Thursday, June 13, 2013

Blue Monday: (Your thumbs are too short to box with George)

'Blue Monday' is not just the title of a New Order song.

It was also a failed musical written and composed by George and Ira Gershwin.
That's something I learned, because I was listening.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre is hosting the last performance of musical biography chameleon Hershey Felder and his Gershwin Alone solo show, a biographical song and story performance woven as neatly as the famous music duos music and lyrics.

Hershey Felder brings his hit show to Berkeley Rep 
His mingling of biographical events recreate the composer's life while sharing many of his best work, and a few unusual gems.

 The evening's sing-along was a hoot, with one gentleman getting up onstage as Ethel Merman.

But what was most fascinating, was my view.

(I have to thank the press staff at Berkeley Rep yet again!)

Amazingly, through his finale of a muscular solo performance of 'Rhapsody in Blue,' I had a direct view of Felder's hands at the keyboard, and was starting to remember the chords from the work.

You see, along with the books, and sporty stuff, I also played the piano, for years. And one of my greatest dreams was to be able to player the piano solo version of "Rhapsody in Blue."

My parents had a record player that had a 78rpm setting. The Paul Whiteman Orchestra's version, scratchy enough to sound underwater, was my first listen. Then, the Oscar Levant performance, with the iconic cartoon cover.

I played it and played it, until we got headphones, and then I asked for piano lessons, years later, and got them, and it remained a favorite until I taped a better version off the radio.

I never learned to play it well at all, but I did learn the lento prelude, which even that requires a wider finger breadth than my stubby littel paws could manage.

One of the things Felder's show doesn't mention was how big Gershwin's hands were. Ninth's and tenths were common. And I could just manage a good eighth.

So, as my friend Belo said, the rarity of being in the same room with anyone playing this work was amazing enough." More amazing than my view of the keyboard.

As each note came back, I longed to mime the chords with my own fingers, on my lap. But our being at the stage's edge, lit by stagelight, I knew the obligation to remain still. If I moved about, I would distract lots of other people without even knowing it.

That's a thing you do in the theatre, until they ask you to clap or sing along. You sit and watch and/or listen. There's a line, and many people in live theatre always seem to end up sitting right behind me, with absolutely no clue how to behave in a theatrical setting.

And it still astounds me.

So it really galls me when people, sitting behind me, turn out to be not only talkers, I mean, blurting song titles as if they were on a game show. The worst was the woman directly behind me, whose entire enormous purse, which she constantly clutched and unclutched to extract candy wrapped in cellophane wrapped in a ziploc bag.

She PLANNED this auditory attack.

Which makes me wonder, how people can be so immune to the wonder of people performing RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM with supernatural talents, and all they can do is repeatedly fart out comments and relentlessly refuse to hold still, to lose themselves in the performance, which is the point.

I bet she'd do the same through this little number, Neil Patrick Harris and the opening number at the Tonys.

 Here's the link.

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