Writer-performer Hershey Felder is the Liberace of the 21st century — and a better pianist, too. This is not entirely a compliment, despite Felder’s expert storytelling skills, his pristine instincts for timing and his irrepressible love for the classical composers he impersonates in what’s become a cottage industry of his monodramas with music. Here, he takes on Ludwig van B., through the prism of Beethoven’s last known friend and biographer, Gerhard von Breuning of Vienna. Erik Carstensen’s sound design brings the clean, digital sounds of a full orchestra in support of Felder while he’s seated center stage at the stool of a baby grand, plunking out one of the great piano concertos. There’s a divan stage left, draped in a twinkling cloth cover, and you think — as Felder rapturously hums from Beethoven’s musical treatment of Schiller’s poem, “Ode to Joy” — gads, this isn’t 19th-century Vienna, this is 21st-century Las Vegas. The show is a compendium of fascinating biographical details, smartly told — homing in on the personal agony of a man whose creation of music is his life’s centerpiece, slowly losing the ability to hear. If you know anything at all about Beethoven’s life, Felder’s show isn’t going to add to your knowledge. In fact, the audience “aahhed” and “oohed” in recognition of facts and melodies that Felder uses to punctuate the biography. There’s more recognition here than surprise, which makes Felder’s homage more comfortable than probing.

Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: Aug. 19. Continues through Sept. 28, 2008

LA Weekly