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  Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein at Royal George Theatre

Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein

Royal George Theatre
1641 N. Halsted Chicago

Award-winning actor and musician Hershey Felder (George Gershwin Alone, Monsieur Chopin, Beethoven As I Knew Him) returns to Chicago with Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein. Combining first-person narrative with the music of composer Bernstein and the artists who inspired him, Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein is the story of the legendary American composer and longtime music director of the New York Philharmonic. With a story spanning the entire 20th Century, Leonard Bernstein, America's greatest musician, broke through every artistic ceiling possible to become the world's musical ambassador. Conductor, composer, pianist, author, teacher, librettist, television star...for Leonard Bernstein, boundaries simply did not exist.

Thru - Dec 30, 2011

Price: $55

Show Type: Performance Art

Running Time: 1hr, 45mins; no intermission

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  Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"... A regular visitor to Chicago with a loyal audience he has carefully cultivated over several years, the pianist-showman Hershey Felder has performed solo shows at the Royal George Theatre about George Gershwin, Frederic Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven. In general, the formula has been similar: Felder assumes the character of the composer—donning, where necessary, the appropriate wig—and intersperses biographical nuggets with his own bravura performances of their greatest hits at the grand piano. Although not for all tastes, the shows have always been a genuinely distinctive blend of showmanship and music-education, reflecting Felder's self-appointed role as a kind of populist ambassador for classical music and a man who has figured out how to attract and entertain audiences by putting, you might say, the classics in context."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...Musically, well, that's the best part. He's extraordinary—completely up to the intellectual and virtuosic rigors of pieces ranging from West Side Story's "Maria" to the Jeremiah symphony. Biographically, Felder takes us from Bernstein's absurd relationship with his father, through multiple, fascinating mentors, to his painful and pain-causing adventures in homosexuality. I would've liked to have seen more context, especially with regard to Bernstein's political activism, but I’m not complaining."
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Tony Adler

Talkin Broadway - Highly Recommended

"...Though Felder has increased the attention given to Bernstein's musicals over what was included in the first draft he previewed for audiences at the Ravinia Festival last year, he could still tell us more about how Bernstein felt about those projects: why he pursued them and why he seemed to diminish their importance. Candide, after all, is no small effort—nor is West Side Story, and On the Town was a pioneer in integrating dance into musical theater storytelling while contributing its "Three Dances" to the repertoire of symphonic pops concerts. Time constraints might have prohibited it, as Maestro covers a lot of ground in its hour and 45 minutes."
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John Olson

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...More than half of the play covers the composer’s discovery and mastery of his immense gifts, taking us to the night he substitute-conducted the New York Philharmonic and “blew the roof off” Carnegie Hall. But Maestro, as musically thrilling as its predecessors in Felder’s line of explorations of charismatic musical figures like Gershwin, Beethoven and Chopin, doesn’t really reach a roof-blowing emotional intensity, eliding a more profound exploration of the appetites and imperfections that propelled Bernstein’s brilliance."
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Megan Powell

Chicago Theatre Addict - Somewhat Recommended

"...Some of the more interesting moments occur when Felder would let us into the hidden secrets to Bernstein’s compositions — the derivation of his tunes from Jewish, folk and classical sources — by demonstrating on the gorgeous grand piano, which appropriately dominates the sparse stage (designed by Andrew Wilder)."
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Bob Bullen

Chicago On the Aisle - Recommended

"...Indeed, the more compelling part of “Maestro” is what might be called the making of Leonard Bernstein, his emergence into the world’s consciousness. (Felder’s tale of Bernstein’s epochal last-minute substitution debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1943 is a gem.) The middle stages and end of his life get painted in with a rather broad brush: his seminal music directorship of the New York Philharmonic (1958-69), his manifold and hugely important recordings, his political gambits, his volatile marriage to Felicia Montealegre. In this depiction, Bernstein’s homosexuality seems almost like a fling from which he sobered up."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...With Maestro and his other “Composer Sonatas,” Hershey Felder takes up the mantle of both entertainer and teacher. He instructs audiences about music and the personalities who create it. Hershey Felder combines theatricality and honesty with his passion for music and storytelling that results in a riveting theatrical event. I’ve not seen a person who can do what Felder does – act, play music, sing, and present an compelling biodrama that reaches the essence of what it is to be an artist. Felder is a special talent whose fervor for music allows him to communicate the passion of an artist that becomes insatiable to audiences. Felder commands an audience like no other. Maestro is a fabulous theatrical experience that needs to be seen to fully appreciate. Take anyone you know who loves music and who desires to create music to see Maestro, they’ll appreciate it for life."
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Tom Williams

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Recommended

"...There is no doubt Hershey Felder is talented. Fans of his other historical reenactments will exclaim ‘he’s done it again!‘ It’s definitely a worthy shtick to see. But if you are like me and a certain masculine octave induces tranquility, caffeine up so you don’t miss any of MAESTRO's story!"
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Katy Walsh

Chicago Stage Standard - Highly Recommended

"...Was—is—the late Leonard Bernstein more famous as a conductor or a composer, especially when the former’s fame is transient and the latter’s is as eternal as it gets? That question haunts the 90 minutes of Hershey Felder’s superb “Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein,” a recreation/impersonation/visitation that, combining life and art, grows greater than its huge ingredients. Staged by Joel Zwick with persuasive projections that fill in a lot of blanks, this is a three-dimensional portrait that demands and rewards our closest inspection."

Lawrence Bommer

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"... Directed by Joel Zwick, in this comforatbale and intimate theater, we watch Mr. Felder, once again, become the artist whose story becomes his own. Anyone who has met this performer, writer, musician knows that detail is important to him and every item that we see on the stage has purpose, for him, for the story and for the visual experience that we get during this 105 minutes of pure magic. The Bernstein family and their “office” have allowed many of their persoanl photos and videos to be used in this very slick production, which of course brings the historical part of the piece to a very real feeling. Felder is not just a story teller, he is a teacher of musical history just as Bernstein was a teacher of classical music."
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theater Beat - Highly Recommended

"... Finding the right chord, Maestro notes, is like falling in love, thus linking Bernstein’s lifelong struggle in search for both personal and professional fulfillment. Despite Bernstein’s unarguable accomplishments, that search was ultimately futile in Maestro’s telling. As Felder portrays Bernstein’s life, it is also fascinating and so aurally wondrous that when the end comes, you just want him to keep on playing."

Catey Sullivan

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