Lennon: Witty, moving and penetrating - with the best songs in the world

John Power as John Lennon

John Power as John Lennon

First published in News
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by , Reporter

Lennon at Liverpool Royal Court

LENNON, a musical born in the city in 1981, is back again following its sell-out production which ran in August of last year.

Writer and director Bob Eaton, a one-time Everyman Theatre artistic director, still uses some of that famous Liverpool theatre's reputation for getting the best out of multi-talented actors who are skilled in playing many instruments, singing and acting.

The Royal Court is a great venue to now host this type of musical show, paying tribute to a Merseyside legend.

It was a sell-out in 2010 and 2013, and looks like being so again in this 2014 version, which has some great new Lennon nuances.

John Lennon - the so-called "smart Beatle" - brought a penetrating intelligence and stinging wit to the band and its music.

Both saint and sinner, he has been endlessly written about, analysed, and portrayed in TV and film since his death.

I know the story by heart, many of us do.

But it's always good to see another take on his early life in Liverpool to his truly shocking death in New York City -  as with the assassination of JFK, those of us from the next generation will remember forever where we were on December 8, 1980. We heard the news today, oh boy.

Billy Meall's design and Pete Bragg's spot-on lighting allows characters from Aunt Mimi to Cynthia Lennon, Brian Epstein to Cavern DJ Bob Wooler, to use their little dialogue to maximum effect.

Lennon, the musical, works on different levels and has various insights on the enigmatic, complex singer/songwriter.

Rebel John was a founder member of The Quarrymen and finally a popular little combo called - The Beatles, a band he predicted would be "toppermost of the poppermost."

Here, John Power of Cast is again in the lead role as the white-suited, bearded older John.

Mark Newnham is the younger, ambitious working class hero who was in real life brought up as middle-class.

We have flashback projections of John from schoolboy to Teddyboy.

The first half tells the formation of the Fabs from John meeting Paul and George, to Hamburg and getting Richie along the way. Ringo Starr, that is.

The on-stage band under the accomplished musical baton of Howard Gray deliver a sparkling array of back-catalogue Beatle songs.

Tom Connor as Paul McCartney not only looks like Macca but with left-handed bass, baby face expressions and accurate voice, is fabulously formidable in the role.

Everyone played second fiddle to John, except Paul.

The mutual respect between the two is presented well, and the split-up of the group is told in drama-documentary style.

All You Need is Love and Two of Us are pure musical celebrations of what the band did so well when they were in their hey day and actually enjoyed themselves.

The second half is far more intense - less Moptop mania more solo John finding his way with Yoko (played by Kirsten Foster), becoming a peace warrior, finding how to bake a good loaf and making music again.

At the end of the two-hour plus performance you have heard the tale of the tragical history story with humour, poignancy, joy and sadness.

And the songs - like iconic Lennon and his fab three pals - all still shine on. Timeless.

Imagine still plays on the heart-strings as does In My Life.

John's Watching the Wheels and a happy-go-lucky dance sequence on Starting Over from the Double Fantasy album illustrate that he was just about rediscovering happiness when he was gunned down, assassinated in a place that he thought was safe.

Ironic, that. John always loved irony.

One special highlight was older John and younger John on stage together singing A Day In the Life with Help! echoing alongside - an almost ghostly anthem for his own fate and journey.

Lennon will always be a hugely popular musical in its birthplace.

The standing ovation at the end proved the truth of that.

Yoko Ono has given this show her blessing. Everyone in it knows that's one big responsibility, but they always rise to it.

Globe Verdict: 9/10

A POWER-ful performance.

The shows runs until July 19.

Telephone 08707 871 866 for tickets.

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