Irving Berlin's songs still make all other songwriters take their Ipads and rap themselves on their high-tech foreheads, saying: Why can't I write:
"Not for just one hour,
Not for just one day,
Not for just one year,
The answer is you can't, because Irving Berlin did it first, and, anyway, it's 2016, not 1919, and we want car crashes. Who wants to hear that soppy stuff anymore?
Everybody, that's who, especially every person in the Opening Night audience lucky enough to hear the phenomenal Hershey Felder play and sing Irving Berlin's songs. He also takes us on a theatrical odyssey through the long life of the Byelorussian immigrant (1888-1989 ) who became the most acclaimed American songwriter of the Twentieth Century.
Hershey Felder makes a habit of getting inside great composers, with humor and pianistic genius -- previous shows have showcased the likes of Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. But the arc of Irving Berlin's life encompasses more than music. It is the history of an entire century, featuring songs written during two World Wars and The Great Depression. And we get to hear the stories behind such iconic Berlin classics as "White Christmas," "Dancing Cheek to Cheek" and "There's No Business like Show Business." What else? How about "Easter Parade?" Not satisfied, for God's sake: how about "God Bless America?"
The show comes with a thick spatula of shmaltz, for sure. But so did Berlin. For an hour and a half Hershey Felder becomes Irving Berlin. The overheads and old recordings help, but we never really take our eyes away from the performer.
Felder has become an international treasure, one you should never miss the opportunity to see. We truly love this show, and we would happily give it our top rating of Five Stars if there were only a few car crashes.
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division happily and hummingly awards "Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin" Four Stars with a Bangle of Praise. Felder earns all of them, as performer and book writer, and the Bangle is for the chills we get when the audience is singing along. No one has the right to remain silent. We can't anyway. Don't miss this show.
"Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin"
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Through February 14