Hershey Felder brings the dazzling career—and melodies—of the legendary Leonard Bernstein back to life again.
“There is this magic in the theater when the person that I’m portraying appears to be there with me on stage. That’s when I feel like I have done my job,” says actor Hershey Felder, who takes the stage at The Wallis portraying the life of Leonard Bernstein, the “genius” composer seen here conducting in New York in 1970.
This summer, Hershey Felder, 47, takes the stage at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts for the West Coast premiere of Maestro, in which the award-winning actor-playwright-pianist reprises his role as the late, great Lenny Bernstein (1918–1990) through first-person narratives and original compositions paired with the sublime music of Beethoven, Mahler, and more.
This isn’t the first time that you’ve played Bernstein. What do you share in common with him as a person? I don’t really share much with Bernstein, who was a genius, and that’s actually what strangely makes it “easier,” because for me, to do a character that I can actually observe from the outside is easier.
How will your performances at The Wallis stand out? I’m very excited because I’ve never had the opportunity to perform in a place in Los Angeles that’s acoustically generous to the piano! The Wallis is!
Is there a part of Maestro that you look forward to the most? The end, when Bernstein comes to the realization of the results of his life-long actions and what they mean to his legacy. It’s hard work, heavy lifting—how to make it natural, how to make it human every night. I’m pleased when I get through it and that I haven’t drowned, and that the audience has had some kind of experience that resembles one that they expected. August 10–28, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-246-3800