As a great fan of Hersey Felder, I have 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 composers’ lives. As it happens, I am also a fan of Lincoln and the Civil War. Ever since seeing the magnificent PBS series The Civil War by Ken Burns, my perception of America has changed and I have become fascinated by the figures of Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth, the actor from a great acting family.
Felder has once again created a gem in his telling of 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, where 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 scenario 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 on, he makes the mistake that many actors make, showing how he feels so much that he doesn’t leave much for the audience. He tends to over dramatize moments, rather than staying an observer of these events, which I feel might have been more effective. I also would like for him to have included the famous Walt Whitman poem, as Whitman is 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 7.