Hershey Felder has established himself over a long career as a household name in theater and American music. His most acclaimed performances are a series of dramatizations of the lives of famous composers, cleverly utilizing the compositions of the subjects. He has showcased his remarkable repertoire of talents—writing, acting, composing and directing, to name a few—in order to bring to the stage the compelling stories of Beethoven, Chopin, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin among others.
The beloved performer was born in Montreal in 1968. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. In Montreal, Hershey attended a local Hebrew day-school and synagogue as a boy. He later studied music and theater at the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts. In school, he met his first wife who was an actress in the Yiddish Theater.
Felder also worked with Steven Spielberg and the Shoah Foundation when they embarked on the extraordinarily important mission of committing to film the stories of survivors of the Holocaust. This project inspired him to cast a role for the composer George Gershwin, who, like himself, was a first generation immigrant child to Jewish refugees from Europe. George Gershwin Alone has played to sold-out concert halls and been received with rave reviews in the United States and all over the world.
In 1996, Felder was invited to perform George Gershwin Alone at the Canadian Consular Residence in Los Angeles in front of Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell. In an encounter that was described as “love at first sight,” the two developed a romance that would lead to marriage a year later.
Hershey Felder is a fixture in the musical theater realm, but is still an incredibly humble and kind person. He has never shied away from paying proper respects and tribute to the geniuses who inspired him. In an interview given in 2014, after a spectacular performance of Maestro Bernstein, Felder said of his idols, “People want to learn, they want to know–and Bernstein gave it to them. In terms of Gershwin, the country was young, still finding its own sound—with the likes of Irving Berlin (the first American popular sound), the origins of American folk music–i.e. Blues, music brought by immigrants from Europe and Russia—George Gershwin assimilated this all into a cohesive Jazz American sound, and had technical curiousity in terms of figuring out how to push his abilities to use musical and instrumental mechanisms to do so.”
Mr. Hershey Felder will be presenting Louis and Keely: LIVE AT THE SAHARA at the Laguna Playhouse, February 23rd – March 26th. This production tells the story of Louis Prima and Keely Smith, the duo that pioneered the Lounge Act scene in Las Vegas in the 50s and 60s. For tickets, visit: http://purchase.lagunaplayhouse.com/single/PSDetail.aspx?psn=4804 or call the box office at: (949) 497-2787 ext. 1.
Perry Fein is a contributing writer and editor to Jlife magazine.