This ambitious biography of John Lennon deserves a better production than the fledgling TwinFish Productions can afford to give it. It was performed in a gym-like room at the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club, which made it look like a school play before the non-existent curtain even rose. Lennon: A Life was directed by Rachel-Louise Rubin, the young founder of four-year-old TwinFish, who also served as author, songwriter, actor, and publicist for the show.
Shaky production elements tended to overpower Rubin's fine script, which captures key events, personalities and influences in Lennon's life. Following the rock star from his childhood in Liverpool to his murder in Manhattan at age 40, the well-researched play sheds light on episodes such as the Beatles' virtual imprisonment in hotels during the height of their popularity; Lennon's unique bond with Yoko Ono; Lennon's and Paul McCartney's divergent views on running their business; and Lennon's retreat into full-time fatherhood, from which he was just emerging when he was gunned down.
Another plus for the show was that its best performance came from Patrick Waggoner in the title role. His impersonation of Lennon was excellent. The other actors faltered a bit with their accents and stage presence but did an adequate job. A more mature director might have drawn stronger performances out of them and come up with better ideas for staging the action in such limited facilities. The play has a lot of short scenes, and the incessant blackouts and clumsy scenery changes between them hampered the pace. A Beatles score playing in the background would have provided a smoother segue, and consecutive scenes should have taken place on different areas of the stage to eliminate the need to move all the scenery every few minutes. The lighting also needed improvement, as important scenes were dimly lit; at other times the spotlight was overused.
Lennon: A Life featured original songs that substituted for the Beatles' real music in scenes recreating their concerts. Although the producers say the songs were ``written in the style of the Beatles' and Lennon's solo work,'' the fact-based play would be better without these fictional musical numbers. They dragged out the show to two-and-a-half hours and were unevenly amplified. Such weaknesses unfortunately could obliterate the production's potential during this second wave of Beatlemania. (Also featuring Stefen Rollpiller, Jonas Abney, Paul Lyons, Janet Gray, Betty Ouyang, Kim Horning, Bill Johnson and others; lighting, Alan Sporing; Sound, Tony Felicito; costumes, Bonnie Cheng.)
Copyright 1995 Adrienne Onofri
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