'EPSTEIN' Actor Andrew Lancel Unveils Blue Plaque to Celebrate Life of Beatles' Manager
TV and stage actor Andrew Lancel joined special guests in London yesterday (Sunday, 29 June), to unveil a prestigious Heritage Foundation Blue Plaque to celebrate the life of Beatles' Manager, Brian Epstein.
The invite was particular poignant for the Southport actor who resumes the role of Brian in the play Epstein: The Man Who Made the Beatles, when the production opens in London's West End at the end of July.
The Blue Plaque was unveiled at Sutherland House, 5/6 Argyll Street, next door to the London Palladium. This was the base of Epstein's company NEMS Enterprises, which occupied offices on the fifth floor of the building from the height of Beatlemania in 1964 until shortly after Brian's tragic death in August 1967, when he was aged just 32.
Andrew Lancel (Coronation Street and The Bill) joined actress Vicki Michelle, President of the Heritage Foundation; Geoffrey Ellis, Liverpool friend of Epstein who became Chief Executive Administrator of NEMS Enterprises Ltd and was based in the building from 1964 to 1967; Tony Bramwell, who worked at NEMS with Epstein and was later head of Apple Records; and 80s pop star Adam Ant, whose mother was Paul McCartney's cleaner in the 1960s.
Large crowds greeted the official unveiling party, keen to witness the unveiling of the plaque in Brian's memory first hand. The sight of the Blue Plaque was greeted with a round of applause in celebration of Brian and his achievements in the music industry during the Merseybeat era.
Sir Paul McCartney sent a personal message of goodwill: "I know Brian would have been very proud to think that he had earned a Blue Plaque in the West End of London. He played a very important role in guiding the career of us Beatles and more than that he was a lovely man whose friendship we all valued and who I will always remember with great fondness. Congratulations Brian. Love from Paul McCartney."
Brian will be portrayed in Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles by actor Andrew Lancel, when the play opens for a six-week run at London's Leicester Square Theatre from 30 July - 6 September 2014. The two man play also features up-and-coming actor Will Finlason.
Written by Andrew Sherlock and directed by Jen Heyes, the play is a fascinating window into the much speculated private world of the music entrepreneur. The play was premiered in Liverpool in November 2012 at the newly opened Epstein Theatre, as part of The Beatles' 50th anniversary programme.
Actor Andrew Lancel said "I am truly honoured to have been part of the official party to unveil a prestigious Blue Plaque in Brian's honour. Brian was a pioneer who worked tirelessly for his artists, and what he achieved was remarkable. It is very fitting there is now a permanent reminder to recognise his contribution to the world music scene - he shaped history and his artists still very much influence today's music scene. I am very much looking forward to playing Brian in London, and telling his fascinating story to West End audiences."
The plaque for the former Beatles manager comes in a year which would have seen him celebrate his 80th birthday this September, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of fame following a campaign from fans.
The Blue Plaque reads:
THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION, BRIAN EPSTEIN, 1934-1967, Managed the Beatles and other artists from offices here 1964-67, SongLink International
David Stark, SongLink International (sponsors of the plaque) and on behalf of The Heritage Foundation said: "As a lifelong Beatles fan I'm delighted to be involved with this official commemoration of Britain's most famous music manager. Epstein's signing of the Fab Four in early 1962 developed into the greatest story in music and showbiz history, thanks to his belief and vision that the group could conquer the world, but even he couldn't have foreseen to what extent that would become true. Sadly Brian only lived to enjoy five years of their phenomenal success from 1963-67, but it's important that we recognise his outstanding contribution to the music industry and popular culture in his short but highly influential life.
"It's totally fitting that Brian Epstein should be honoured in his 80th birthday year, and at one of the most prestigious show business locations in the world - right next door to the London Palladium where his clients The Beatles, Cilla Black, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer all performed. I'm delighted that the owners of Sutherland House have given permission and their blessing for the plaque to be erected, and am sure it will give pleasure and be of enormous interest to the hundreds of tourists and music aficionados who pass by the site each day, not realising that this was the place where so much of the Fab Four's busy day-to-day schedule was meticulously planned by Brian and his staff. The Heritage Foundation and I are proud to honour the man who paved the way for so many others in the music business, and who is still recognised as being one of the most visionary, hard-working and totally honest managers of all time, without whom The Beatles phenomenon might never have happened."
A special celebratory lunch followed the plaque unveiling, and guests enjoyed a reading from Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles by actors Andrew Lancel and Will Finlason, who also performed the song Baby It's You.
Special guests also included Bill Harry, author and Mersey Beat editor who arranged for Epstein to see the Beatles at The Cavern for the first time in November 1961; Joe Flannery, Epstein's former personal and business partner in Liverpool; Martin Lewis, humorist and producer who runs the Brian Epstein website and who secured Epstein's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; and Rod Davis of The Quarrymen, John Lennon's skiffle band that became The Beatles.
Brian's work and legacy is still very much alive today nearly 50 years after his untimely death and this plaque marks the contribution of a true icon of 1960's popular culture - a man who shaped music and style across the world.
Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles
Leicester Square Theatre
6 Leicester Place, London, Greater London WC2H 7BX
30 July - 6 September 2014
Preview Performances: 30 July - 2 August
Mon - Sat Evenings: 7.30pm I Thurs mats 3.00pm I Sat early shows 4.00pm
Ticket Prices: £30-£42.50
Book in person at the venue, online at www.leicestersquaretheatre.com or via telephone on 08448 733433. Booking fees may apply.