, you will NOT want to miss this one! 100 minutes of great entertainment!
Parking is available at the Steppenwolf Garage and Valet is available. Street parking is metered and on residential, zoned.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Our Great Tchaikovsky”