Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 19, 2009

John & Paul

Majestic Theater, West Springfield
through May 24, 2009
By Shera Cohen

For those who enjoy two-hours of non-stop music and lots of energy coupled with a history lesson/nostalgia of pop culture, "John & Paul" ends the Majestic's season with a literal bang. The lives of John Lennon and Paul McCartney are the subject matter of this world premiere. Written and directed by the theatre's founder Danny Eaton, with music and lyrics by Steven Schecter, the show was overwhelmingly received by the full house audience at a Sunday matinee.

John Losito (John) is new to the Majestic and Ben Ashley (Paul) is very-much a regular; i.e. our own Buddy Holly. While the title bears their names, the men are ensemble players. Each has a rich voice as they perform together and separately. "Your Song or Mine" is their best number as a piece of music and acting. In Act I, the song is light, as the boys join to start their band. In Act II, the song is cynical, as these men are now alienated. Through narration of Keith Langsdale, the audience learns the stories of both - their backgrounds, first meeting, years of fame, and disintegration of their creativity and friendship.

Mitch Chakour, music director/keyboards, leads his band of young men in music styles from rock to honky tonk, heavy metal to ballads with ease. The quartet of singers - Tom Knightlee, Kait Rankins, Amy Rist, and Greg Alexander - performs well together and individually. Oftentimes, the singers portray characters, and more of these segments would flesh out the play's story.

Excellent throughout and setting the span of time are center-stage projected photos of John, Paul, the Beatles, flower children, Vietnam, and even Ed Sullivan. To the sides of the stage are song supertitles, yet their purpose is vague.

"John & Paul" might be called a narrative musical revue instead of typical theatre. Little acting or direction are called for. The format is different, but works for this purpose. The audience that wants a good show ("Please, Please Me") gets it.