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Emergency lights just barely illuminate extraordinary Hershey Felder performance

Fans of music and theater got something of a treat on Thursday night at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, when the lights went out during a preview of “Hershey Felder, Beethoven.”

“After a few seconds in total darkness, emergency lights flickered on in the aisles,” said TheatreWorks publicist Carla Befera, who was at the show to oversee the making of publicity photos and said the power went out about 10 minutes into the preview. “While waiting for the problem to be diagnosed, Hershey stepped forward and offered to entertain the audience. He shared behind-the-scenes tales of his next show (a fascinating look at Tchaikovsky and his censorship by Russia), and then took questions.

“In response to a woman who said she had missed his Gershwin show, he returned to the piano, and from the dim shadows of the unlit stage, led the captivated audience through a sing-along of ‘Embraceable You,’ and then plunged into a truly thrilling rendition of ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’”

The large auditorium was “packed to the rafters,” Befera said, which is in keeping with the enormous popularity of Felder’s shows. “Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin,” in early 2016, remains the largest money maker for TheatreWorks in its 47-year history.

After news came that PG&E reported a transformer had blown and the theater had to be evacuated, Felder asked the audience for their understanding and thanked them for their patience, saying, “In these trying times, no matter which side you are on, a little understanding is what will get us through.”

And with that, Befera said, “He segued into ‘God Bless America,’ joined by the entire audience in what I can only describe as a hushed, almost reverent rendition.”

Hershey received a standing ovation, then the audience left through the darkened lobby. Ushers holding flashlights and cellphones helped patrons to their cars.

TheatreWorks offered to reschedule tickets for another performance during the open run. The last preview, tonight, is already sold out.

“Undoubtedly they will return to see the show they actually bought tickets for,” said Befera. “But I very much doubt any were sorry they came for this unexpected, magical evening in the dark.”

Felder’s Beethoven show opens on Saturday and runs through July 9. He will also perform “The Great American Songbook Sing-Along” at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts on June 27. He did a similar show last year that sold out. As of Friday afternoon, about 52 percent of seats for that show had been purchased.