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Felder, Gunn team up for 'Flying Solo'


Courtesy of Hershey Felder
Opera star Nathan Gunn, standing, rehearses with musician and actor Hershey Felder, seated at the piano.

Hershey Felder is usually the only actor onstage – his current one-man show on Beethoven runs through next week in Mountain View – but he will step offstage for his next production.

“Nathan Gunn, Flying Solo” will feature international opera star Gunn, who met with Felder two weeks ago at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts to work on the biographical play. The one-man show, written and directed by Felder, is scheduled to debut April 4 at the Laguna Playhouse and will likely move to Mountain View later next year.

Felder said he first heard Grammy-winner Gunn perform on television and a couple of years ago met him through Felder’s production of “Baritones UnBound.” Since then, the pair has performed duets together in Atlanta, Paris, New York City and most recently San Diego.

“It’s easy when you speak the same (theatric) language, and it makes it very possible,” said Felder, who accompanies Gunn on piano. “It’s just fun.”

“Flying Solo” will highlight Gunn’s journey from famed opera singer to Scottish clan elder. Felder said both the set and the costume – a kilt inspired by the Gunn clan’s tartan – will reflect the baritone’s Scottish roots.

To write the script, Felder sat down with Gunn for one-on-one meetings in rehearsal rooms wherever they could meet. The script is grounded entirely in Gunn’s true-life experiences, which Felder said he fashioned into a theatrical format from the interviews.

“There was an easy connection to make; he’s a very trusting and open individual,” Gunn said of Felder. “That’s a big part of putting shows together – having a real connection with the other person.”

“Flying Solo” will feature popular opera and theater music, such as songs from “The Barber of Seville,” “Billy Budd” and “Camelot.” Although the pair chose some songs to reflect Gunn’s major opera roles, Gunn said they also considered mood and story progression.

Gunn will sing every song by himself, but he will perform them as nearly a dozen different characters, including a past teacher, his mother and his father – all prominent figures in his life.

“It’s sort of a hyper-reality, a super-autobiography,” he said. “Everything is elevated a bit.”

The multiple characters mark one of Gunn’s first experiences with a one-man show, and he said it has been an enlightening process making the different characters come alive.

“It’s not exactly me having to reveal exactly who I am,” he said. “Although it’s the most who I am I’ve ever had to be.”

Before Felder turns his full attention to “Flying Solo,” he has several more performances of his own one-man show to do. “Hershey Felder, Beethoven” has been extended through July 9 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.

For tickets ($45-$105), times and more information on “Hershey Felder, Beethoven,” call 463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org.

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