It’s not surprising that Hershey Felder has tackled the life and times of Ludwig Van Beethoven, a musician Felder considers one of the greatest of all time. And now Felder brings his newly revised musical theatrical story to Beverly Hills. Based on the original “Aus Dem Schwarzspanierhaus” by Dr. Gerhard Von Breuning, BEETHOVEN provides the music while Hershey Felder presents the text about a lonely, gentle genius who may have lived in his own very private world most of his life. A virtuoso of the keyboard, Felder entertains with some of Beethoven’s greatest compositions, including “Emperor Concerto” and the Fifth and Ninth symphonies. It’s hard to believe that Beethoven was stone deaf when he created some of his most famous works. And thereby hangs the focus of Felder’s compelling production.
Beethoven had a rough beginning as the son of an alcoholic, abusive father who kept him locked in the basement between beatings. Even as a youngster, he learned to live in his head to escape his intolerable surroundings. Happily for him – and the world – his internal mental landscape was filled with the beautiful melodies which he would later share with all of us. Beethoven’s story is introduced by the Viennese physician and son of his life-long best friend, a man who admired the musical icon and tried to alleviate some of Beethoven’s solitude in the best way he knew how. For by his early 20’s, tragedy struck when Beethoven began to lose his hearing. What worse torture for a man whose ears were the bond between his head and his heart? By his 30’s, Beethoven was totally deaf – but his peers attributed his odd behaviors to mental instability – rather than the painful result of a man unable to communicate with others and forever doomed to his own company. Beethoven probably tried to share his feelings through his music – often unrecognized by the average listener.
Tales abounded about the cause for Beethoven’s loss of hearing, including the possibility of syphilis from ill-advised sexual encounters. But current thoughts suggest that it may also be that Beethoven dreamed up his active love life to fill the void left by his involuntary withdrawal from others. Beethoven seemed desperate to understand just why he was fated to never hear the music which was his life. After the performance, Felder shared with the audience some current findings which might have explained Beethoven’s tragic loss. Apparently, hair samples analyzed in our more medically advanced generation suggest that he suffered from lead poisoning, which might explain both his deafness and his frequent complaints of body and muscle aches and pains. In addition, current research into the aftermath of head injuries often suffered in sports might be involved. After all, Beethoven was often beaten as he was growing up and may have suffered from subtle brain effects.
In any case, BEETHOVEN provides fascinating insight into the mental workings of a musical genius. In this one-man show, Hershey Felder brings Beethoven to life over a century after his death. Felder is also responsible for the intriguing scenic design surrounding Beethoven. Erik Carstensen’s sound, Christopher Ash’s lighting and projection design, Meghan Maiya’s historical and biographical research, and Theatr’ Hall (Paris) costumes complete the talented production team. All lovers of music – and anyone which seeks an entertaining musical evening – will fulfill his expectations and more by entering into Beethoven’s world – with the added benefit of glimpsing how the human spirit can overcome adversity in all its forms.
BEETHOVEN runs through August 19, 2018, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sundays. The Bram Goldsmith Theater is located in the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Tickets range from $35 to $105. For information and reservations, call 310-746-4000 or go online.