The fabulously talented Hershey Felder returns to the stage at the Wallis Annenberg in A Paris Love Story: featuring the music of Claude Debussy. Felder has performed his musical impressionist (sui generis) genre of one man shows many times (over 5,000!), breaking many records and establishing a faithful following the world over. There is a distinct reason this brilliant artist has chosen icons such as Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bernstein, Gershwin, and now Debussy, as his own life, much like theirs, was tough and tragic. As he relays in this show, Felder lost his mother at the tender age of 38, and this trauma has affected him ever since. Claude Debussy’s daughter died at age 14, right after his death in 1918. Felder continues to tell of Debussy’s serious womanizing and that he always seemed to live in poverty, but in complete contrast, his rich music tells a different story. He lived and flourished in Paris and loved everything about this dazzling city of lights. The wonderful set at the Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theatre is composed of one of the many fabled bridges that cross the Seine, which is intersected by a grand piano right at the spot where Claude spent many an hour gazing at the moonlight and the Arch de Triumphe, Place de la Concorde, Champs Elysee, and the panoply of people that inhabited these environs. This set, lighting and sound design (Hershey Felder, Christopher Ash; Erik Carstensen) is truly artful, reminding me of the elaborate Pageant of the Masters in Laguna. Felder paints a picture of Debussy as a terrible person within, yet his humanity shines through as an artist, like a “hurricane in the desert.” His inspiration was nature and the calming way it made him feel. He invested this feeling into iconic compositions like Clair de Lune, La Mer, and Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune. Felder plays each piece with such intensity and passion that the audience is compelled to applaud throughout, revealing their true benevolence and admiration, with an obvious standing ovation at show’s end. The traditional q&a following the show was also astonishing and edifying. Felder extolled the virtues of director Trevor Hay, who has worked with the maestro many times before. He also thanked consulting producer Joel Zwick, who has an extensive, impressive body of work as well. This show is typical of the caliber of productions at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The use of video on a back screen brilliantly accompanies the enthralling and rapturous music, making this production a must see. This show is for aficionado and novice alike, far and wide, anyone who truly appreciates fine art, music, and the work of one of the most distinguished composers of all time.
Through June 16
Weekdays 7:30pm; Saturdays 2 and 7:30 pm; Sundays 2 and 7 pm
Wallis Annenberg 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.