Tuesday January 23rd 2018

” An American Story for Actor and Orchestra”

americanstory Anyone who has had the privilege of watching Hershey Felder do one of his shows, knows that he is a great “story teller”. In his one man shows, he gets deep into the character of the biography he is presenting, but unlike his previous shows, ones that deal with people who we all know of, George Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven and Leonard Bernstein, his current show, which just opened at the Royal George is a different type of biography. It is about a doctor, one Charles Leale, who as it turns out was at  The Ford Theater and was in fact the medic who tended to him after he was shot.

The book written by Felder tells the story of this unknown medic in the Union Army who attended the theater that night in hopes of getting a glimpse of President Lincoln. He is now celebrating his 90th birthday and takes us through his youth and to that day, 67 years earlier, when  he was thrust into a position that would change his life forever. Dr. Leale wrote a journal, detailing  “Lincoln’s Last Hours” on which this play is based and with the strong acting ability of Mr. Felder, we, the audience are treated to a look at history that is a heartwarming story. Unlike Mr. Felder’s other stories, in this one, there is no piano on the stage, but rather a full orchestra behind some thin curtains and as he tells the story we are treated to the music of  Stephen Foster ( “Beautiful Dreamer”, “Oh Susanna” and ” My Old Kentucky Home” as well as some original music by Mr. Felder himself. He is indeed a triple threat when it comes to doing Biographies- he writes the story, sings and shows his strength as an actor as well. There are times you will feel a tear forming in your eye, showing the power of this solid entertainer.

The original report, from 1865 was discovered among some of Lincoln’s papers in Washington in 2012. Many of the words used in this story are those of President Lincoln as well as those of Dr. Leale, and put together by Felder and director Trevor Hay, this is an enchanting and powerful 85 minutes of theater. Mr. Felder also uses some poetry  by Henry Bishop, Walt Whitman and John Howard Payne to bring this wonderful story to the intimate stage at The Royal George. As is his custom, the set is simplicity personified ( (David Buess and Trevor Hay) consisting of a 1930’s radio, a leather rocking chair and books on a shelf. With Felder, the story and the character are the key, and the set is only the dressing for them. The theater itself is set up as if it could be The Ford with the bunting on the boxes, what one might expect with the President in attendance. The lighting (Christopher Rynne) and sound( Erik Carstensen) along with the costumes( Abigail Caywood) and the projections (Andrew Wilder and Greg Sowizdrzal) complete the picture of this special story, one that has escaped our history books for generations.american story1

The Royal George is an ideal theater for an intimate production such as this ( it also served well for his previous productions) and in fact, it appears that Mr. Felder has plans to follow this production with many other intimate stories, of which he will be producer, not performer. I for one, would love to see more of his shows and watch him bring characters to life, but knowing how detail orientated he is, I am sure the shows he brings in will satisfy our thirst for quality theater on this intimate stgae.

“An American Story for Actor and Orchestra” should be on you “to see” list, but you only have until  April 14th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets range in price from $60-$65 and are available at the box office 1641 N. Halsted Street, by phone at 312-988-9000 or online at www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com

Valet parking is available and there is metered parking in the area. Public transportation is also very readily available.

to see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click “An American Story”

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