We Got The Beat-les

Yesterday and Today is ‘most fun’ at Playhouse

It’s safe in mid-December to say the most fun we had at a theater in 2010 was again Billy McGuigan’s Beatles show, Yesterday and Today, at the Omaha Community Playhouse. “We” includes my wife who also sees an average of one or two theatrical offerings a week, some of which I enjoy more than she does. So that’s two votes for “most fun” for the third year in a row. Fears that the sponsoring Security National Bank crowd was too full of old fogies (as opposed to us old hipsters) weren’t warranted. Billy and the brothers had them standing, clapping and shouting, “Come together … right now.” And the bankers and their friends readily confessed “We all live in a yellow submarine.” Speaking of the bros, young Matthew took a break from their yearlong touring to join his bride for the Halloween birth of a son named Lennon, of course. Paul was gone when Billy and Rachelle named their daughter Cartney, and Ryan had George covered with son Harrison. Ringo was taken by his dog. The hard part is describing the fun without taking all the fun out of it. Well, there’s “Michelle,” a bit too sweet to be a great Beatles song, but always requested by several (a Kathy and a Vince this time). Billy enlivens it by mentioning a Spanish minor at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and promising to subtly sneak some Spanish into the song’s French flavor. So he starts by cueing the band, “Uno, dos, tres, quatro,” and ends with “Muchos gracias.” Then comes the acoustic section, with Matt crooning “Blackbird singing in the dead of night,” and sorry if what comes next doesn’t fit your definition of fun, but up pops a solo by the newest member of the band, lead guitarist Jason Ferguson. Just when you thought the McGuigans couldn’t get anyone to match sax man Darren Pettit or Leon Adams on keyboard, they find Ferguson. Billy follows with “Yesterday,” another fan favorite. For me, there’s a new favorite each time I hear these guys, though I’m guilty of always requesting “When I’m 64,” for reasons too boring to explain. (McGuigan’s memory is good: he recalled that last year I blamed it on “adult onset Beatlemania.”) This time it was my virgin encounter with Ryan doing “I Am the Walrus,” adding choreography that makes Mick Jagger look sober and listless. He confirms Billy’s claim that he’s the “coolest” McGuigan. “How did we learn all these songs?” Billy asks. “It’s simple. We were poor. Instead of going out Friday nights to a really nice restaurant, like Lum’s,” they stayed home and sang. “Dad was Paul, I was John, Ryan was George and Matthew was the page-turner.” Papa Bill, an Offutt non-com, died of leukemia at age 42, but left the lads on the road to a career that took off when Billy played Buddy Holly at the Playhouse. The boys know he’d have loved hearing that the Beatles top the charts again after selling millions in two weeks on iTunes. After Matthew’s tender rendition of “Strawberry Fields Forever” (make that for-evuh, please), the post-intermission show starts really rocking. Soon the crowd shouts, “All right, all right,” and responds to “She says she loves you” by belting, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” After “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Shake It Up Baby,” will they finish without a rousing “Hey Jude”? No, Jude will still “take a sad song and make it better,” along with a lot of “la” and “da” and other satisfying monosyllabic lyrics. And, if you want another slant on how all this started, retired teacher John Morrissey, who has starred as Daddy Warbucks, Sweeney Todd and Don Quixote, provided his new book as a prize for the best request. It’s a collection of personal stories called, Thanks to My Favorite Teacher, and includes Billy McGuigan’s tribute to his Bellevue high school drama and music teachers, Kent Hanon and Allen Barnard. They played bad cop/good cop and pulled a big performance from Billy as George M. Cohan in the school musical. Yesterday and Today: an Interactive Beatles Experience runs through New Year’s Eve at the Omaha Community Playhouse Howard Drew Theater, Thurs.-Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m., plus 7 and 10 p.m. shows Dec. 31. Tickets are $38, (except a young professionals show Dec. 19 is $20. It’s $50 and $75 Dec. 31 with cake, punch and champagne. Call 553.0800 or visit omahaplayhouse.com.

posted at 06:48 pm
on Wednesday, December 08th, 2010

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