Hershey Felder is back in Mountain View for another astounding performance. Only this time, he not only brings to the stage the story of a great composer, but a personal story as well. Currently making its world premier here in the Bay Area, Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story, may be the most touching and unusual show you see this year.
In each of the four shows Felder has brought to TheatreWorks in the past, he has embodied a classical composer and told their life story from a first-person perspective. This time however, just as Felder tells the story of Claude Debussy, Debussy is telling the story of Hershey Felder.
Now that may be slightly confusing, so let me explain. Hershey Felder opens the show as himself, explaining his mother’s love for both Paris and the music of Claude Debussy, in particular his most famous piece, “Clair de Lune.” Felder then takes on the character of the composer to tell two stories: the first is the story of Debussy’s unusual life and the second is of Hershey Felder’s first trip to Paris where he felt guided by the spirit of the famous composer. Felder expertly guides the audience through this dual narrative without making the show seem disjointed.
But of coarse, the highlight of the show is Felder’s marvelous performances on piano. The music, as always, is the heart of the show. It informs the audience about the emotional states of the characters without Felder having to say a word. The clearest example of this is at the end of the show, when Felder plays “Clair de Lune” on a completely dark stage lit only by a blue-tinted spotlight. He performs Debussy’s most haunting piece so evocatively and sets it up narratively so spectacularly that it feels utterly magical—like a fantasy world that you are stepping into for the first time.
There are a few small hiccups in the show at the moment, usually where Felder doesn’t pause for the audience to applaud him. However, I expect that this issue will resolve itself once the show is performed more in front of an audience.
Clever, heartfelt and moving, Hershey Felder’s newest show tells both his own story, and that of French composer, Claude Debussy. A Paris Love Story is deeply emotional and hauntingly beautiful. It is not a show to miss.
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley presents the world premier of Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story now through May 5, 2019 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets range $40 to $120. The show is performed in one act with no intermission.
Photos courtesy of Christoper Ash