Our Great Tchaikovsky is a mildly diverting piece of music theatre. The one man show features writer, artist and playwright Hershey Felder telling the story of the Russian composer through first person accounts, and piano transcriptions of the composer’s works.
This has all been put together with a clear target audience in mind: retirees who whimper and coo with polite reverence at the mildly amusing lines, or wry sideways looks from the stage.
It’s a real shame they failed to react to the political meat on the bones. From the outset Felder contextualises Tchaikovsky’s biography in Russia’s present-day narrative.
For busy people that’s Russia present-day aggressive stance on homosexuality; and, the country’s wholesale denial of Tchaikovsky sexual identity.
Paradoxically, the key political message might have been more poignant if it hadn’t been quite so spelled out.
Felder’s technical ability at the keyboard is impressive. So too the effortless way the can underscore conversational monologue in a thick Russian accent with piano transcriptions of familiar tunes.
Some of the musical sequences could do with being a little shorter. Felder is also going to need some contingency in the piano tuner’s budget – the Steinway on stage comes in for quite a beating.
This is a pleasing unchallenging romp through Tchaikovsky best known works, played by a man who loves his work as much as he has a keen eye for lavish set design. The backdrop projection is pretty fine. The live piano sequences combined with recorded orchestra without a click track (as far as I could make out) are a remarkable piece of magic.
Tchaikovsky experts won’t learn much they don’t know already. Those who respond emotionally to the composer’s masterful melodic creations may discover something they didn’t already know. I’d have preferred something stark, uncompromising, and challenging.
Our Great Tchaikovsky runs at The Other Palace until 22 October