BWW Reviews: BIGGER THAN JESUS More Than Just a Musical Review
Shadowbox Live, a theater troupe known for delivering cutting edge entertainment, puts a warning label right out in front on its latest offering BIGGER THAN JESUS.
In his opening remarks, executive producer and CEO Stev Guyer says the company's musical that retracies the steps of the Beatles "might not include your favorite Beatles song."
True to form, the over two hour show touched on over 30 Beatles songs without hitting my personal favorites, "Yesterday," "All You Need Is Love," "Taxman," "Let It Be," and "In the End." Yet the mixture of music, dance and media seemingly left everyone in the audience satisfied.
With this year being the 50th anniversary of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr's appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, several Fab Four tributes have been making their way to Columbus. The Classical Mystery Tour will perform with the Columbus Symphony in a "Picnic at the Pops" show on June 13. Previously, Beatle tribute bands Rain (April 4 at the Palace Theatre) and the Fab Four (March 8 in New Albany) have also performed here.
Rain and the Fab Four focused on putting together bands that both sounded and looked like the Beatles during their various phases of their career.
BIGGER THAN JESUS is wired a little differently. Shadowbox isn't concerned about looking like the Beatles or sounding exactly like the group. Over a dozen different singers put their own unique stamps on several classics. Leah Haviland's reading of "Hello Goodbye," J.T. Walker III's "A Day in the Life," and Guyer's passionate "Blackbird" were among the many highlights.
The show also went far beyond the "safe" Beatle songs and hit some of the group's underplayed hits like "Helter Skelter," "I Am The Walrus," and "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window."
BIGGER THAN JESUS was bigger than Beatles covers however. The show, which takes its name from Lennon's misguided statement that the Beatles "meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion at that time," took the audience through the decade long career of the band.
The show used beautiful ballet numbers for songs like "Eleanor Rigby," "Norwegian Wood," and "Fool on the Hill" to tell the songs story.
BIGGER THAN JESUS also used video clips from the Beatle movies "Hard Day's Night" and "Magical Mystery Tour" as well as their cartoon series to tell the story.
The show's honesty also told audiences that not everyone loved the Beatles. Among the detractors shown clips were William F. Buckley, who said the Beatles "are not merely awful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic."
Even the epitome of cool, James Bond appeared not to be a fan. The Shadowbox production showed a snippet from GOLDFINGER in which Sean Connery declared "that drinking Dom Pérignon '53 at a temperature above 38 degrees is like listening to the Beatles without earmuffs."
My favorite clip of the night came from an unlikely source. A member of the Ku Klux Klan claims his group "anti-Beatle" because it was a religious organization and they were disturbed by Lennon's "bigger than Jesus" comments.
Two hours of Beatles music might not be for everyone but the Shadowbox Live production closed out its show with Guyer saying "I don't trust anyone who doesn't like the Beatles."
Perhaps there is some real truth in that statement.
BIGGER THAN JESUS runs May 18, 22 and 28-29, June 1, 8, 12, 19 and 25-26 and Aug. 6-7 at 503 S. Front Street in downtown Columbus. Call 614-416-7626 for ticket information.