So let’s cut to the chase. Rainer Hersch is brilliant. He performs a heartfelt and sincere tribute to the great musician comedian Victor Borge and you should go and see him. End of story.
But why, you ask? Because, as Hersch himself tells us, Borge was unique as a musician comedian and we should remember his genius. Borge’s life, his lucky escape from Europe and his eventual success in the United States make for a fascinating story which Hersch tells well both as himself and as Borge complete with passable Danish accent.
It’s a bit hard to believe that these days there aren’t that many people who know who Victor Borge is. There was a time when nearly everyone knew and he wasn’t called The Great Dane for nothing. A concert pianist by training but a comedian and actor on the side, he escaped from Europe just as the Nazi’s invaded Denmark, settled in the States and made his reputation with his Comedy In Music. As Hersch reminded us, it ran for 849 performances and still holds the Guinness World Record for the longest one-man show in the history of theatre. It lasted that long because it was so hilarious on so many levels and everyone could understand it.
Hersch takes great care to explain how Borge got to where he did. Most of the details will be known to devoted Borge fans but Hersch has done the detailed research and one or two facts were news to me.
Borge’s two most famous routines outside of his musical numbers were Phonetic Punctuation and Inflationary Language. Hersch does them as Borge did them to the full stop. The wonderful (or perhaps that should be two-deful) thing about both is that they still get a hearty laugh even now, whether you’ve heard them for the second time or the eleventh. Proof positive that good material does last.
The piano on stage is never neglected. Excerpts of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Delibes, Beethoven, Mozart and others are carefully woven in. Hersch does not forget the famous renditions of Happy Birthday by various composers, an audience favourite.
Hersch makes sure that he interposes his own material during the evening. His take-off of Glenn Gould is excellent as is his definitive proof that various composers were influenced by the music of ABBA. When you do go, just remember to get the encore. Trust me, you want the encore !
Victor Borge himself once said that laughter was the shortest distance between two people. Rainer Hersch proves why that is absolutely so.