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Old Aug 01, 2005, 09:51 AM   #1
Jerry
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Default Lennon Musical ???

Does anybody know what's going on with this thing? I'm flying out to NY this Friday August 5th to see the play. Then I read a few days ago that it's been postponed a few weeks so they can work on it some more. But on their site, the schedule shows that it's playing now and you can still buy tickets. What's up?
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Old Aug 01, 2005, 05:44 PM   #2
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My local paper printed a review of it yesterday...it says the show "has been in previews at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre since July 7, and officially opens on Aug. 14."

Here's the full article:

Imagine that
The songs of John Lennon come to the stage in a new Broadway musical

Sunday, July 31, 2005
BY JAY LUSTIG
Star-Ledger Staff
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John Lennon was once asked why he was attracted to his second wife and soulmate, Yoko Ono.

"She's me in drag," replied Lennon.

The line, like many things Lennon said, is used in "Lennon," the new biographical musical that has been in previews at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre since July 7, and officially opens on Aug. 14.

Ono didn't write or direct the play, which features about 25 Lennon-written songs, including "Imagine," "Give Peace a Chance," "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" and "(Just Like) Starting Over." But she has attended many rehearsals and performances, and has suggested ways to make the portrait more historically accurate.

"It's so important that this play is here now," says Ono, who, as the rights holder for Lennon's songs, had to approve their use. "There are some things that I was watching and I felt, maybe this is what John would have wanted to say to the world, and he couldn't say it, and he's saying it now."

The play, whose cast features Tony award winner Chuck Cooper (best featured actor, "The Life," 1997) as well as two-time Tony nominee Terrence Mann (best actor, "Les Misérables," 1987, and "Beauty and the Beast," 1994), explores Lennon's life chronologically. It starts with his youth in Liverpool and traces his rise to fame with the Beatles. It shows him establishing himself as a solo artist, becoming increasingly interested in social activism, and concentrating on family life after the birth of his second son, Sean. It ends with his 1980 murder and then an upbeat finale, celebrating the music he left behind.

Nine actors -- five men and four women, of varying ages and ethnicities -- play him, as well as a constantly changing array of other characters.

"He would have liked that," says Ono. "It's very unusual, but that's the point we were making: we are all one."

While "Lennon" touches on some of the ugliest and most painful episodes of its title character's life -- "This still embarrasses me, but here it is," says one of the Lennons before one scene -- it also has ample room for sentimentality, and utopian philosophizing.

It's also playful at times. When the Beatles perform, they are portrayed by the four women, with two of the men impersonating screaming teenage girls. One of the African-American actors plays Sen. Strom Thurmond (the one-time segregationist who sought Lennon's deportation from the United States). One of the women does a goofy Elton John imitation.

But "Lennon" couldn't be more serious in its attempt to paint a full, accurate portrait of Lennon. Virtually everything said by him in the play was actually said by him, during his life.

Since much of "Lennon" centers around the relationship between John and Yoko -- the Beatles years pass by in a blur -- Ono's input was essential.

Producer Allan McKeown remembers that when a scene built around Lennon and Ono's 1969 Bed-In for Peace was being rehearsed, "we were discussing certain aspects of it: how we were doing it, who was there, and what was going on. We were all passing comment, as though we all knew so much about it.

"And Yoko said, 'You know, I think so and so.' And we went, 'Hmm, that's interesting.' And she said, 'Actually I was there.'"

McKeown laughs, recalling the conversion. "I had forgotten. But yeah, she was."

Will Chase of Bloomfield, one of the nine actors in the cast, had a similar experience during a rehearsal for a scene that concerned the couple's belief that their apartment had been wiretapped by the F.B.I.

"I remember out of the corner of my eye, her nodding, going, like, 'Yeah, I remember,'" he says. "That was kind of surreal."

Chase says Ono has been coming to a lot of the previews, "just sitting (in the audience), and digging the vibe, and making little suggestions. She'll say, 'John said this,' or sometimes she'll go to (director/writer) Don (Scardino) and say, 'Did John really say that?' And Don will say, 'Yeah, I've got it in an interview.'"

Ono said that when she first attended a rehearsal, "I had the shock of my life, because they sing so well, and they're really good musicians and singers. Then I started to laugh, because there are so many interesting comic touches. So it was like, laughing and laughing, and in the end, you just start crying, of course."

The musical was produced in San Francisco before it came to New York, and has changed significantly, with the intent of becoming more audience-friendly.

Instead of jumping around from one time period to another, it has become linear. Chase's Lennon has become a focal figure -- a narrator who guides the audience from scene to scene.

Some songs have been added, and others were dropped.

"'Crippled Inside' used to be in," says Chase. "It was actually a fun clown-comedy kind of song, and it got cut, pretty much the week we opened in San Francisco. Don and the creative team realized it really wasn't telling the story we wanted to tell. We were trying to set up a serious scene after that, with 'Give Peace a Chance,' but right before we're doing this clown number."

Two Lennon songs that previously existed only as unreleased demos -- "India, India" and "I Don't Want To Lose You" -- are used in the production. Ono says Lennon wrote these songs for a musical he started to work on, late in his life. Its working title was "The Ballad of John and Yoko," and he never came close to finishing it.

She says she and Lennon did not often go to musicals, even though they lived in Manhattan for most of their years together.

"We were interested more in straight (non-musical) plays," she says. "John was a musician and a composer, and I was too, and if we went to see a musical -- we had done that too, in the early days, in London -- we'd keep thinking that song should end this way, or that way. We'd become professional, you know. So it wasn't that entertaining for us.

"But John had this ambition that he wanted to cross over in all the musical fields. He did cross over, in blues and jazz and all that. But he felt, 'Let's do a musical.'"

While jukebox musicals -- built around the songs of Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys and ABBA, among others -- have become common on Broadway, the Lennon catalog presents a unique challenge. Songs like "Mother" (a harrowing song about the death of his mother), "How Do You Sleep?" (a vicious attack on fellow ex-Beatle Paul McCartney), the protest song "Attica State" and the tantrum-like "Gimme Some Truth" are closer to punk-rock than traditional Broadway tunes. Yet they are all in "Lennon."

Lennon was somewhat less abrasive during his years with the Beatles, but only one Lennon-written song released by the Beatles -- "The Ballad of John and Yoko" -- is used in the musical.

"Every now and again, you go, 'God, I wonder what John Lennon would have thought of this?'" says McKeown. "John Lennon was such a cool guy, and I think it's fair to say that the medium of Broadway ... it's hard to be cool. The very notion of people bursting into song ... it's not like a (rock) concert, where the band can disengage itself from being in show business, because they kind of strut on, play their songs, pay no attention to the audience, and walk off.

"A musical is a very different thing. So one of the hard things is to retain the innate core of who John Lennon was."

Lennon

Where: Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th St., New York

When: Now in previews, opens Aug. 14. 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. This week, there will be an added performance at 8 p.m. tomorrow, and no shows at 2 p.m. Wednesday or 8 p.m. Thursday

How much: $46.25-$101.25 ($41.25-$91.25 for Wednesday matinees). Call (800) 432-7250 or visit www.telecharge.com

-----

I don't really know how previews work, but if you're allowed to buy tickets to the shows prior to August 14, I guess they're open to the public.
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Old Aug 01, 2005, 05:47 PM   #3
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And here's the NY Times article, just for the heck of it:

The Many Faces of John Lennon: Black, White, Male, Female
By ALLAN KOZINN
The New York Times
July 31, 2005
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FOR Don Scardino, the idea of writing and directing a musical about John Lennon was impossible to resist, even though the pitfalls of undertaking the project could not have been clearer. A Beatles fan since the group's earliest hits - now 57, he said he hightailed it to Kennedy Airport to see the group's arrival here on its first visit in 1964 - he caught both Beatles concerts at Shea Stadium, in 1965 and 1966, and still quotes lines from "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" from memory. So he knew enough about the world of obsessive fandom to understand that however he presented Lennon, there would be choruses of objection.

Mr. Scardino, whose "Lennon" has been running in previews at the Broadhurst Theater for three weeks, and opens officially on Aug. 14, also knew that the medium itself might seem suspect to many of Lennon's fans. The wave of the rock revolution that the Beatles led, after all, swept musical theater hits off the pop charts (permanently, with the exception of rock-oriented shows like "Hair") and made musical theater seem decidedly uncool. How could a musical theater work do justice to Lennon, the sharp-tongued rock star who, during the Beatles years and for a while beyond them, defined counterculture hipness?

Still, when Edgar Lansbury mentioned the prospect in 1998, during the editing of Mr. Scardino's film, "Advice from a Caterpillar," Mr. Scardino signed on immediately. Mr. Lansbury, who has produced about 20 Broadway and Off Broadway plays that range from "The Subject Was Roses" and "Gypsy" to a rap musical, "Club XII," had the idea of producing a Lennon musical, and he had scheduled a meeting to propose the idea to Yoko Ono, Lennon's widow, who controls the rights to the singer's name and music. What he didn't have was a concept.

"Edgar asked me, 'Do you know anything about John Lennon,' " Mr. Scardino recalled. "I said, 'I know everything about John Lennon.' And he told me, 'If you can come up with a concept, you can come to the meeting.' So I had three days to think of something, and my starting point was, what would I, as a die-hard John Lennon fan, want to see?"

His first idea wasn't promising: it was an idealized Lennon concert, concentrating on his solo work, punctuated by anecdotes. He quickly saw its inadequacies: it would just be a post-Beatles edition of "Beatlemania" ("Not the Beatles but an incredible simulation!"), with a Lennon impersonator as its anchor. By the time he and Mr. Lansbury met with Ms. Ono, though, the concept had morphed into something close to the current show.

From the start, he said, he considered it crucial to focus on Lennon's solo work, partly because he felt that the Beatles music was already ubiquitous, while Lennon's own work was less widely known, and partly because, as he put it, Lennon was "a musical diarist who was able to write more about what he felt and experienced once he was outside the Beatle box." He might also have surmised that Ms. Ono would be more amenable to a piece that focused on Lennon's later work, as indeed she was.

"We were in sync, let's put it that way," she said during an interview recently at the Dakota, "If they kept asking about Beatles music, I would have said, 'O.K., well, why don't you make a Beatles musical.' "

The principal selling point of Mr. Scardino's proposal, though, was his reconfiguration of Lennon. Instead of having a single actor play him, Mr. Scardino proposed having the full cast - nine actors, male and female and of various ethnicities - slipping in and out of the Lennon role, each speaking his words and singing his music. He also decided that the dialogue, or at least the lines spoken by Lennon, should be drawn from the lengthy retrospective interviews Lennon gave throughout his life. (Mr. Scardino did pirate a line from George Harrison - the observation, heard in the "Beatles Anthology," that "the world went mad and blamed it on us." But Lennon had made similar comments.)

"So many people have approached me and said, 'Can I do a musical of John,' " Ms. Ono said. "It's a very simple idea, you know - wow, a musical of John! But I've said no. This time, I said yes, because I liked the idea of having these different actors playing John. Because in the years after John's passing, John has transformed into something else. People in Asia think of him as their hero. People in Africa think of him as their hero. He was a hero for the whole world, and not just a white hero. So it's great to have a black performer singing as John. For me, this play is a revolution, a quiet revolution."

"John would have loved this so much," she added. "He always used to say, 'I wish I had a black voice - they're such great blues singers, we can never imitate them.' So now, a black John? He'd be jumping up and down."

For the record, the cast includes three white and two black men, and a black, an Asian, a Hispanic and a white woman. Ms. Ono, who attended auditions, said that efforts to find a male Asian cast member for her dream Rainbow Coalition of John proved fruitless. And a black Lennon isn't the only identity bending here. The black actors, Michael Potts and Chuck Cooper, also play a Ku Klux Klan member (who threatened the Beatles in a famous 1966 news clip), Senator Strom Thurmond (who tried to have Lennon deported in the early 1970's) and Ed Sullivan. And when the Beatles are seen performing, they are portrayed by the four women.

Another attraction of Mr. Scardino's script, Ms. Ono said, was the irreverent humor with which it touches on aspects of Lennon's life, including his early-1970's association with Jerry Rubin and other political radicals, and the F.B.I.'s consequent decision to put him under surveillance.

"They could have done it all very seriously," Ms. Ono said, "but John was a funny guy. Even just the role changes are funny, but it's the laughter of awakening - realizing, when we see a black actor representing the Ku Klux Klan, that we are all one, that it's not about 'black is bad' or 'white is bad,' but that there is good and bad in every race. It's that kind of awakening that makes people laugh."

Ms. Ono added that in the late 1970's, she and Lennon were writing an autobiographical musical, to be called "The Ballad of John and Yoko." They never finished a script, but Lennon wrote several songs for it, most of which exist only on rough private recordings that have not been released. Ms. Ono gave Mr. Scardino two of them, "India, India" (which now accompanies a scene about the Beatles' flirtation with Transcendental Meditation) and "I Don't Want to Lose You," affixed to the section about Lennon's 18-month separation from Ms. Ono starting in 1973.

Otherwise, Ms. Ono said, she has been fairly hands-off.

"I did make some suggestions," she said. "There might have been things that John said that maybe now he would regret, you know?" For example? "I was particularly concerned about how they portrayed Cynthia," Ms. Ono said of Lennon's first wife. "I told them they couldn't just use what John said, because he might have said things that were not that accurate, and it's not fair to her. I wanted to know what she said as well, and if she said the same thing that John said, that was fine. I wanted them to take the trouble of researching that, and they did."

When an early version of the musical ran in San Francisco, in the spring, it drew the critical fire that Mr. Scardino had expected. A run in Boston was canceled so that the show could be retooled. Cynthia Lennon, said to have been treated too cursorily, was given a greater presence.

It was also said that in the San Francisco version, Ms. Ono was given too much of the spotlight - complaints that recalled the early years of Lennon's marriage to Ms. Ono, when she was blamed for everything from breaking up the Beatles to leading Lennon from the zenith of pop stardom to the world of avant-garde musical experiments, radical politics and feminism (all of which, Lennon insisted to the end of his life, meant more to him than playing in a pop band). Mr. Scardino toned down her role.

"In San Francisco, people were saying, 'Oh, Yoko is all over the place,' " Ms. Ono said, "and I said, well, I was all over the place, in his life, because he wanted me to be. But it's good that I'm not played up. I'm the B-side: this is about John and I want it to be right. People ask me, 'Do you mind being in John's shadow all the time?' That's one thing I never minded because, I suppose, I'm fiercely independent and confident. And it's great to be sitting in the shade of a huge tree like John."

There were also complaints about the absence of Beatles songs in the score, even songs that Lennon wrote on his own. (Affixing the Lennon-McCartney credit to either composer's work was a convention agreed on in the group's early days.) Actually, there are two Lennon-McCartney songs: "The Ballad of John and Yoko" and "Give Peace a Chance," which was published under the old co-authorship agreement.

(Continued in the next post...)
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Old Aug 01, 2005, 05:48 PM   #4
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It is not as though the Beatles are ignored. The first 50 minutes of the two-hour show take place before the Beatles' breakup. Their girl-group version is shown performing in their formative days in Hamburg and at the Royal Command Performance in 1963, and Mr. Scardino can claim historical authenticity in having Lennon sing two covers, Barrett Strong's "Money" and the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout," in these scenes, since they were highlights of Lennon's stage repertory then. The opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night" drifts by at one point, and a stormy scene from the recording sessions for the "Let It Be" album - during which Lennon expresses his contempt for Paul McCartney's "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" - represents the band's breakup.

As it turns out, Lennon's solo songs are easily adapted to the story line, even that of the Beatles years. "Instant Karma," for example, proves a perfect comment on the fracas caused by Lennon's 1966 remark that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus; nothing in the Beatles' songbook captures quite the same feeling. Lennon's mother's death, a central trauma in his early life, is illustrated with "Mother," a song he wrote after undergoing primal scream therapy. And the Beatles' breakup gets a double dose - "How Do You Sleep," the 1971 slam of Mr. McCartney, and "God," the 1970 song in which Lennon disavows everything from the Bible to the Beatles, and concludes "I just believe in me - Yoko and me, that's reality."

Other songs fit the story straightforwardly: "Give Peace a Chance" and "Power to the People" are the natural soundtracks for the section on Lennon's political involvements, and songs from his 1980 "Double Fantasy" album do what they were written to do - describe the dynamic between him and Ms. Ono in his last years.

"When I began work on this," Mr. Scardino said, "a friend of mine told me, 'You can't win - this is John Lennon, a major icon, and 50 percent of his fans will say you've got it right, and 50 percent will say you've got it wrong.' But I think we got what I was aiming for. We got his musicality. We got his politics. We got his humor. And we got his transformation, his growth. It seems to me that on balance, we present the measure of the man."
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Old Aug 01, 2005, 06:05 PM   #5
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These aren't reviews, actually. They are advance publicity articles about the production. You aren't allowed to review a Broadway production until it opens officially. I can't WAIT to see what Ben Brantley (NY Times Theatre Critic) says about this thing...I have a feeling it won't be kind.

Frankly, these two articles smack to me of the PR machine according to Yoko, as they naturally would...but advance word I HAVE heard on this thing is pretty abysmal, and I give this turkey three weeks, if that...maybe it'll close on opening night as I think it will blessedly deserve to. I know I won't be wasting my money on it, not when the price of a decent Broadway ticket is over $100. Oh, and Don Scardino is the same idiot who said in another article that the reason there's no Beatles music is because "John wasn't very interested in the Beatles." So I know he's just talking the party line about how wonderful this isbecause he's the director and he's in Yoko's pocket...and it amazes me how they think we fans will fall for that B.S. Maybe casual fans will, but do they think WE are that stupid???

I don't hate Yoko but I get REALLY annoyed when she doctors history to suit her version of events... grr....
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Old Aug 01, 2005, 06:19 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HMVNipper
Maybe casual fans will, but do they think WE are that stupid???
Yeah, but think of the numbers. There are dozens, probably hundreds of casual fans for every one of people like us.
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Old Aug 01, 2005, 09:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HMVNipper
Frankly, these two articles smack to me of the PR machine according to Yoko, as they naturally would...but advance word I HAVE heard on this thing is pretty abysmal, and I give this turkey three weeks, if that...maybe it'll close on opening night as I think it will blessedly deserve to.
Actually? I'm intrigued. The casting ideas are really interesting, and it sounds like they really did pay attention to the awful feedback they received in San Francisco and tried to improve on it. Of course, the show could very well turn out to be a big steaming pile of crap, but for now I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

I think I'll wait to read the actual reviews before I decide whether to go, but I'm not ready to reject it based on what I've heard so far.
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Old Aug 02, 2005, 08:09 AM   #8
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Well their site still lists the play as if it's going on right now this week. I can't believe they wouldn't update their own site.
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Old Aug 02, 2005, 04:07 PM   #9
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Well their site still lists the play as if it's going on right now this week. I can't believe they wouldn't update their own site.
The play IS going on right now this week -- in previews. The official opening (after which reviews will come out) was supposed to be July 7 -- and they pushed it off to August 14. That generally does not bode well for the prospects of a show. Couple that with the fact that the out of town notices were so abysmal that they actually cancelled the Boston run, and I don't think you can honestly say that this thing is all that great, no matter how many changes and tweaks and updates they have made. They can tweak it all they want, but (among other things I think are potentially wrong with this show) the "John as Everyman" conceit that has him played by African-Americans and women is just plain ridiculous, especially considering Yoko is played by just one (really good-looking) Asian woman. What is wrong with this picture? John WASN'T "Everyman," he was unique and special and one-of-a-kind. You also have to remember that the advance PR for a show is specifically designed to make questionable product look good, much as a movie trailer can make a truly crappy film look like the greatest thing ever put on celluloid.

I'm also willing to wait for the actual reviews, but that still doesn't mean I'm going to bother spending the money on it, I have better things to blow $300 on. I prefer to read reliable, unbiased books about John's life than to see what is undoubtedly the Yoko-approved, Yokocentric version of it. As Beatles fans, we ALL know that there was much more to his life than that -- and to call this show a "biography" of John Lennon that leaves out over 20 years of that life is nothing short of a travesty.

People around here know I'm usually a great Yoko-booster, but this is something I definitely find questionable at best, and horrifying at worst.
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Old Aug 02, 2005, 04:14 PM   #10
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no cclue sounds like thye must have hit a glitch long the way.
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Old Aug 11, 2005, 03:27 PM   #11
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i keep hearing less than mediocre reviews (except for one person who said that they loved it...)
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Old Aug 12, 2005, 04:29 PM   #12
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This was in today's NY Post. Now, yes, the Post is a rag -- however, its rep when it comes to Broadway is actually pretty good and pretty accurate. They have some very good critics and "society spies" in the NY theatre scene. Make of this what you will -- but I can tell you that bringing in a new director at the nth hour (and then browbeating him into leaving) NEVER bodes well for a new show.

I don't have a link because someone sent this to me by email -- and I don't think you can access the Post online unless you pay for a subscription.

******************

CHANGES? OH NO!
By MICHAEL RIEDEL


August 10, 2005 -- Broadway Matinee


WHO needs the critics to destroy your show when you've got Yoko Ono?

The widow Lennon is up to her old tricks, undermining last-ditch efforts to save the seriously flawed bio musical about her late husband at every turn.

Her latest antic: Driving director David Leveaux ("Nine," "Fiddler on the Roof"), who came on board last week as a show doctor, out the door.

Leveaux lasted just two days on "Lennon." He walked off after Ono objected to changes he wanted to make to the staging and the script, both the handiwork of Don Scardino, an Ono acolyte with a growing reputation as Broadway's leading bottom-drawer director.

"David didn't pull his punches about the show's problems," a production source says. "Yoko didn't want to hear it. She thought David was the devil."

The show's producers are said to be deeply frustrated by Leveaux's departure. They spent days trying to convince Ono that the show needed a fresh director. She finally agreed to Leveaux because he insisted on joining the show as "a friend of the production" and not as her beloved Scardino's replacement.

At first, Ono seemed to accept Leveaux's tough and, production sources say, accurate criticisms of the show. But as soon as he started to make changes, she turned on him. Her fickleness has been a problem all along.

She agrees to something in the morning, and reverses herself by the afternoon, sources say. She has enormous influence over the show because she controls the rights to Lennon's songs. One day, she gives the producers permission to use the famous "Imagine" video in the show. The next day, for no apparent reason, she says they can't. Changes are made that everyone agrees are an improvement and then, as soon as the producers aren't looking, Ono and Scardino put everything that wasn't working back in the show. Or they come up with wacky new ideas — such as starting and ending the show with the image of the space shuttle because Ono once heard that the astronauts on one of the flights began each day listening to John Lennon songs.

A person involved in the show says Ono and Scardino "are like a roomful of school children — you turn your back on them for one minute and they make a mess of the whole place."

Another problem is that, when it comes to musicals, Ono has no idea what works and what doesn't (neither, apparently, does Scardino).

A veteran theater person working on "Lennon" says some of the scenes — and especially the dances — are painfully bad, but Ono thinks they're wonderful.

Company members, drowning their sorrows in beer across the street at the restaurant Angus McIndoe, are baffled by her complete lack of taste when it comes to the theater. There are also complaints that the show, under Ono's tight rein, has become nothing but a Lennon whitewash job, turning one of the 20th century's most complex cultural icons into a bland, peace-loving hippie. His drug use is just hinted at; his bisexuality ignored; and his serial philandering only dealt with head-on in one scene. Backstage, the mood at "Lennon" is grim. Nearly everyone thinks the show, which, after several delays, finally opens Sunday at the Broadhurst, is doomed.

Cold turkey, indeed.
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Old Aug 14, 2005, 06:30 PM   #13
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This looks to me like what William Goldman, in his book The Season, calls the "Kiss of Death" production ("the show that under no conceivable conditions can work"). The whole concept is bad--as Nipper pointed out, John is most definitely NOT an Everyman, so how could such a portrayal work on stage? Not to mention treating John as if he did nothing important before he met Yoko, and blowing off the other Beatles completely!

The postponement of the opening date is always a bad sign; shows are supposed to be in good shape by their announced opening date, and if they need work at that late date it's a clear sign that the show is terrible. And the fact that they're opening on a Sunday, when the typical Broadway musical opens on a Thursday... well, that's almost unbelievable, given that this way they lose valuable weekend business right off the bat, and also that theatres are normally dark (the shows don't run) on Mondays, so there's an immediate break in the action. Bizarre, bizarre. The director, Don Scardino, has a very skimpy resume, including a notorious one-night play from 2003 in an age when NOTHING closes in one night any more. He's never directed a musical, either; it's hard to understand why anyone would choose him to direct one.

Another useful Goldman term is "the Muscle... [the person who] is chiefly responsible for what finally does or does not get on stage." Unfortunately, in this case, the Muscle, Yoko, knows diddly-squat about musical theatre and has an agenda that she's relentlessly pursuing. The result can't hope to be anything but an embarrassing vanity project that will close quickly. The fan base will not, I think, save this show. Most rock fans are not musical theatre fans, and this isn't exactly a "sexy" musical that would draw in the non Beatle fans.
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Old Aug 14, 2005, 06:53 PM   #14
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I haven't posted on this site in a really long time, but I thought now is a good time to do so! I saw the Lennon Musical yesterday afternoon. Opening night was postponed, so I guess I saw it before opening night! Lol. I sat in the second row, and I could even see the actors spitting on the first row--it was amazing! I just want to say that I highly recommend it; they really humanize John. He isn't portrayed as an idol here, but as a person. And as far as multiple actors (black and white, men and women, old and young) portraying him... I love how they've pulled it off. And I love how every word "John" says in this musical, is a direct quote from him. It's really great. Go see it if you get the chance! Pay no attention to those bad reviews, they aren't from true fans. Get your own opinion of the show! Many of the people who gave it bad reviews wanted more of his Beatles life in it, but John was so much more than that! He had a life outside of that and beyond it. Give it a chance. :)

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Old Aug 15, 2005, 04:17 AM   #15
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Well, here are the reviews from the New York papers, the Times, Daily News, Newsday and Post. No one really liked it much -- big surprise. Make of this what you will...I'm not wasting my money. The Daily News sent both their reviewers, hence the two reviews.

From the Times:

http://theater2.nytimes.com/2005/08/15/theater/reviews/15lenn.html?8hpib

August 15, 2005
[size=3]Then John Met Yoko, and the Rest Is a Musical[/size]

By BEN BRANTLEY
In the immortal words of Yoko Ono, "Aieeeee!" A fierce primal scream - of the kind Ms. Ono is famous for as a performance and recording artist - is surely the healthiest response to the agony of "Lennon," the jerry-built musical shrine that opened last night at the Broadhurst Theater.

The title character of "Lennon" is, of course, John Lennon, the onetime Beatle and (more to the purposes of this show) Ms. Ono's artistic collaborator and husband, who died nearly 25 years ago. Biographies of Lennon indicate that he was a man of corrosive intelligence, overflowing creativity, Lucullan indulgences and enough inner demons to fill a county in hell.

This drippy version of his life, written and directed with equal clunkiness by Don Scardino and featuring a Muzak-alized assortment of Lennon's non-"Beatles" songs, suggests that he was just a little lost boy looking for love in all the wrong places until he found Ms. Ono and discovered his inner adult. When his adoring fans and a hitherto tame press turned on him in the late-1960's, Lennon told a journalist that his public had never seen him clearly to begin with, that even when he was a schoolboy, those who actually knew him never "thought of me as cuddly."

Yet cuddly is how Lennon (who is portrayed by five actors) emerges here, like a pocket-size elf doll who delivers encouraging mantras of self-help and good will when you scratch his tummy. "We're all one," "Love is the answer," "Be real" - these and other Lennonisms are projected in repeated succession on a screen before the show begins. Little that follows goes beyond such fortune-cookie wisdom.

"Lennon" is the latest in the bland crop of shows known as jukebox musicals that have been spreading over Broadway like kudzu, from the mega-hit "Mamma Mia!" (the Abba musical) to the super-flop "Good Vibrations" (Beach Boys). "Lennon" fits the jukebox mold, with its regulation lineup of perky, puppyish performers and brimming quota of recognizable songs, delivered with lots of volume and little dancing.

But unlike other recent examples of the genre, "Lennon" deals directly with the man behind its music. This makes a certain sense, since so much of Lennon's later work was self-reflective. Aided by projections (the scenic design is by John Arnone) of drawings by Lennon and photographs of the artist at different ages, the nine-member ensemble takes a synoptic slog through the life and times of its subject, annotated by autobiographical songs.

Mr. Scardino and Ms. Ono (whose name appears in large type in the credits, where she is accorded "special thanks") have said that using five actors to portray Lennon reflects the idea that the man meant different things to different people. Yet instead of making Lennon seem multifaceted and multiform, this device turns him into a one-size-fits-all alter ego to the world.

The subtext, to borrow from a Dr. Pepper commercial of years ago, is something like "I'm a Lennon/ You're a Lennon/ He's a Lennon/ She's a Lennon/ Wouldn't you like to be a Lennon too?"

And because one of the actors, the charismatic Will Chase, looks and sounds much more like Lennon than the others, your focus is magnetically pulled toward him in ways that upset the show's balance.

Stories of Lennon's substance abuse, womanizing and acts of violence are kept to a minimum. (His drug arrest for marijuana is presented as a frame-up; his use of heroin is never mentioned.) It is asserted that traumatized by the absence of stabilizing parents in his childhood - he was born in 1940 - Lennon devoted most of his young adulthood to trying on personae that didn't fit.

These artificial selves would seem to embrace both his notorious dalliance with Indian mysticism and his work as a member of the Beatles, biographical chapters presented with dismissive flippancy. Then, John meets Yoko, and the tone shifts to the kind of romantic earnestness usually accompanied by a thousand violins. After singing "Mind Games" with Yoko with saccharine piety, Lennon says, "Our life became our art."

This epiphany occurs well before the end of the first act. Which means the rest of the show reverently portrays the persecution (by comic-book F.B.I. agents and journalists) and deification of Lennon and Ms. Ono, up to his murder in 1980. It is worth noting that while most of the characters are played interchangeably by the ensemble, Ms. Ono is embodied by one actress only (Julie Danao-Salkan) and registers as improbably constant as the North Star.

On this Ono-centric level, "Lennon" is not without precedent. "John and Yoko: A Love Story," a 1985 television movie that had Ms. Ono's official sanction, and Ms. Ono's own musical, "New York Rock," produced Off Broadway in 1994, were similar in their emphases. But while the world may love a love story, it seems safe to say that Lennon ultimately will be remembered less as the husband of Ms. Ono than as a member of the group that changed the face of popular music.

There is little corroborative evidence for this epochal status in "Lennon." The songs' arrangements, performed by an onstage orchestra, and vocal delivery tend toward either aggressive Broadway belting or Carpenters-style schmaltz, neither of which was exactly Lennon's approach. The talented cast members, who include formidable Broadway veterans like Terrence Mann and Chuck Cooper, seldom evoke the man they are celebrating.

Mr. Chase does manage to summon both the sardonic and wistful qualities that pervaded Lennon's voice, without stooping to vulgar impersonation. Julia Murney does a lovely job with Lennon's paternal ode "Beautiful Boy," one of the few moments that is not oversold. And Marcy Harriell puts over "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" with a rafter-rattling intensity that, while not exactly Lennonesque, certainly makes an impression.

Chart-toppers like "Give Peace a Chance" and "Instant Karma" are accorded the full, painful love-in treatment à la "Hair." (Daisies are distributed during "Give Peace a Chance.") But while the songs' musical hooks may still dig into your memory, the image of the man who wrote them is likely to feel fuzzier after the show than it did before.

At the end, a clip from Mr. Lennon and Ms. Ono's video of his song "Imagine" is shown. And there before you is the real John Lennon - lean-faced, thin-lipped, cryptic, shyly exhibitionist. It says everything about the vapid "Lennon" that your instinctive response to this complex apparition is, "Who is that man anyway, and what is he doing here?"
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"When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow." - Anais Nin
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Old Aug 15, 2005, 04:18 AM   #16
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From the Daily News:

http://www.nydailynews.com/front/sto...p-288092c.html

An unfab 'Lennon'

By Howard Kissel

Monday, August 15th, 2005

Jukebox musicals — shows based on the songs of a popular entertainer — always raise one big question: Should you plop down $100 for a theater ticket or just stay home and listen to your old records?

In the case of "Lennon," the answer is easy: Light one up and put on the stereo.

The musical, directed and conceived by Don Scardino, not only adds nothing to your appreciation or understanding of John Lennon. If anything, its listless presentation of the events of his life will diminish your sense of who he was.

The "text" consists of memoirs by Lennon himself, some reminiscences by his widow, Yoko Ono, and comments from other public figures. The result is a collage without any focus.

At the very least, for example, a theatrical piece about Lennon should give you the visceral experience of his death.

This one opts instead for a kind of journalistic presentation, as we hear the recollection of a policeman who arrived on the scene shortly after the murder. I'm afraid that falls under the heading of Cop-Out.

Rather than having a single actor play Lennon, a racially diverse group of nine recites his words and sings his songs, allegedly to show his universality. The most effective of them is Will Chase, who almost captures Lennon's offhand style, but overall the effect is to blur the edginess of his personality.

A sample of the show's cutesy cleverness is that, on the few occasions we see Lennon performing with the Beatles, all four of "the lads," as they were called, are portrayed by women. The image is so goofy that someone arriving late might imagine he had stumbled into "Spamalot" next door.

Instead of dramatizing what was in fact an extremely dramatic life and time, the show invariably settles for the obvious. At the end of the first act, for example, to re-create the mood of the '60s, the cast, singing "Give Peace a Chance," comes out into the audience passing out flowers. (At least when Milos Forman did his film of "Hair" he captured some of the poignancy of the period — here all we see is its knee-jerk anger and glib self-congratulation.)

Even the music seems clichéd, since some of the arrangements have more to do with the styles of our time than Lennon's, especially the "American Idol" caterwauling for the women.

Chuck Cooper, one of the nine Lennons, has power when he sings, which is all too seldom. But poor Terrence Mann, another of the nine, also has to impersonate several famous figures — Winston Churchill, David Frost and Queen Elizabeth. They all seemed amateurish.

Then, so does everything about the show. Apparently there was no budget for a choreographer, because the little dancing there is would embarrass the director of a high school musical.

The money didn't go for John Arnone's sets, which consist largely of projections. Nor could the costumes have been costly — though Jane Greenwood has captured the scruffiness of the time well. If the portrait of Lennon had any force, the chintzy way it is presented wouldn't matter. A bare stage would have been fine. At least it wouldn't cost much to tour. And I see no reason why it shouldn't hit the road immediately.

AND

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertain...p-288090c.html

An unfab 'Lennon'

By Jim Farber

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

When John Lennon busted out of the Beatles — as one might a stretch at Sing Sing — his greatest wish was to tear down the huge and distancing mythology that surrounded the group so he could keep his solo music small and close.

Stripped production, spare instrumentation and almost embarrassingly raw and personal lyrics became both his initial mantra and a motif throughout his solo work.

"Lennon," a new musical, clearly wasn't paying attention to this, because it does everything it can to blow John's *simple songs into something garish and grand.

This they call a tribute?

Apparently the makers of "Lennon" never met a ballad too intimate to be whipped into a show-stopper. When the cast performs a song like "God," they initially honor John's direct and focused approach. But the creators only go so far in trusting their singers and their audience.

Before you know it, all kinds of crazy vocal embellishments come crashing into the song, and soon we've moved from John's primal-scream style to what sounds like a group audition for "American Idol."

I know. I know. "This is Broadway," you're thinking. "That's the way they do it here."

But this is John Lennon, a revolutionary force. Is it too much to ask for a small revolution in the scale and delivery of the music in a show about such a world-altering figure?

Of course, this isn't the first time Lennon's music has gotten way too windy a treatment. Barbra Streisand recorded a clueless version of "Mother" in 1971. It could have served as this show's role model.

This isn't to say everything is lost in the music, or even the theater, of "Lennon." It's never as teeth-gnashingly terrible as fans may fret, because it hardly ever takes itself seriously enough for that. Though Lennon may be an infinitely more sanctified icon in society than, say, ABBA's Benny and Bjorn, this show conforms to the typical jukebox musical's cheeky, scrapbook approach: Pie-eyed nostalgia trumps all.

Also, some in the cast at least boast imitative skills — especially Will Chase. He has Lennon's sing-songy Liverpudlian accent down, as well as his vocal nasality. When he's allowed to perform a song in proportion, like "Real Love," there's something akin to a heart tug. Likewise, Julia Danao-Salkin gets to deliver "Beautiful Boy" at the right lullaby pitch.

Some oversights in the song selection prove surprising. Several of Lennon's best-known and most-covered solo songs are nowhere to be found, including "Working Class Hero" and "Jealous Guy."

But at least that means those touchstones don't have to suffer the whims of the singers' inflations. It's also nice that John himself gets the last word in the play: A video of the icon performing "Imagine" appears at the very end. If only the play's creators studied its intimacy and quirkiness more closely.
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Old Aug 15, 2005, 04:18 AM   #17
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From Newsday:

http://www.newsday.com/entertainment...,4677399.story

BROADWAY REVIEW
Will Yoko's filter give this piece a chance?


BY LINDA WINER
STAFF WRITER

August 15, 2005

Imagine there's no Beatles, imagine no iconic movies, no White Album, no poetry books, no drawings. Then imagine there's no son before Sean, no mistress named May Pang, no deep depression, nothing really serious with drugs.

In other words, imagine "Lennon," the biographical jukebox- musical that opened at the Broadhurst Theatre last night after a troubled tryout in San Francisco and the burden of bad-buzz postponements. This is John Lennon, the legend, as filtered through the protective, selective, up-with-people, later-life self-interest of Yoko Ono Lennon. Although the hype promises "His Words. His Music. His Story," it is their story - perhaps even her story - that shapes the show.

As a concert, Don Scardino's production is sensitive to the parody that curdles most recreations of the '60s and '70s. The director, who wrote the book "with special thanks" to Ono, avoids that wax-museum Beatlemania quality (remember "not the Beatles, but an incredible simulation!") by dividing Lennon's character among nine first-rate singers. This amusing, sometimes startling mix of races, genders and ages remind us that "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together." Sticky issues of copyright and cost are apparently sidestepped by using only songs written by John and owned by Yoko.

But "Lennon" is meant to be larger than a portrait of his American years, the influential but hardly inclusive period after he met the much-maligned avant-garde Japanese artist at her gallery show. Those pesky pre-Yoko years, including the first marriage and the first son, are given a once-over-slightly, a travelogue from his baby pictures in Liverpool to the process of creating "She was just 17, you know what I mean ..." in his bathroom with that guy named Paul McCartney.

The entire rise and breakup of the Beatles - whose Shea Stadium concert was 40 years ago today - is dismissed in the first half hour. This leaves plenty of time for the house lights to go up so the cast can toss daisies at the audience while singing "Give Peace a Chance." At least the flowers are real.

Technically, this is a low - no? - concept show. The band is onstage. The stage is a plain circle backed by three screens for John Arnone's often poignant projections. A few are drawings by John, though nothing is made of this complicated, wonderful artist's multiple gifts. Joseph Malone's choreography is elementary but unobtrusive, while Jane Greenwood's sly costumes have the easygoing feel of thrift-shop fashion.

The cast sings its lungs out in the joyously arranged, often stylistically updated songs. The actors share the narration with the same grace with which they share embodiments of the man himself. Will Chase is the most persuasive John. Marcy Harriell delivers a powerhouse "Woman Is the Nigger of the World." Julia Murney is especially touching as Lennon's mother, whose death is given early importance in the lament, "Mother."

A black actor plays a Klan cracker and Ed Sullivan. Four women play the Beatles on the historic Sullivan show. Jerry Rubin is made to be foolish, but so is J. Edgar Hoover in his red high-heel pumps.

Lennon's assassination is handled with restraint, with Cooper as the cop who remembers where he was when it happened. John's dark side is passed off as a "long weekend" that turned into a year. We believe that his gushy praise of Yoko is verbatim. We have never been among the Yoko bashers, but these valentines to herself feel unseemly.

LENNON. Music and lyrics by John Lennon, book and direction by Don Scardino. Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th St. Tickets: $101.25-46.25. Phone: 212-239-6200. Seen at Saturday evening preview.
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Old Aug 15, 2005, 04:19 AM   #18
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http://www.nypost.com/theatre/51243.htm

ST. JOHN
By CLIVE BARNES

LENNON
2 Stars
Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th St. between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. (212) 239-6200.
AFTER all the rumors, postpone ments, alarms and excursions the bio-musical caused, "Lennon" opened last night at the Broadhurst Theatre with that special note of unsurprise.

It benefits from its nine-person cast, superb from top to bottom, and, let's face it, expectations so reduced as to be almost minimal.

It suffers from a concept and book by the show's director, Don Scardino, that is so shaky it can scarcely stagger from one side of the stage to the other.

You also constantly feel that the show is positioned between a rock and a hard Ono.

This is more hagiography than biography — a grayish whitewash of John Lennon's character, who appears heroically bowdlerized.

Biography is customarily too linear for the Broadway musical. Fantasy continually intrudes on facts, while so many gray-haired baby boomers have their own view or image of Lennon, Yoko Ono and some little pop group called The Beatles.

Scardino shapes his musical as a celebration, or, put more frankly, a sort of concert. Seemingly in deference to Ono's presumed wishes, the script feels concentrated on the post-Beatles years.

Although the Beatles era actually takes up the first half of the show, it somehow feels relegated to mere prologue. When we are offered a glimpse of The Beatles in action, starting from that formative stint in a Hamburg nightclub, they are played cutely by the four female members of the cast.

Scardino's moment of originality comes in having Lennon himself played at various times by all nine cast members, irrespective of gender or ethnicity, and bound together by only a Merseyside accent (in most cases, remarkably accurate) and a pair of signature steel-rimmed spectacles.

This intentionally bizarre multiplicity of Lennons does suggest his iconic universality but doesn't really add much else. The conceit wears pretty thin after the first 10 minutes of amusement. It never helps us better understand Lennon, his world or his music.

A quarter-century after his death, John Lennon still is essentially a child of our own times, and despite offering a few flaws — a touch of drug abuse, a tad of infidelity and a dollop of bad-boy craziness — the final effect here is more saintly than convincing.

John Arnone's setting is drab, and Jane Greenwood's costumes more serviceable than imaginative. But the cast really comes through for Scardino — and Lennon.

It is unfair to single out any of a virtually flawless ensemble, but — being unfair — Chad Kimball and especially Will Chase excel, given much of the heavy character lifting of Lennon himself; Chuck Cooper is superlative throughout; Terrence Mann has a lovely series of comic cameos, and the wildcat kitten Marcy Harriel is a star in the making.

All in all, this is a fabulous cast.

And, of course, there's always the music! But the price of a ticket can buy a few CDs you can keep, cherish and celebrate longer than a theater stub.
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"When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow." - Anais Nin
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Old Aug 15, 2005, 07:18 AM   #19
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Couple more reviews from some online Broadway sites...

http://www.broadway.com/gen/Buzz_Story.aspx?ci=516417


Lennon
by Eric Grode


"Christ, you know it ain't easy.
You know how hard it can be.
The way things are going,
You're gonna crucify me."
--John Lennon, "The Ballad of John and Yoko"

John Lennon is not crucified in Lennon. That would be too bold, too dramatic a choice for a musical as rudderless as this one. Instead, he meets a sadder fate. He is simplified, defanged. He is turned into Everyrebel, a hunky martyr in granny glasses. Don Scardino and Yoko Ono Lennon now know it ain't easy to develop a compelling or even coherent piece of theater out of his music. And Christ, so do we.

It doesn't help when you decide to ignore the material that makes a show like Lennon financially conceivable in the first place. According to director/conceiver Scardino's hopelessly muddled script, Lennon spent several years in a band that started small and eventually attracted mobs of screaming fans. This band underutilized his songwriting gifts, and he was really only able to blossom as an artist after he took leave of his bandmates.

That's fine if you're making Timberlake, a musical about Justin's courageous split from 'N Sync. However, we're talking about the Beatles. We're talking about "Across the Universe," "Revolution," "All You Need Is Love" and dozens of other slices of pop-music perfection. (Lennon and Paul McCartney shared songwriting credit on all of their Beatles songs, but there's little question about who wrote what.)

The unbilled presence of Ono, Lennon's widow and torchbearer, looms very large over the on-stage (in)action, and she has had well-documented scuffles with the surviving Beatles in the past about the use of these songs. (Lennon was shot dead at the age of 40, an event that Lennon depicts with discretion and grace.) For whatever reason or reasons, the Lennon score is given over almost entirely to his post-Beatles work.

Now, songs like "Woman" and "Watching the Wheels" have an insistent melodic tug, and I'd certainly rather see them put on stage than the catalogs of, say, Wings or the Traveling Wilburys (the follow-up bands of McCartney and George Harrison, respectively). But there's a reason the Beatles are the most loved band in rock history-they wrote phenomenal songs. And it should be mentioned that the Lennon producers aren't exactly trumpeting the absence of these songs.

In their place, we get one post-Beatles ballad after another, nearly a dozen of which feature the nine performers wailing away to Harold Wheeler's overstuffed orchestrations in either a straight line or a staggered line, usually in boy-girl-boy-girl formation. (Only John Arnone's projections, which range from the charming to the cluttered, break up the visual monotony.) This static staging is actually preferable to the up-tempo songs, which spotlight choreography by Joseph Malone that is as inept as any seen on a Broadway stage in years.

Scardino has drawn heavily on Lennon's journal entries, which depict a man uncomfortable with his fame and genuinely interested in channeling it toward an increasingly nuanced definition of what's right. But surrounding these wry, often insightful comments with cartoons instead of fellow human beings completely undermines what I believe to be Lennon's message. It's possible to show ambivalence about life with the Beatles without turning Paul into a grinning jerk or having Ringo run off the stage with diarrhea. It's possible to convey the outrage generated by Lennon's "The Beatles are more popular
than Jesus" comment without portraying the protesters as a group of
illiterate rednecks.

In real life, John and Yoko advocated what they called "bagism," in which people are judged only by their words and not by their race, sex, etc. Scardino's main nod to this notion is the color and gender-blind portrayal of Lennon: All nine performers take a crack at trying on his Liverpudlian accent--with very mixed results--and trademark glasses. And using the four women to play the Fab Four, for example, is an attention-getting (if underdeveloped) choice.

Still, some Lennons are more equal than others, and primary duties go to Will Chase, with Chad Kimball and Terrence Mann also doing more than their share. Only Chase, who looks and sounds the part, has any real success replicating Lennon's galvanizing charisma. Julie Danao-Salkin is OK as Yoko, and Marcy Harriell knocks down the theater with a ferocious rendition of "Woman Is the Nigger of the World." Beyond that, talents like Mann, Chuck Cooper and Julia Murney (making a long-awaited Broadway debut) are completely wasted.

Ono has been blamed, often unfairly, for everything from the Beatles breakup to Lennon's sometimes ill-considered politics; she will likely be blamed for much of the sorry spectacle that is Lennon, which may not be entirely fair. Giving Danao-Salkin the final bow is certainly curious, as is obliterating any references to May Pang, the woman for whom John left Yoko for 18 months.

But these are the least of the show's problems. It is a reductive,
repetitive mess, a show without a glimmer of the mischievous, gentle wit that made Lennon's countercultural message so appealing to such a wide cross-section of listeners. The collaborators' love for John Lennon's words, music and aura is palpable throughout Lennon. Love is not all you need.

Lennon
Music and lyrics by John Lennon, book by Don Scardino with special thanks to Yoko Ono Lennon
Directed by Don Scardino
Broadhurst Theatre
__________________
"And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in all the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual." - John Steinbeck

"When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow." - Anais Nin

Last edited by HMVNipper : Aug 15, 2005 at 07:27 AM.
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Old Aug 15, 2005, 07:19 AM   #20
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And THIS guy actually liked it! Wonder how much Yoko paid him!

******************

http://www.broadwayworld.com/viewcolumn.cfm?colid=4372


Lennon: Give Yoko A Chance

by Michael Dale


Don't even think of calling Lennon a jukebox musical and lumping it in a pile with various ill-conceived attempts to squeeze a score-load of popular hits never intended to be sung on stage into some inane story and stick it on Broadway in hopes that everyone will be so enthralled with the songs that they'll forget the idiocy of the book. No, this is an entirely different, and far more satisfying, creation.


Not exactly a musical, definitely not a revue and certainly not a concert, Lennon combines the playful anarchy of the avant-guarde with the structured story-telling of musical theatre in an immensely entertaining and informative show that positively bursts with both silliness and sincere emotions while examining an artist who tried to use his celebrity to help save the world.

"The world went mad and used us as an excuse" is how John Lennon described the tumultuous decade of the 60's, where he, Paul, George and Ringo suddenly became the figureheads for a generation of sexual liberation, expanded drug culture and activism against authority to combat an unpopular war. When his flippant remark about how The Beatles had become more popular than Jesus caused a national scandal, it hinted at the number of people he had the power to influence. As a solo artist, Lennon devoted his work to protest injustice and send a message promoting world peace.


Although Don Scardino is credited as director and bookwriter, it has been common knowledge among the theatre community that John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, has maintained creative control over the production. In an interview with BroadwayWorld.com's Robert Diamond, cast member Terrence Mann stated, "She's been the final arbiter of everything that goes up on stage." And it's the awareness that you're watching his story from the perspective of his romantic soul mate and artistic partner that makes Lennon such a unique and often fascinating experience.

Although she most likely would not have received world-wide celebrity had she not been married to the former Beatle, Ono is nevertheless recognized by her peers as an important figure in the history of conceptual, multimedia and performance art. What we see on stage at the Broadhurst Theatre is her creative interpretation (through Don Scardino's excellent craftsmanship) of her deceased husband's life. Scale it down and Lennon would seem perfectly at home in a downtown performance art space. And if the story presented may lean a bit toward idealizing its subject, leaving one to wonder what may have been embellished or eliminated, it should always be considered that we're watching an artist's vision of his life, not an impartial documentary.

Songs he wrote with Paul McCartney and others are not included in Lennon which only uses his solo compositions. Fortunately, he was a man who commented on his very public personal life through his work, often naming names. This provides the show with a natural score and gives Scardino the opportunity to write scenes that organically evolve into appropriate songs. But instead of having characters sing in traditional musical theatre fashion, as a part of real life, songs are mostly used as commentary on the action. The story is told through a series of events and situations which inspired him to write such memorable music and lyrics as "Mind Games", "The Ballad of John and Yoko", "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine". But no songs are included simply for the sake of hearing a popular hit. Every musical moment in Lennon is there to serve the text.

And as he was never shy about speaking to the press, Scardino was able to have the character of John Lennon speak exclusively in the real man's words. (One would assume Ms. Ono supplied quotes for more personal moments.)

Scardino's script and direction often replicates the freewheeling lunacy that film director Richard Lester contributed to The Beatles' first feature films, A Hard Day's Night and Help. The supremely talented ensemble of five men and four women of various ages and ethnic backgrounds play a myriad of roles, ignoring any gender, age or racial restrictions. (The four women play The Beatles in their first Ed Sullivan Show appearance.) Each actor appears as John Lennon at one time or another, though some do so for only a brief moment. At times there are several John Lennons on stage. There are also appearances from Elton John, Strom Thurmond, J. Edgar Hoover and Queen Elizabeth II.

The fast-moving scenes are linked together with narration from John Lennon as played by Will Chase. The most convincing of the Lennons, with his working-class slouch, dark sense of humor and raw, passionate singing voice, Chase is the emotional anchor of the show. While the other Lennons, mostly Chad Kimball and Terrence Mann, play out scenes involving the formation and breakup of The Beatles, his relationship with two wives and his dedication to bringing peace to the world through non-violent resistance, Chase's performance keeps us aware of him as a regular bloke and amateur street philosopher just trying to do a little good.

Chad Kimball, though he can use a little more time working on his accent, is at his best bringing out Lennon's boyishness, while Terrence Mann's stronger moments come during celebrity impersonations. During one sequence he's especially hilarious following an intense David Frost with a jolly Mike Douglas. Both put in strong singing performances as do cast-mates Mandy Gonzalez, Michael Potts and Julia Danao-Salkin, who plays a spirited and sympathetic Yoko.

Chuck Cooper, as is his habit, displays a warm, rich and powerful bass, and also has some goofy fun as Ed Sullivan. Act II is stopped cold with Marcy Harriell's stunningly sung and acted, "Woman Is the Nigger of the World."

And then there's Julia Murney, who up until now was perhaps the most well-known and talented musical theatre performer in New York to have never appeared in a Broadway show. (One-night benefit concerts don't count.) Seriously underutilized in Lennon, she has one lovely solo, "Beautiful Boy", which she sings as John's mother to her newborn grandson Sean, and a couple of humorous moments as Lennon's first wife, Cynthia. But just try and take your eyes off her during the ensemble song and dance numbers. When given a chance to let loose and rock out, Murney is a shimmering combination of
lowdown and elegance. Her willowy limb movements and funky hip-shaking, combined with facial expressions that exude excitement, joy and humor, make her a magnet for attention and appreciation.

The cast of singing actors is given simple, but exuberant rock moves by choreographer Joseph Malone. John Arnone's set is primarily a bare stage with a replica of Central Park's "Imagine" mosaic, along with a series of period projections. The ten piece band, playing Harold Wheeler's hard rock orchestrations, is seated upstage.

Lennon, of course, does not have a happy ending, but it is a hopeful one, presented with taste and dignity. The closing moments may have you smiling through your tears. And perhaps imagining a better world.
__________________
"And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in all the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual." - John Steinbeck

"When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow." - Anais Nin

Last edited by HMVNipper : Aug 15, 2005 at 07:25 AM.
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