Backbeat, the Origin Story of The Beatles, Gets North American Premiere July 21; David Leveaux Directs
By Kenneth Jones
The North American premiere of Backbeat: The Birth of the Beatles, the Broadway-aimed rock-'n'-roll drama with music, directed by Broadway and London creative force David Leveaux (Nine, Fiddler on the Roof), begins performances at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre July 21. The beat goes on through Sept. 2.
Co-written by Iain Softley and Stephen Jeffreys (and based on the 1994 film by Iain Softley), Backbeat stars the original London cast, who play iconic pop characters and perform their music live on stage.
The cast includes Nick Blood as Stuart Suttcliffe, Andrew Knott as John Lennon, Isabella Calthorpe as Astrid Kirchherr, Daniel Healey as Paul McCartney, Dan Westwick as George Harrison, Oliver Bennett as Pete Best, Adam Sopp as Tony Sheridan/Ringo Starr.
Opening night in Toronto is July 29. A pre-Broadway Los Angeles engagement of Backbeat will play the Ahmanson Theatre Jan. 16-Feb. 24, 2013. Casting has not been announced for that engagement.
According to the producers, "Backbeat tells the real-life story of five teenage lads from Liverpool who dream of becoming a successful rock band. When John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe get a gig in Hamburg, they believe the road to stardom is theirs. But the reality they face when they arrive in the grimy German port city — where they are told they have to play eight hours a night for seven days a week for months on end in a grungy underground club in the red-light district — makes them reevaluate their ambitions and hone their craft.
"Hamburg also provides the group with their first fans, one of whom — a photography student named Astrid — catches the eye of Stuart. What ensues is a love triangle between Stuart, Astrid and John, the results of which would have ramifications for each of the three principals and for the history of what would become the greatest band in history."
The score includes covers of songs, which the Beatles sang in their early years, including "Twist & Shout," "Rock & Roll Music," "Long Tall Sally," "Please, Mr. Postman" and "Money," among many others. The play "shows us Paul and John collaborating on some of their early songs, providing insight as to how their private lives inspired their compositions."
Backbeat is produced by Karl Sydow, from Iain Softley's production for the Glasgow Citizens Theatre.
The creative team includes scenic and costume designers Christopher Oram & Andrew D. Edwards, lighting designers Howard Harrison & David Holmes, sound designers Paul Groothuis & Ed Clarke, projection designers Timothy Bird & Nina Dunn for Knifedge, movement director Nikki Woollaston, fight director Renny Krupinski, music supervisor Paul Stacey, casting director Julia Horan, production manager Crosbie Marlow Associates.
For tickets and more information, visit mirvish.com.
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