Lennon The Musical:
Reinventing The Beatle By
Lennon: The Musical
Tracing John Lennons
rough and tumble days in Liverpool to his final years at Manhattans Dakota,
Lennon: The Musical is the Yoko Ono approved production designed to cash
in on the publics current fascination with pop stars and Broadway musicals.
Performed at New Yorks Broadhurst Theater, Lennons nine member cast
trades off on some of the Scousers best songs, and some of his worst.
A beautiful Asian
woman plays Yoko, while a variety of characters play John (a large black man
plays Paul McCartney) though the scarily Lennonesque Will Chase handles most
of the Lennon recitation duties (in his own words).
Songs include a mesmerizing Instant Karma, a monotonous Give
Peace A Chance, a soul infused version of The Ballad of John Yoko
worthy of Ike and Tina Turner, and a numbing Mind Games. Two new
Lennon songs, India, India, and I Dont Want to Lose
You, pass without as much as a puff of genuine passion (another new song,
Cookin in the Kitchen of Love, didnt make it into tonights
performance). Highlights of the night included the all female black leather
rouser, Twist and Shout, a hilarious glam-filled Whatever
Gets You Through the Night (with a female Elton John high kicking and
playing piano), and show stopper Women in the Nigger of the World.
The first act is the best, covering The Beatles meteoric rise (though
The Beatles are barely mentioned by name) with copious Lennon dialogue
about the meaning of it all, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, the quotes tend
to focus on Lennons griping more than his brilliant sense of humor (too
un-PC for sure, such as when Lennon laughingly renamed Brian Epsteins
A Cellarful of Noise, A Cellarful of Boys). Throughout, the joy of Lenons
songs is wonderfully amplified by the powerful vocalists and careful arrangements.
Act Two is where the problems begin, the one-two-three punch of Lennons
ill-directed political activities, immigration hassles, and marital troubles,
and a dearth of good songs creating boredom that nearly brings down the house,
and not in a good way. A rather preachy Imagine, delivered by the
cast as though they were in some staid gothic church, closes the show with a
whimper (certainly not the way Lennon would have chosen to go out).
Still, the naysayers bashing this earnest Broadway production are missing the
point. Telling the familiar Lennon tale using his own words and of course, his
songs, Lennon: The Musical may not be the most well organized Broadway
production to ever hit The Great White Way, but it is surely one of the most
satisfying, at least for those of us who still consider the rock of the 60s
to be more energizing and important than the papnpop laden musicals
(Moving Out or Mama Mia anyone?) filling Broadways theater district nowadays.
Though original concerns about Lennons canon being obliterated wholesale
by trained Broadway voices proved prescient to a very small degree, mostly the
professional voices and the bands understated accompaniment only served
to highlight how magical Lennons songs are and how they continue to stand
as golden moments in pop music history.
Lennon: The Musical