I'm getting into the spirit of all things U.K. with the London Summer Olympics serving as a great reminder of the incredible contribution this country has made to the world in arts & culture. Sir Paul McCartney rounded off the Opening Ceremony and brought back the conversation of "remember The Beatles?" in our household.
Mirvish Productions has brought us BACKBEAT, a new stage production direct from London - how timely! This is the real-life story of how The Beatles 'became' The Beatles. It's an interesting look at the band's private relationships and struggles before becoming a world wide sensation.
It started with John Lennon (Andrew Knott) and his friend, and original bassist, Stuart Sutcliffe (Nick Blood) who was a visual artist with little musical interest who started under the group's original name The Quarrymen. The story follows with the rest of the members joining and their struggles in Liverpool. Their hopes of success was soon a crashing reality check when they moved to Hamburg, Germany only to find themselves playing in the underbelly of the red light district. BTW, did you know that George Harrison (Dan Westwick) was only 14 years old when he joined the group?
Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon's close friendship was an important piece of history for this group. However, Sutcliffe met and fell in love with a German photography student, Astrid (Isabella Calthorpe), who made him realize that art was really where his passion laid. It was a turning point for the group when Stuart decided to leave the band to continue his pursuit and passion for art. It was also at the cusp of the band moment of becoming one of the world's most famous groups.
Stuart: "I love being on the stage - seeing people enjoy the music and forgetting who they are."
Astrid: "A musician and an artist is the same. Art is about satisfying yourself and not others."
What to expect in the stage production:
Snippets of well loved songs teases the audience throughout the show and ends with mini-concert that leaves you yearning for more! You may even find a new interest in Stuart Sutcliffe's art like I did! There's also lots of swearing, smoking apparently "herbal", and sexual references.
Who should see this production?
Any Beatles fan would probably enjoy this production. I'm hoping to take my mom as she was a huge Beatles fan as a young teen in Hong Kong. She tells me stories of the days when she, and a friend, got close enough to Paul McCartney and managed to snip a lock of his hair!
The website has an advisory of parental guidance of those under the age of 12. I brought my 12 year old with me on Opening Night and he felt he was a bit young. He suggested 14 and up although he enjoyed the music and the history. He felt the accents were a little hard to follow at times but a little general explaining of the story line helped. There is also a historical timeline in the programme. Again, lots of sexual references and swearing. The swearing was fine, nothing my kid hasn't heard before. But if you've already explained what a blow job is to your kid - then you will be fine...me, oh boy!
It was interesting for my son to learn that bands like The Beatles had fan frenzies just like how Justin Bieber and One Direction does today and he found the dance style of those days amusing....
My kid: "What are they doing?" when the actors were doing the twist.
Me: "Yes, honey that's how they danced backed then."
My kid: "Weird" he said. "Did grandma dance like that?"
Me: "Yes hon, it was cool back then."
BACKBEAT was co-written by Iain Softley and Stephen Jeffreys (and based on the 1994 film by Iain Softley). It is directed by the internationally acclaimed David Leveaux, and stars the original multi-talented London cast, who not only portrays these iconic characters but also perform all their music love on stage.
BACKBEAT is now on stage until September 2, 2012
Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. West, Toronto
For tickets and production information visit the website at www.mirvish.com