On Theater: Felder playing encores in February

Master pianist Hershey Felder has displayed his keyboard artistry in five separate programs over the past year at the Laguna Playhouse.

And he's not finished.

Felder first caught playhouse patrons' attention in spring with "George Gershwin Alone," a program featuring one of the greatest American composers. He returned shortly afterward to demonstrate his classical skills as "Monsieur Chopin."

"Beethoven as I Knew Him" was the third installment in Felder's impressive repertoire, followed by "The Great American Songbook," a one-on-100 engagement with the audience. And last month he tackled another masterful composer/pianist in "Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein."

This month, Felder will be playing encores. He'll be back for a Valentine's Day program with "The Great American Songbook," which repeats Feb. 24 and Feb. 26. Then "Monsieur Chopin" returns for a special engagement Feb. 17 to 27.

"Songbook" spotlights America's greatest composers of the last century. These include Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.

This program is unique in that Felder essentially plays himself, rather than donning the mantle of the great pianists of the past. And he'll interact to a great degree with the audience, even coaxing a few guest solos from playhouse patrons.

As Chopin, the "poet of the piano," Felder conducts a piano lesson that actually took place after the 1848 French Revolution. As the lesson transpires, Felder/Chopin discusses the art of the piano and composition while revealing secrets about himself.

Three performances of "Songbook" are scheduled. The 8 p.m. Feb. 14 show includes a pre-show glass of champagne, while the Feb. 24 and 26 segments are 2 p.m. matinees.

The "Chopin" presentation is scheduled for 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Feb. 17 and Feb. 19; 8 p.m. Feb. 18, Feb. 24 and Feb. 26; and at 2 p.m. Feb. 20 and Feb. 27.

Tickets for both shows range from $40 to $70 and can be reserved by calling (949) 497-2787, ext. 229, and online at http://www.LagunaPlayhouse.com.


Youth theater fundraiser

More music — this time of a comical mystery variety — will emanate from the playhouse March 5 when the Youth Theater stages its fourth annual murder mystery fundraiser, "Killing Me, Softly." It's billed as an evening of dinner, music and mayhem.

It's the final night of the Hoedown Showdown with two karaoke contestants competing for the chance to become a country-western singing star. But someone else is waiting in the wings to strike a deadly chord.

Dinner is available before the show at either Nirvana Grille or the Lumberyard Restaurant, both just a short walk from the playhouse. Tickets for the dinner and show are $125, while the play only and a dessert package is $65.

Proceeds benefit the playhouse's Youth Theater children's programs for educational enrichment and advancement of the arts.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.

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