I am a great fan of Hersey Felder having seen all his composer shows (Chopin, Bernstein, Gershwin, Beethoven). These shows are small masterpieces where music, acting, theatre, and history meet to give us a glimpse into these great composer’s lives. As it happens I am also a fan of Lincoln and the Civil War. Ever since having seen the magnificent PBS series The Civil War by Ken Burns, my perception of America has changed and I was fascinated by the man who was president during all this, President Abraham Lincoln, and by John Wilkes Booth, the actor from a great acting family and Lincoln’s assassin.
Felder has once again created a gem, the story of the Lincoln assassination as witnessed by a young doctor who was there during the whole event until the moment Lincoln died. Felder sets the play in the Ford Theatre and we meet a 23-year-old man (a ghost) who found himself at the center of history. The story Felder has created is based on a true tale but told in music and song as well as acting the step- by -step scene of these tragic events.
The music is Felder’s own creation and quite moving. To me the music was the best part of the whole performance. Felder is a good but not a first-class actor or singer As the evening wears one Felder makes the mistake that many actors make, and showed how he felt so much he didn’t leave much for the audience. He tended to over dramatize moments rather than staying an observer of these events that I feel might have been more effective. I also would like for him to have included the famous Walt Whitman poem, a character he introduces to us earlier, “Oh Captain My Captain”, a poem many of us had to learn in high school. This is the American premiere of this work and so there is time for readjustment mainly in the direction of giving his character distance so the piece is a journey he, and only he can take us on. All the while the character must be aware of the effect he is having on the audience. He has already been through it. Lincoln: An American Story will play at the Pasadena Playhouse until April 7th.