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Backbeat the play

I’ve just returned from the musical about the early days of the Beatles, “Backbeat.” I was in cheap balcony seats and wish I’d been closer. But even from the balcony, it was thrilling.

The audience was the usual Beatles mix, boomer parents there with their children, wanting to show them what the excitement was all about, beside elderly grey hairs and thirty- and twenty-somethings and even teens. The show is a surprise – not a musical biography, but a play with music, a dramatic exploration of art and talent and love. It’s about the friendship between John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, the fifth Beatle, a gifted painter who was dragged into the band by Lennon, and who eventually ditched the group for painting and his German girlfriend Astrid. It’s a nuanced portrayal of the bisexuality that resides in us all – the admiration, need and love between these two male friends that cannot be explored.

It’s also, joyfully, about music. The actors are musicians who play early Beatles stuff, hard rocking, powerful, exhilirating and fun. But if I were Paul McCartney, I’d sue. He is portrayed as a wet and weedy whiner, in need of the vibrant spark of the irascible John Lennon to come to life. Really unfair – Paul was far more to the band from the moment he entered it; Lennon admired his superior musicality and knew how necessary it was. It would be a much more interesting piece with a stronger Paul. Ah well, Mr. Close the Olympic Ceremony doesn’t need to care about his portrayal here. But I know that he does care.

It’s just strange that a story I know so well, part of which I lived through – the early success of this band – is already being portrayed on stage as an iconic historical moment, like the life of Henry the Eighth. Makes me feel really old.

Cycling home, I passed a woman in the middle of the skyscrapers of the financial district, pounding on one of the painted outdoor pianos. The best public art ever.

In other news: for those of you who’ve been asking about my mother, I have to tell you that I gather she’s well, but she’s been too busy to talk. Yesterday when I called, she was watching the Olympics and asked me to call back, and today, my brother was about to take her for a spin outside, in a wheelchair. I guess you could say she’s better.

Yesterday’s treat was eating the sweetest, freshest cucumber I’ve ever tasted. It came from my own garden. Yes, my very own cucumber. Sublime.

And – perhaps I mentioned sending an essay that I’d laboured over to “Modern Love” at the “New York Times.” They just sent it back. Our job, as writers, is to take the stuff that’s been returned and fling it back out into the abyss. Not one of my strengths, however. As lining up auditions was not a strength when I was an actress. How to both create and sell?

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3 Responses to “Backbeat the play”

  1. Juliet in Paris says:

    Phooey to the New York Times! I, and I'm sure many others, would love to read your essay!

  2. beth says:

    Thanks, Juliet. I'll find somewhere else to send it and let you know. What do they know anyway? Phooey is right!

  3. Beatwarrior says:

    Your comments regarding the 'Paul' character are less than valid. In my opinion the young actor (Daniel Healy) musically and vocally stood head and shoulders (as Paul did) above the rest of the cast and carried the musical element of the show. The fact is that in the play 'Paul' is a semi peripheral character. This is due to the nature of the writing and the subject matter which may not appeal to 'Beatle' fans looking for a 'jukebox' musical. Remember Paul was still two years younger than 'John' & 'Stuart'. However the 'Love me Do' scene is where 'Paul' asserts himself in a wonderful moment with 'John' (Andrew Knott) and the 'Beatles' as we know them are born.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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