Irving Berlin: Playhouse Production Is Nostalgic, Educational — And Very Relevant

It’s mid-July. But the set for the Westport Country Playhouse production of “Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin” — which opened last night — evokes a snowy winter night.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

Of course. America’s greatest songwriter is well known for “White Christmas.”

Plus “God Bless America.” “Easter Parade.” “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” And many, many, many, many, more.

His life — from his birth in the Russian Empire, to his youth on the Lower East Side (he left school at 13), to Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and Hollywood, with a stop in the Army, and all the ups and downs of his personal life — is told with warmth, wit and wonder.

It’s a remarkable tale. He lived to be 101 — long enough so that his copyright on “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” expired before he did.

The show is educational, entertaining and fun.

It’s also extremely timely. Berlin was an immigrant who loved his adopted country. The story behind “God Bless America” — with the Playhouse audience singing first quietly, then lustily along — gives goose bumps.

(“Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin” runs through August 3. Click here for more information, and tickets.)

6 responses to “Irving Berlin: Playhouse Production Is Nostalgic, Educational — And Very Relevant

  1. And there is a Westport connection. Irving Berlin’s daughter lived in my house for years and years, and he spent a lot of time in Westport. Rumor has it when he wrote ‘White Christmas’ he was dreaming of Christmas in Westport.

    • What?! I had no idea? Which daughter? Hershey Felder spends time after each show taking questions from the audience. He spoke in depth last night about Berlin’s 3 daughters, and also talked about how impressed he was with the Westport Country Playhouse. But he did not mention the daughter’s connection here. Where was the house?!

  2. Richard Fogel

    Most christmas songs were written by Jews. Thank goodness we recognize the contributions that immigrants make to our country. My cousin attends an orthodox synagogue in Montreal. He and his sister were concentration camp survivors. William Grossman and Edith Burns. If you research them as Holocaust survivors you can learn more. Mr Grossmans orthodox synagogue has provided assistance to Syrian immigrants. The synagogue values the lessons from the Torah.

  3. Wow sounds soooo good

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. I think it was the middle daughter. I was told this by the person who sold me the house, and had it confirmed by someone at the historical society, although all this was 12 years ago when I moved here. I’m on Canal St.

  5. At tonight’s performance after the show Hershey Felder said he did follow up with Irving Berlin’s oldest daughter regarding the Westport connection. It turns out that the oldest daughter lived in Westport from the 1950s into the early 1960s. She and her family rented two homes before buying a home here. Her parents’ housewarming gift was an in-ground swimming pool.

    “White Christmas” was written many years before the daughter ever set foot in Westport.