For those who are longing for a theatre piece that is smart, educational and entertaining, look no further than the remarkable Hershey Felder's Beethoven, As I Knew Him. Known to Chicago audiences for his long term engagement at the Royal George playing George Gershwin, Felder dons a much darker tone in bringing some historical backbone (and bones in the literal sense) to the master composer.
Bethoven, As I Knew Him, perfectly at home at the chandelier savvy Drury Lane Water Tower Theatre, is told primarily from the viewpoint of Gerhard Von Breuning who was the Son of Beethoven's lifelong friend, Stephan von Breuning. Gerhard first met Beethoven as a child with his father.
Gerhard was 13 and was a frequent guest to the Schwarzspanierhaus, the house where Beethoven lived his last years, mainly in sickness.
Breuning's early interests towards medicine led him to take a particular interest in Beethoven's sickness. In 1874 he published his personal recollections of Beethoven. which is considered one of the more accurate accounts of Beethoven's last years.
By circling the action around the vantage point of von Breunin gives Felder the protagonist/antagonist platform that instantly engages the audiences. Those knowing the Beethoven lore with learn nothing new by this piece, however, this accounting is the most humane of the retellings.
Then there is the music, which alone is worth seeing Beethoven, As I Knew Him, even if you are not succumb by the story. Few people have the talent to do what Felder does and is reminiscent of Victor Borge in terms of transitioning story to accompanying.
From the simplicity of "Fur Elise' to his more infamous of symphonies (played against an orchestral track) Felder is also an engaging educator, who tells of Beethoven's love of the key of C minor because this key is felt to be powerful and emotionally stormy.
Felder has created a satisfying and engaging telling of the mystro's life. More than that, watching Fedler bring such truth to the characters is an Ode To Joy in itself.
Bethoveen, As I Knew Him, plays though December 20, 2009 at the Drury Lane Theatre at Water Tower Place. For tickets please visit www.ticketmaster.com