Hershey Felder as MONSIEUR CHOPIN now playing at the San Diego Repertory theatre through October 6th is an intimate and emotional piece, looking at the life, mind, and music of this Polish piano prodigy.
As the audience everyone becomes a piano student; there to have a piano lesson from Felder’s melancholy maestro, Fryderyk Chopin. This is fitting, since Chopin largely made his living giving piano lessons and not from performing many concerts alike other composers of his era. In this lesson the teacher Chopin will do the playing, but he expects audience participation and questions to help guide the lesson along.
This leads to a story of his life and his music told chronologically, but the audience questions allow for unexpected detours and musings that not only add to the feeling of a direct discussion with the master, but also display Felder’s impressive depth of knowledge on his subject.
The lesson guides you though how to perform and express emotion through music, to how to dress for a performance, and why you should always arrive late to an Embassy performance. Yet, it is the deeper dives into whom and what Chopin is bringing to life as he composes and paints pictures in the music that proves truly intriguing.
As he explains and plays, you hear the tinkling notes turn into the guests arriving to a party, the lower notes of the blustering and boastful men trying to impress each other, and the whispered flirtation happening between a pair of secret lovers.
While Felder’s acting performance as Chopin is persuasive, it is his assured performances of Chopin’s pieces that really demonstrate the emotion, the drama, and are enchanting.
At one point Felder’s Chopin says of the music “It must come from your soul, it must be who you are.” This feels like an apt description of Felder himself who not only through this piece and his other pieces on composers, is able to bring both the music and the men behind it to life in a way that connects with modern audiences.
At almost two hours long without an intermission, this play could benefit from slightly less audience participation, which tends to be the slowest parts of the show.
While there is guarantee that when you leave Hershey Felder as MONSIEUR CHOPIN that you will be able to play the piano any better than when you walked in, but it is guaranteed that you will walk away having experienced Chopin and his music in a way that is truly impressive.
Hershey Felder as MONSIEUR CHOPIN is playing at the San Diego repertory Theatre through October 6th. For ticket and show time information please go to www.sdrep.org