Decades after John Lennon’s murder in 1980, director Don Scardino is banking on the icon’s continuing popularity. He’s bringing the legendary former Beatle back on stage through a biographical musical based on the performer’s words and recordings. Spark gets a front row seat for the world premiere of “Lennon” at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre.
A longtime Lennon fan, Scardino is confident of his musical’s potential to succeed on Broadway after its preliminary run in San Francisco. The project has been six years in the making as Scardino has struggled with the many challenges of the production, including casting the musical’s central figure. Instead of finding one star, Scardino settled on casting nine different actors — both men and women, encompassing a range of ethnicities — who continually trade roles over the course of the performance.
For Lennon fans, one of the musical’s highlights is Scardino’s inclusion of three rare and unpublished Lennon songs. Two of the songs, “India, India” and “I Don’t Want to Lose You,” were never published and exist only on private recordings in the possession of Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, who has permitted their debut in Scardino’s production. A third song, “Cookin’ (in the Kitchen of Love),” was recorded by Ringo Starr in 1976, but never by Lennon himself.
San Francisco is the testing ground for “Lennon,” an opportunity for fine-tuning before the musical competes in larger markets like New York. During previews, Scardino was able to identify some of the flaws in his production, but the big test was opening night, when critics got a chance to see the musical for the first time. After the big night, reviews were mixed, but for Scardino and his producers, it is a learning experience, a chance to retool the performance for greater emotion resonance.
More about Best of Broadway
Under the direction of Carole Shorenstein Hays and Scott E. Nederlander, Best of Broadway is committed to bringing high-quality musicals and award-winning plays to the Bay Area. Over the years, local subscribers to Best of Broadway have enjoyed a host of works, from the Tony Award-winning play “Fences” to the U.S. premiere of “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” and Baz Luhrmann’s production of Puccini’s “La Bohème.” Best of Broadway venues in the San Francisco Bay Area include the Curran Theatre, the Golden Gate Theatre and the Orpheum Theatre.