Saturday, September 10, 2016

Maestro ** C-

Perhaps I am becoming jaded or maybe I just have been making bad choices lately. In any case, for the third time this week, I found myself surrounded by an audience having a far better time than I was. Onstage at 59E59 Theatre A was Hershey Felder performing as Leonard Bernstein. Apparently Felder has made a career out of using his pianistic and acting skills to create one-man theater pieces about such composers as Beethoven, Grieg and Gershwin. Bernstein does not fit neatly into this  group as he was more renowned as conductor than composer, a never-ending sore spot for him. Felder’s approach to his life is mainly chronological and gamely attempts to cover many aspects: conductor, educator, social activist, bisexual and flawed husband. The early scenes with his father, speaking with a heavy Yiddish accent, were embarrassingly stereotypical. Were it not for the lavish production featuring an impressive set by Fran├žois-Pierre Couture and projections by Christopher Ash, I might have thought I was attending an enrichment program at a home for elderly Jews. The musical clips were frustratingly brief with more music by other composers and less by Bernstein than I would have expected. I was certainly surprised that the longest and most prominent excerpt was from Wagner’s Liebestod. There was a brief moment near the end, in which Bernstein lashes out at the world, that gave me a sense of how much more powerful the piece could have been. Joel Zwick (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) directed. Running time: one hour 45 minutes; no intermission.

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