The award-winning Canadian actor, pianist, composer and writer Hershey Felder specialises in stage portrayals of classical music’s big figures. His repertoire of composer-characters ranges from Beethoven to Bernstein, taking in Chopin, Liszt, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin along the way. The mercurial musical impersonator has now taken on Russia’s best-loved composer as the subject of his latest show, Our Great Tchaikovsky.

Ian Woodward, who directed and wrote the screenplay for Love Song: The Triumph and Tragedy of Tchaikovsky – recipient of the prestigious Award of Excellence trophy at the Canada International Film Festival – attended the UK premiere with his wife Zenka and daughter Stefanie and was bowled over by what he saw and heard.

                                                                                                         IAN WOODWARD AFTER THE SHOW WITH HERSHEY FELDER

“After seeing the show,” he said, “it became clear to me why this stunning play-with-music broke box office records and received wide spread critical acclaim when it opened in the United States earlier this year. Amazing!”

The premiere at San Diego Repertory in Southern California, in fact, was the company’s highest grossing show in 41 seasons. This incredible reception and the timeliness of the show’s themes pushed Felder to bring this tremendous work to London’s West End instead of the previously announced Bernstein and Berlin productions.

“When I heard that the show was coming to London,” added Ian Woodward outside the theatre, “I knew I had to make plans to experience Hershey Felder’s much-lauded ability to totally embody the real-life character of and enlighten audiences about the tortured composer known for his beautiful ballet scores for The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and the ferocious and melodic brilliance of his symphonies, piano and violin concertos, overtures and operas.

“I wasn’t disappointed!

“Added to which, it was an honour to meet Hershey after the show and ‘talk Tchaikovsky’.”

He told the filmmaker: “Tchaikovsky’s music has mesmerized me since I first heard his 6th Symphony, the ‘Pathétique’, being played on our home radio as a child. Four decades later, I was invited to create the character of Tchaikovsky on the stage, to be performed ultimately in Russia, and what I’ve encountered as part of the journey has been nothing short of extraordinary – and terrifying,” says Felder.

In October 2014, American Theatre Magazine referred to Felder as a “one-man cottage industry” for whom quality is paramount in that he feels a responsibility to his audience. The tragedy of homophobia, still pervasive in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, runs through Felder’s play.

Later named by Time magazine as one of the Top 10 theatre artists for 2016, Hershey Felder has superbly taken on the persona of Tchaikovsky, with an impeccable Russian accent and pronunciation. On top of which he is a world-class pianist in his own right.

As he plays the magnificent Steinway centre stage, the entire back of the set transforms via lighting and projection design by Christopher Ash which shows historical footage of the world as Tchaikovsky saw it while writing the pieces being played. Felder’s playing of the well-known opening section of the composer’s Piano Concerto No 1 in B-flat minor justifiably received one of the many thunderous ovations he was to receive during the show.

In fact, Our Great Tchaikovsky interweaves performances from the composer’s oeuvre with a narrative that contrasts his role as a celebrated public artist with his tortured private life as a closet homosexual artist in an intensely homophobic culture. As fame and notoriety grew for Tchaikovsky during the last half of the 19th century, so did his fearful trepidation that his sexuality would be exposed.

                                                           IAN WOODWARD SANDWICHED BETWEEN THE YOUNGER AND OLDER TCHAIKOVSKYS

Tchaikovsky’s life story has a particular resonance for our times, and Felder’s unique combination of theatrical performance and pianistic skill manages to bring Tchaikovsky to life in a completely original manner. Those who go to the theatre looking for a great story will find one here. For the classically inclined, Felder’s mastery at the piano will remind you why you love the music.

Tchaikovsky’s sexual proclivities aside, the show packs a huge amount of historical factual data about his life and, in the hands of a pianist as virtuosic as Felder, the emotional depth and power of Tchaikovsky’s music cannot be denied. As such, Our Great Tchaikovsky unquestionably rates as one of Felder’s most dazzling shows.

                                                                                     SIMON ALEXANDER AS TCHAIKOVSKY IN LOVE SONG

Love Song continues to be screened worldwide, taking in towns and cities in Austria, Israel, Canada, Armenia, Cyprus, Belarus, Portugal, Croatia, India, Greece, Romania, England, and the Czech Republic.


It has also been shown all over the United States in venues as far-flung as Hollywood, Kansas City, Utah, Florida, Texas, Los Angeles and throughout California generally.


In 2017, as part of The Ozark Shorts Screenings, and starting in Missouri, it undertook an extensive coast-to-coast tour of America.


Along the way the film has picked up many prestigious honours including those for Best Foreign Short, Best Editing, Creative Innovation to Film Award, and Best Film with International Appeal.


And from the Canada International Film Festival in Vancouver came the coveted 11-inch and very heavy crystal-glass Award of Excellence (pictured left).