“Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin,” is a delightful one-man show in which Felder portrays the legendary composer telling his life story from a piano in his living room.
While Felder, who has done similar shows as Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin, delivers an impressive musical turn, he earned the highest possible praise for his portrayal of Berlin from a special audience member at this performance. The composer’s granddaughter and great-grandson were introduced after the show and, when invited by Felder, answered questions from other audience members. When finished, his granddaughter offered her unsolicited opinion that Felder’s “impersonation of (her) grandfather was perfect.”
Berlin, long considered one of the greatest American songwriters in history, wrote more than 1,500 songs over the course of six-plus decades. Felder incorporatesa broad range of musical highlights into atwo hour show, whichspansthe composer’s entire 101 year lifetime.
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Felder’s Berlin regaled the crowd with stories and anecdotes surrounding familiar songs like “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” He also invited the audience to sing along to “White Christmas,” “Always” and “God Bless America.”
While the historic and patriotic references are fascinating, the jokes feel stale and dated. Berlin died in 1989 and was a recluse for more than a decade before that. Tales of working with Ethel Merman and struggling with Elvis Presley’s interpretation of “White Christmas” make the piece feel old rather than timeless.
“Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin” has an old-fashioned sensibility about it that doesn’t need to play old to be a lovely homage to one of the masters of the great American Songbook.
If you go
“Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin”
Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St., Boston
$35 - $85