Ludwig Live! Is Lots of Laughs at the Kimmel Center - A Review

“The new musical stage comedy LUDWIG LIVE! is making its Philadelphia premiere, for a limited engagement Jan. 12 – 29, at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio. Dressed in period regalia and ensconced behind a grand piano, Ludwig van Beethoven will entertain audiences with his swinging new ‘lounge act.’

“A Symphony of Laughter When the Immortal Beethoven Takes The Stage!”

The two-person show features legendary New York pianist Charles Lindberg as ‘Ludwig’, and the critically acclaimed Katherine Pecevich, playing the ‘Stage Manager’ who pops on stage in wigs and costumes of the more than two dozen characters she portrays.”

Our review:

Lindberg deftly mixes in comedy, while welcoming his audience, and – amazingly – never looked down at the music he was playing on the piano. He also brought Beethoven to life, as a fiery, intense, romantic, and haunted genius – in other words, exactly the way Beethoven was in real life.

Pecevich – who plays all the other characters whom Beethoven encounters, of both genders – is hilariously funny, with an uncanny range of accents while playing over two dozen characters from varying historical periods!

Both Pecevich and Lindberg are very affable. After the performance, Pecevich described how much she has enjoyed her visit to Philadelphia – she memorably describes the city as: “the result of what would happen, if Queens/Astoria [in New York City] and Boston had a baby.”

The show is fast-paced and a laugh a minute – they zoom from joke to joke and it’s highly entertaining. But it’s also highly educational! We laughed throughout and found it to be well worthwhile.

We strongly recommend it, for an evening of comedy with the greatest Classical/Romantic composer of all time!

Also, we had researched Beethoven’s real life, prior to seeing the show, in order to better understand the jokes. So instead of giving away their considerable jokes and surprises and thus diminishing their impact-

We’ll share what we’ve learned through the research. Knowing the Beethoven back story enhanced our enjoyment of the show’s humor. LUDWIG LIVE! is farcical, but also exceptionally well-researched and written!

We knew, of course, that Beethoven was one of the greatest composers of all time, famously composing some of the best known works of classical music – his Fifth Symphony, Ninth Symphony (including the Ode to Joy), The Moonlight Sonata, Für Elise, etc.

We also knew him from the beloved comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. Schroeder has devoted all of his musical talent to his idol, Beethoven. Schroeder annually observes Beethoven’s birthday (Dec. 16), keeps a bust of the composer on his piano, and relentlessly practices his works (much to the chagrin of Lucy, whose amorous affections he ignores, as a distraction from his true calling in life).

But in addition, these concise Beethoven facts will help you better enjoy LUDWIG LIVE!

Ludwig van Beethoven lived from 1770 to 1827. He spent his childhood in Bonn, Germany, but the rest of his life in Vienna, Austria – the capital of classical music. A child prodigy, he was hailed as “the next Mozart,” who was still living at the time.

Beethoven was fortunate, given that not only was he a genius, he was appreciated – both artistically and financially – throughout his own lifetime. Wealthy, aristocratic patrons vied to attract him (and retain him) at their courts, and audiences loved his performances. After he hit Vienna at 21, he became rich and famous quickly, and eventually became independently wealthy – the first composer to do so.

However, musicians – even great ones – were considered commoners in his era. Living at royal courts, Beethoven fell in love with several aristocratic women, some of whom returned his love. But despite his talents, wealth and fame, they could not marry him, solely due to his class status. The women would be forced to lose their nobility and estates, as a result of marrying a commoner. This frustration was why Beethoven never married – but fueled much of his art.

Beethoven – who lived during the upheavals of the Napoleonic Wars – was interested in the chaotic politics of the day (and not just because his patrons were). He initially dedicated a work to Napoleon, viewing him as a liberator. But when Napoleon became an autocratic Emperor, Beethoven furiously scrawled out his name, and rededicated it to a patron.

Beethoven also had a highly turbulent personal life. His father, a court musician, suffered from alcoholism and died at a young age. His beloved mother died when he was a teenager. Throughout his life, he was responsible for his two younger brothers, as well as his nephew, Karl, whom he viewed as a virtual son (he never had children of his own). Beethoven attempted to force Karl, against his will, into a musical career (in spite of the fact that Karl was not blessed with his uncle’s gifts). Later in life, Beethoven also spent much of his fortune in a legal battle with his sister-in-law, over custody of Karl.

Most problematically, though, Beethoven began to lose his hearing in his late 20s and eventually went completely deaf. The ultimate cruelty of fate to a musical genius, it was naturally very difficult for Beethoven to handle and accept.

Due to these personal issues, Beethoven could also be difficult to get along with. He was temperamental and moody – the archetype of the artistic genius who eschews normal conventionality in pursuit of his craft, very much applies to him. But he also had many virtues. He was particularly generous with his wealth, especially after he felt that he had wronged someone. (His impulsive generosity reminded us of another great musician - Elvis Presley.)

LUDWIG LIVE! is written by Emmy Award-winning writer/director/producer Nancy Holson and produced by Howard Perloff, producer of The Big Bang and Frank McCourt’s The Irish and How They Got That Way.

Tickets are $35 on Thursdays & Fridays, and $47 on Saturdays & Sundays. They are available by calling 215-731-3333, online at kimmelcenter.org/broadway or at the Kimmel Center box office, Broad & Spruce Sts. (open daily 10 am to 6 pm). Group discounts are available by calling 215-790-5883. Performances include: Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 5:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm.


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