Hershey Felder will bring Our Great Tchaikovsky, his new solo play about closeted gay Russian composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, to a theater in London’s West End this fall, Playbill reports.
Felder, who wrote the play, also stars as the composer who famously wrote the powerful scores for the ballets The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. Tchaikovsky died in 1893 at the age of 53, possibly from suicide.
Following its world premiere at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, Our Great Tchaikovsky, billed as a “time-bending tale of music and politics,” had a successful run earlier this summer at the Wallis Annenberg Center in Los Angeles.
“The tragedy of homophobia, still pervasive in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, runs through Felder’s play,” wrote Rick Schultz in his review of the show for the L.A. Times.
The play addresses the fact that Felder was once invited by the Russian government to perform as Tchaikovsky, one of the country’s national heroes, shortly after the Russian minister of culture officially declared that the composer was not gay.
Most historians and biographers agree that, despite vehement claims to the contrary by Russian authorities, Tchaikovsky was gay, had numerous sexual relationships with men, and was forced to remain closeted in fear of being exiled to Siberia. The Music Lovers, a 1970 Tchaikovsky biopic, notably focused on the composer’s plight as a closeted gay man.
Felder, a Canadian actor and pianist, specializes in biographical portraits of musical masters. Our Great Tchaikovsky replaces the previously announced London engagements of Felder’s plays about Leonard Bernstein and Irving Berlin, reportedly in response to prevalent LGBT rights struggles, particularly in Russia.
Our Great Tchaikovsky starts September 21 and runs through October 22 at The Other Palace in London.