+ Felder brings his best Bernstein to Sarasota
You’ve slow-danced to George Gershwin and snapped your fingers “West Side Story”-style to the music of Leonard Bernstein, now get ready to meet the guy who embodies both these legends: Hershey Felder, the master of disguise.
The 42-year-old Canadian pianist, actor, playwright and composer arrived in Sarasota this week carrying the weight of two beloved Broadway stars on his shoulders.
Felder, who’s married to former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, has performed his one-man show, “George Gershwin Alone,” more than 2,750 times in 10 years.
Lucky for the Asolo Repertory Theatre, he recently introduced Bernstein into his solo repertoire — a rotation that also includes Chopin and Beethoven, by the way.
“From an emotional standpoint and in terms of my own musical tastes, I’m closest to the style and sensitivity of Chopin,” Felder says. “What’s fun about creating these characters is that they are so unlike me. It’s great fun to bring them to life.”
Felder’s “George Gershwin Alone,” which opened May 18, at the Asolo Rep, runs through June 5. By special engagement, “MAESTRO: The Art of Leonard Bernstein” will run June 8 to June 12.
The concerts mark Felder’s first time in Sarasota. Make him feel welcome by making it a date night. For tickets, call 351-8000 or visit www.asolorep.org.
+ Julie Rohr’s ‘Li’l Abner’ is a family affair
The Julie Rohr Academy should receive some sort of award for pulling off a musical with a cast of 140 kids and 20 adults.
“Li’l Abner,” the hokey, lovable, infectious hit based on the 1950s cartoon of the same name, has been a staple in the school’s drama department for years.
Just listen to this history: Actress Emily Griffin was a child when she first performed in the show. Now in her mid-20s, Griffin is singing in the adult chorus.
Rob McLain was 14 when he appeared in “Li’l Abner.” Now 35 and a Sarasota lawyer, McLain’s 4-year-old son, Stewart, is performing in the show.
And then there’s the tireless Cecilia Blakenship.
Blankenship, JRA’s longtime assistant principal and science teacher, has also stage-managed all of the school’s shows for the past 23 years.
Her daughter was in the show 20 years ago, and now her 13-year-old granddaughter, Clara Boyas, is in the show and performing in a scene choreographed by her father, Cory Boyas.
“There are a lot of connections with this show,” says JRA director Julie Rohr McHugh. “It’s just a super-colorful, high-energy, big, crazy show.”
Spoiler alert: If you’ve seen the musical, you’re probably already familiar with the muscleman scene. Look for local bodybuilder (and JRA dad) Jason Heckman as one of the fathers who drinks the magical “Yokumberry tonic” and sprouts Popeye-esque biceps.
The Miles Project: Two ubiquitous Sarasota acts return for their final joint performance of the season. The whiz kids from Jazz Juvenocracy and the nimble members of Fuzión Dance Artists will perform their collaborative tribute to Miles Davis, “The Miles Project,” at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at The Players Theatre. Proceeds will benefit the Jazz Juvies’ return to the Montreux Jazz Festival this summer in Switzerland. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students. Call 365-2494 or visit theplayers.org.
Harvey Milk Festival: The Harvey Milk Festival returns to the Rosemary District this weekend with a program packed with so much LGBT love, it’s amazing the celebration will stay contained to one city block. The festival kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, May 20 with an art exhibit at Red Panty Press on Central Avenue. However, the real festivities run from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 21. Expect an energizing lineup of live music, guest speakers, comedians and performance artists. Admission is free. For more information, visit harveymilkfestival.com.