Brilliant "Abe Lincoln’s Piano"
At The Theatre with Audrey Linden
Hershey Felder’s done it again with this inventive and entertaining evening of theatre in the world premiere of “Abe Lincoln’s Piano”. In a time warp, Felder takes us back to when he was invited to perform at the Ford Theater in Washington D. C and to Chicago’s History Museum where Abe Lincoln’s White House piano was stored. Felder had been invited to Chicago through the two plays he had written about George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. The evening at The Ford Theater was serendipitous for him as mysteries were revealed to him which became the basis for this play. The "ghosts" of time past spoke to him. The way Felder told his story, one thing led to another and to another, and he worked his synchronicity and magic on us until he came full circle with his story at the end. "Abe Lincoln's Piano" is a celebration of Americana and is told through the music and songs of Stephen Foster. We got to hear the patriotic songs "My Old Kentucky Home", "Oh! Susanna" and "Beautiful Dreamer".
The focus was the one evening at the Ford Theater, which changed the shape of history of our nation, when President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Felder recreated this one tragic evening as the young 23 year old surgeon, Dr. Charles Leale fought to save the fatally wounded Abraham Lincoln.
Felder began journey when he was six years old and heard a young friend play the piano on Lenox Avenue in Canada. Felder was hooked on the piano and spent his early life at the keyboard. His Hungarian mother preferred the light American tunes of Stephen Foster and George Gershwin over the heavy European masters, and she sang her favorite songs to young Felder. He was brought up on “Beautiful Dreamer”, “Rhapsody in Blue”, and “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. She died of cancer when he was thirteen and when he was twenty, Felder came to Los Angeles.
Ten years later, Hershey Felder was invited to Washington D. C. to perform at the Ford Theater. He touched George Gershwin’s manuscript, which he found in the basement. He learned that the surgeon, Dr. Charles Leale, who tried in vain, to save President Lincoln at the Ford Theater so many years ago, was also at George Gershwin’s premiere at Carnegie Hall.
Felder read and acted out Dr. Leale’s moving account of President Lincoln’s shooting at the Ford Theater and his last hours at the Peterson House on April14, 1865. As Felder carefully placed Lincoln’s head in his lap, he softly sang “Beautiful Dreamer” to soothe the dying President. The actress, Laura Keene asked if she could cradle Lincoln’s head. Felder brought history to life in a captivating manner. Trevor Hays's seamless direction heightened the drama and intensity.
Later, Felder’s journey to Chicago led him to discover the dark mahogany piano of Abe Lincoln in the attic of the History Museum and the ghosts that inspired him to write ‘Abe Lincoln’s Piano”. There he found the sheet music from a favorite song of his mother’s from composer Louis Gottschalk, who had been a Union supporter. He also met Dr. Leale’s grandson later in the audience as history came full circle. Leale’s grandson had the gown Laura Keene had worn the night Lincoln had been killed. Baffling and serendipitous circumstances or as Hershey Felder says, “ghosts” led him on this journey. It all was startlingly believable. I do not know which events were manipulated and which were not. But, it all worked! Hershey Felder is a master in this solo performance in which he gives us living history of one fateful night.
Look for “Abe Lincoln’s Piano” to run at the Geffen Playhouse again at 10886 Le Conte in Westwood. The premiere had a short run of 15 performances. Mona Golabek’s “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” adapted and directed by Hershey Felder runs from February 28th through March 9 th. For show times and ticket prices call 310-208-2028.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. Her next classes start in March/April with registration in February. For more information, contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org