Can people display numerous professions, some of which merge into one outstanding career, producing the most wonderful theatrical productions?
Not many. But there is one person who is currently in Chicago, pianist, actor, playwright, composer, producer and director Hershey Felder. He is performing his fabulous play,‘Our Great Tchaikovsky’ upstairs in the Steppenwolf Theatre.
After creating highly regarded stage productions about Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven, Bernstein, Berlin and others, Felder is now garnering some of his best reviews for ‘Our Great Tchaikovsky.’
Beautifully directed by Trevor Hay, the play is a one-man performance in which Felder shares Tchaikovsky’s life through his own acting, writing, and musical talents.
The audience seems mesmerized as Felder reveals so much about Tchaikovsky’s background, launching the statement of how “Tchaikovsky loved everyone and everyone loved him.”
Beginning when he was a small child, Tchaikovsky was a pianist whose parents told him that “Music is for ladies, not for boys!”
He still continued his musical studies and, from the age of ten, attended the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in St. Petersburg, Russia, a prestigious school for boys.
When he was fourteen, his mother became ill and died. At nineteen, Tchaikovsky became very close to a male friend, and soon stated that “Nature is perfect in imperfection.” His statement carried over to his intentionally adding a wrong note to one of his many wonderful compositions.
As his life continues to be described by Felder, Tchaikovsky first marries a woman whom he doesn’t like and who doesn’t even know one note of his works. Within a few months, their marriage dissolves.
Although there were statements that there was “no existing evidence that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual,” discussion of his sexual preference was broader than that of any other Russian composer in the 19th century.
Through Felder, the audience learns that Tchaikovsky sought the company of other men in his circle for extended periods, but the degree to which he felt comfortable with his sexual nature has remained open to debate.
We hear about Tchaikovsky’s final years when he conducts one of his compositions at Carnegie Hall in 1891, returns to Russia, and kisses the ground.
Nine days after conducting a symphonic premiere in St. Petersburg at age 53, Tchaikovsky dies. Death from a disease such as cholera? Murder by someone, or suicide? The cause is still unknown.
‘Our Great Tchaikovsky’ is more than great. With Felder’s fabulous acting, musical, and historical performance, he transports audiences back several centuries while he recreates the life of Russia’s most famous composer.
DETAILS: ‘Our Great Tchaikovsky’ is at Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theatre at 1650 N. Halsted Street, Chicago, through May 13, 2018. Running time: 100 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and other information, call (312) 335-1650 or visit Steppenwolf.
Francine Pappadis Friedman
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