Hershey Felder shares love of Paris, Debussy

“Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story” actually is several love stories.

This one-man world premiere presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley tells of Felder’s love for the City of Light as well as his love for the music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918).

It’s not the first time this creator/performer has focused on a great composer. Some of his past shows, most of them seen at TheatreWorks, have featured the music of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin.

This time he takes a more personal approach, weaving some of his own family history into Debussy’s.

Felder’s mother, whom he cherished, loved Debussy’s music and always wanted to see Paris, but she couldn’t make it. Instead Felder first went there as a 19-year-old and took in the sights that Debussy loved so much.

Costumed as Debussy (design by Stacey Nezda), he mostly tells the story in Debussy’s voice, referring to Felder as “the boy” and relating Debussy’s own history. It starts with his early life, continues with his musical education and delves into his romantic liaisons.

This narrative is interspersed with frequent sessions at the grand piano, which sits center stage between two arching bridges on the handsome set designed by Felder.

There piano virtuoso Felder plays some of Debussy’s best-known works, such as “La Mer,” “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” and the dreamy finale, “Clair de lune,” Felder’s mother’s favorite. Some orchestral excerpts also are heard (sound design by Erik Carstensen).

He sees parallels between the final years of Debussy, who never quite recovered from an experimental colostomy, and his own mother, who underwent a double mastectomy.

He has Debussy telling how he defied musical conventions of the time, earning mostly pans from critics along with some praise.

Besides music, the greatest love of his life was his daughter, nicknamed Chouchou.

As the young Felder explores the streets and sights of Paris, projections by lighting designer Christopher Ash illustrate the narrative.

Directed by Trevor Hay, this show is both a visual and aural delight, treating the audience to an absorbing concert and story by the multi-talented Felder.

Running about an hour and a half with no intermission, “Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story” will continue through May 5 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

For tickets and information, call (650) 463-1960 or visit www.theatreworks.org.

 

 

About the Author

Judy RichterJudy reviews San Francisco Bay Area theater and writes feature articles about activities of the Stanford women's basketball team and Fast Break Club. A longtime Bay Area journalist, she is retired from the San Francisco Chronicle, where she was a writer and copy editor.View all posts by Judy Richter →