Curtain Up: Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin comes to Laguna Playhouse

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hershey 1He’s created one-man shows about George Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven, Bernstein, and Liszt.

Now, musician, actor and playwright Hershey Felder returns to Laguna Playhouse with his latest solo show, “Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin,” written by and starring Felder, and directed by Trevor Hay. The show starts previews Jan. 6 and opens Jan. 10

Called “the greatest songwriter that has ever lived” by George Gershwin, Irving Berlin wrote an estimated 1,500 songs over his 60 year career, as well as the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 movies.

Among his many hits: “Easter Parade,” “White Christmas,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and of course, “God Bless America.”

Berlin’s songs have been recorded by such stars as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, Rosemary Clooney, Cher, Diana Ross, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald.

His popularity came from an uncanny ability to write clever yet simple songs about topics that touched the hearts and minds of Americans.

Berlin lived to be 101 (he died in 1989). During his lifetime, he married twice—his first wife died after six months of marriage, while his second marriage lasted 63 years. He had four children, although one died in infancy.

“It really is a remarkable story,” said Felder by phone from Los Angeles, where he was performing his Irving Berlin show at the Geffen Playhouse  before moving it south to Laguna Beach. “His music and lyrics are full of stories, they’re so remarkable in and of themselves. He chronicled the entire century, basically. He was born in 1888, died in 1989. He came to America as an immigrant, and created the voice of a country. Composer Jerome Kern said ‘Irving Berlin has no place in American music—he is American music.’ How does something like that happen? That’s the story of the play.”

Felder noted that his solo performances, where he embodies the persona of a popular composer, is a format that has worked well for him, and “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

“People really enjoy this play,” said Felder of the Geffen audiences. “They’ve responded beyond my wildest dreams. It’s fun to be a part of it.”

For tickets, visit lagunaplayhouse.com or call (949) 497-ARTS (2787).

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