Writer/Director: Bob Eaton
Reviewer: John Roberts
Lennon is arguably one of the first ever in the jukebox musical genre, having been originally written and performed (1981) in Liverpool just six months after John Lennon’s untimely death. The musical charts the life of one of Liverpool’s most famous children in a whistle-stop 2.5 hour long production.
There is plenty to enjoy in this revival, from the strongly performed musical numbers from the mostly young cast, to the simple approach of Bob Eaton’s staging – we are here to hear a story of one person and the show firmly focuses its sights in doing just that.
The first half charts the rise of The Beatles, from their first number one to the invasion of Beatlemania in America. All the famous moments are touched upon, including their relationship with Brian Epstein, while act two looks at the split of The Beatles, Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono and the famous bed-in peace protest. The main problem with the show lies in the fact that we never really scratch the surface of any of it, we are merely witnesses to nothing more than a fleeting glimpse of the man behind the persona.
Unfortunately this is made even more difficult from a rather weak performance by John Power as the elder John Lennon, the former 90s Brit-pop singer, may look like Lennon, sound like Lennon, but he doesn’t embody Lennon and we are given nothing more than a two dimensional portrayal which is nothing more than flat and lethargic.
Thankfully the show is saved by the younger more youthful cast members who take the show firmly In their hands, Mark Newnham is sublime as the young John Lennon, he has bags of charm and personality, but it is the performance of Paul McCartney (Tom Connor) that proves the shows strongest suit, Connor is sensational in the supporting rôle and even gets his own round of applause just by walking on to the stage.
Under the musical direction of Howard Gray the cast play a multitude of instruments as they blast through many a familiar number and they do it so well, that it’s hard not to be swept along in with the music.
Lennon as a production isn’t mind blowing, its certainly entertaining and has plenty to recommend, but it is not a patch on the cast that took to the stage a few years ago during its last revival at the same theatre.