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LENNON’S BANJO REVIEW

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Pete Best turns up in this new caper about collectors of Fab Four memorabilia 

In 1956 Julia Lennon showed her son John how she played the banjo and he copied her fingering on his cheap guitar. Julia Lennon was killed in a car accident in July 1958 and nobody, it would seem, knows where her banjo is now. Its value to a collector would be immense, but surely not the £5m suggested in this production.
The fate of Julia’s banjo is the premise for a new play written by Rob Fennah and staged at the Epstein Theatre, the former Neptune Theatre renamed after the Beatles’ manager. The experienced cast have been in some of our favourite TV series, the best-known being Mark Moraghan of Holby City.

A Beatles tour guide and ardent fan, Barry Seddon (Eric Potts), finds a letter written by John Lennon in 1962, cryptically describing where he has hidden the banjo. With two friends (Moraghan and Jake Abraham) who run a souvenir store, they attempt to solve the puzzle. But they need to get into the mind of John Lennon to do that, and “he wrote ‘I Am The Walrus’, for fuck’s sake.” The clever solution depends on information that the audience cannot know: it would have been better if we stood a chance of solving it too.

To complicate matters, there is a deceitful Texas dealer Travis (Danny O’Brien) who is determined to steal the banjo. Hampered by his accent, O’Brien’s diction was not too good, which was unfortunate as he had to explain plot points.His wife Cheryl, played by Stephanie Dooley, is assigned to seduce the nerdy Barry, and considering Lennon’s Banjo is marketed as a comedy, the director Mark Heller should have made it more foolish. The night-time digging around Eleanor Rigby’s grave also needed to be more ghoulish, but Richard Foxton is to be commended for his set which mimics the pop art of Peter Blake.

The quest to find the banjo takes in many Beatle locations including the Casbah club, which is now a tourist attraction still belonging to the Best family. Pete Best, the Beatles’ first drummer, now 76, is playing himself at some performances and came on stage to rapturous applause. He looked uncomfortable when questioned by the three sleuths and he drew the biggest laugh of the evening by saying to the audience, “What a gang of knobheads”.

Fennah’s previous play, Twopence To Cross The Mersey, was a massive success in the north-west and undertook a national tour. If the production team could crank up the comedy, Lennon’s Banjo could enjoy similar enduring success.

source:independent

PREVIEW: ‘LENNON’s BANJO’ AT THE EPSTEIN THEATRE, LIVERPOOL

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BACK in 2004, Rob Fennah of Pulse Records Limited, Alternative Radio and Buster talked about his then new project of turning Helen Forrester’s Twopence To Cross The Mersey into the acclaimed musical it went on to become.
Later, Rob mentioned he was working on another project involving John Lennon’s mum, Julia, teaching The Beatles legend how to play rock’n’roll on her banjo; an instrument now lost but highly sought after by Beatles buffs the world over.
A ‘Holy Grail’ of rock memorabilia if ever there was one.
Now following the publication of a novel both Rob and Helen A. Jones wrote in 2013 called Julia’s Banjo, the book’s stage adaptation Lennon’s Banjo is set to open – somewhat ironically, at The Epstein Theatre – on April 24, featuring a stellar cast of familiar Liverpool faces and (for some performances) a real-life Beatle!
“It’s a relief to get it on stage, yes, but if we take it all the way back, the original idea was for it to be a screenplay for either film or television,” the former Buster rhythm guitarist explained.”There were a lot of filmy people interested too, but then came the big recession of 2009 and all the cash dried up.”That’s when Helen and I decided to write the novel, as a sort of stop gap.”The book got some really good reviews and kept the idea of a film adaptation of Julia’s Banjo very much alive.”The tale tells of how a Beatles tour guide finds a clue to the possible whereabouts of the said banjo … and its estimated monetary worth: £5,000,000.”However, a Texan dealer has got wind of this information and is hell bent on grabbing the instrument by the fretboard and making a dash for the cash.”Over the years since its publication lots of people were asking: ‘whatever happened to that film idea?’
“So a couple of years ago, I decided to adapt the novel myself into a stage play, another stepping stone if you like towards the making of a feature film.”I changed the name to Lennon’s Banjo to appeal to a wider audience, but otherwise kept the structure of the story the same. “In this stage production, we have eight actors playing twenty odd parts, so it’s a pretty big deal.”And with it also being a brand new play, myself and co-producer, Bill Elms, have put our heads on the block in order to get it on.”But because the story is such a fascinating one and weaved around real historical events, we feel it’s a risk well worth taking.”We’re confident people are going to leave the theatre intrigued by the very real possibility that somewhere out there, probably in Liverpool, perhaps in their own attic, is a banjo worth five million quid!”
So, it may have been a long and winding road to get there, something of a mystery tour in its own right, but perseverance very often pays off and there’s a huge cast joining the bus too.

“We’ve got a lot of familiar faces like Mark Moraghan, Eric Potts and Jake Abraham.
“Then there’s Lynn Francis, Stephanie Dooley, Danny O’Brien, Roy Carruthers and Alan Stocks.
“And the icing on the cake has been to get Pete Best involved.
“How that happened was by virtue of the fact he really liked the book.
“When the idea for the play came about, I took it upon myself to ask him whether he could do something and he said yes, wow!
“What Pete particularly liked was the accuracy of the historical facts within the novel.”We didn’t stint on the research for the book and it paid off, now having a real-life Beatle giving it the thumbs up.”Set in present day Liverpool, Pete Best will be playing himself; but for only three performances due to other commitments.”Alan Stocks will be playing the part on other occasions.”I have to say though, the rest of the cast are getting a real kick out of being on stage with an original Beatle! “Pete’s such an integral part of the group’s history, with thirteen of the songs he played on, such as Love Me Do and PS: I Love You, all featuring on the Beatles Anthology.
“He’s very much a part of the band’s story and it’s a real pleasure to have Pete involved.
“I’m sure audiences will be very excited about it too.”

source:wirralglobe.co.uk

PETE BEST TO BE AT SAN DIEGO BEATLES FAIR AT QUEEN BEE

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Now in its 16th edition, San Diego Beatles Fair is a true grass roots event, put together by fans of the Fab Four, the two-day show features numerous bands performing Beatles and related music, a photo exhibit, dealer’s room and much more, with this year’s special guest set to be original Beatles drummer, Pete Best.
“The Beatles music appeals to just about everyone, from everywhere,” explained Beatles Fair organizer, Alma Rodriguez. “It’s universal, their songs transcend genres and age groups. You can see it in the performers taking part at the show this year, from young kids to scene veterans, people from all over the city, almost everybody likes the Beatles.”
Besides Best, other performers set to take part include main stage artists The Rollers (the Ed Sullivan shows), The Baja Bugs (Rubber Soul era), Ringer Starr (solo era hits) and the Dave Humphries Band (Wings/Harrison songs). “We try hard to mix things up and include music from all phases of their careers,” Rodriguez says. “You won’t just hear “Day Tripper” or some of the big hits over and over.” Meanwhile a second, outdoor patio stage will feature acoustic performers, including blues favorites John January & Linda Berry and The Fire Brothers, featuring guitarists Tim and Manny Cien, as well as saxophonist Ed Croft, all three formerly part of ’80s favorites, NE1.

Best played with the band from 1960–1962, performing in Hamburg, recording with Tony Sheridan and at the BBC, taping early versions at EMI Studios of “Love Me Do” and others. He was most recently heard with the band on their No. 1, 1995 album, “Anthology.”
Speaking from his home in Liverpool, England, Best notes having performed in the area several times since the 1980s, with fond memories. “I played in San Diego many years ago and had a wonderful time,” he recalled. “On one occasion, apart from playing, I had a great day out on the bay, where myself and (Paul McCartney & Wings guitarist) Denny Laine, raced around on wave runners all afternoon. It was great fun, and that is what San Diego means to me, great fun. That is what Beatles Fair is all about, so it makes sense to return.”
Why does he think the music he made all those decades ago still resonates with young music fans? “I feel that anything creative, if filled with passion, resonates,” he mused. “We poured everything we had into our music from the very beginning, and the other lads without me, to the end. Having two great songwriters in the one band obviously helped,” Best continued. “Great music, great anything will last because it shines brighter and better.”

Best will be backed for his Beatles Fair appearance by local musicians, including longtime Ocean Beach residents, Mike Dorsey and Chris Leyva of Falling Doves. “Getting to play with a legend like this is almost unbelievable,” Leyva said. “The Beatles have been such a huge influence on my musical life. The younger me would never have thought something like this would be possible.”
Best remains active in Liverpool, with the iconic Casbah Coffee Club and the new Magical History Museum amongst his projects. “The latter is a Fab Four Experience on Mathew Street in Liverpool,” he said. “And housed in the museum building is ‘Lennon’s Bar,’ our venue. What sort of music will we have? Why only ‘The Best’ of course,” he quipped.

For Rodriguez, Best’s appearance is the culmination of years of hard work. “To have an actual former Beatle be a part of the event is pretty special,” she said. “But even beyond that, people coming together like this, over a band that represents peace and love, art and culture, feels good,” she continued.
“This event is a huge labor of love for everyone involved, it’s lots of hard work for the dozens of people that come together on the day to make this happen. However the reward is in the smiling faces and the sing-alongs.”
For his part, Best is happy to be heading back to San Diego and Beatles Fair. “I love the fact that we are all together under one roof sharing in something we all love,” he said.

Beatles Fair: Friday and Saturday, March 30 -31, at Queen Bee, 3925 Ohio St. All ages.

source:sdnews.com

FOUR WEEK COUNTDOWN UNTIL AN ALL-STAR CAST PUT SPOTLIGHT ON LENNON’S MISSING BANJO

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Epstein Theatre hosts world premiere of new comedy

Special guest appearances by The Beatles original drummer Pete Best

The four-week countdown is now on until audiences in Liverpool can experience a brand new stage comedy telling the fascinating story of John Lennon’s missing childhood banjo.
An intriguing mix of fact and fiction, Lennon’s Banjo is set in present day Liverpool and features an all-star cast.
It makes its world stage premiere at the city’s Epstein Theatre on Tuesday 24 April, continuing through until Saturday 5 May. Tickets are already selling fast!

The Beatles original drummer Pete Best, will play himself in three special performances of the show’s two-week run.
Pete joins an exciting all-start cast featuring a whole host of familiar faces – Eric Potts, Mark Moraghan, Jake Abraham, Lynn Francis, Danny O’Brien, Stephanie Dooley, Alan Stocks, and Roy Carruthers. Pete Best will appear as himself, with Alan Stocks portraying Pete Best in all other performances.

The quest is on to find the holy grail of pop memorabilia – the missing banjo on which John Lennon was first taught to play music by his mother Julia Lennon, who first introduced the youngster to rock and roll.
Mysteriously, the banjo went missing shortly after Julia’s death. One thing is certain though, if it did resurface it is estimated to be worth in the region of five million pounds.

When Beatles tour guide Barry Seddon (Eric Potts) finds a letter written by John Lennon, he unearths a clue to solving the greatest mystery in pop history – the whereabouts of Lennon’s first musical instrument which has been missing for 60 years. But Barry’s loose tongue alerts Texan dealer Travis Lawson (Danny O’Brien) to the priceless relic.
In an attempt to get his hands on the letter and the clues, he persuades his wife Cheryl (Stephanie Dooley) to befriend the hapless tour guide and win his affections. The race to find Lennon’s Banjo is on!

Co-producer Bill Elms said: “Rob Fennah has created a wonderful comedy play which has a big heart, some great characters and all based around this factual and fascinating storyline. It’s so true to life that the audience will leave the theatre secretly wanting to solve the mystery for themselves. It’s The Beatles meet the Da Vinci Code, an hilarious treasure hunt romp through Beatledom.”

Julia Baird is John Lennon’s half sister – and vividly remembers watching their mother teach John how to play. Julia fully supports the new play.
Julia takes up the story: “The banjo was my grandfather’s and he brought it back from sea, possibly from America, and he could play it really well. He taught my mother how to play it, and then my mother taught John how to play it – she was extremely artistically talented. John inherited it, definitely. The banjo was the first stringed instrument John played.”
Lennon’s Banjo is based on the 2012 novel Julia’s Banjo written by Rob Fennah and Helen A Jones. The play is produced by Rob Fennah and Pulse Records Ltd in association with Bill Elms and directed by Mark Heller.
The race to find the holy grail of pop memorabilia is on! The Salvation Army’s Strawberry Field project is the official charity partner of Lennon’s Banjo.
Lennon’s Banjo’s are delighted to be working with its Fab Four Production Partners who are The Cavern Club Liverpool, The Beatles Story, Hard Days Night Hotel, and The Beatles Shop.

Watch the promo video here  https://youtu.be/ddpVnRStAmo

For more info visit www.lennonsbanjo.com

LISTING INFORMATION

LENNON’S BANJO
Epstein Theatre Liverpool
Tuesday 24 April – Saturday 5 May 2018
Evenings 7.30pm | Wed & Sat Mats 2.30pm | Sun 29th April 5pm
Preview Performance 24th April and 25th April matinee – ALL SEATS £16
Group Rates Available

 

HOW TO BOOK

EPSTEIN THEATRE
ONLINE:          www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk
CALL:               0844 888 4411
IN PERSON:     Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DZ | Mon-Thu 2pm-6pm, Fri & Sat 12pm-6pm
TICKETQUARTER
ONLINE:          www.ticketquarter.co.uk
CALL:               0844 8000 410
IN PERSON:     Echo Arena Box Office, Kings Dock, Liverpool, L3 4FP |
12noon on Echo Arena event days, and from 9am – 6pm on Fridays

 

 

 

PETE BEST PERFORM AT QUEEN BEE´S ON MARCH 30

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On March 30-31, he and his brother Roag will be performing, answering questions and signing autographs at Queen Bee’s (3925 Ohio Street) for the San Diego Beatles Fair.
Pete said: “I have my style and Ringo has his. My style was christened the ‘Atom Beat.’ I can’t remember Ringo’s style getting a name. Maybe it did and I don’t know,” he said. “1. John 2. Paul 3. George 4. Stuart [Sutcliffe, original Beatles bassist] 5. Pete. Yes, that’s what I was and part of who I am. I enjoy being me,” he added.

At the Beatles Fair, Pete will be backed by local band the Falling Doves, which is usually fronted by Chris Leyva, who is responsible for turning this English dream into a Californian reality.
“I’m flying out on this occasion specifically for the San Diego Beatles Fair,” Pete said. “Chris Leyva of the Falling Doves contacted my brother Roag to discuss some business. I believe Roag guested on drums for them in Liverpool. They became friends. From there, we all hooked up in LA and discussed the San Diego Beatles Fair. Chris asked if I’d like to do it. And guess what? I’m doing it,” he added.
The fair, which happens each year around this time, will also feature tribute bands Ringer Star, the Baja Bugs and a performance of John, Paul and George’s solo-era songs from the band True Stories.
“[Fans] can expect to have a great time. See a fun show. Share some warmth and love. Knowing what to expect, if I wasn’t on the show, I’d go to it myself,” Pete said.
The San Diego Beatles Fair will run March 30-April 1.

source:nbcsandiego

 

LENNON’S BANJO AT EPSTEIN THEATRE LIVERPOOL

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Pete Best will also make a special appearance for three performances during run

A further three actors have been confirmed to join the cast of Lennon’s Banjo, which makes its world stage premiere at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre in April. Mark Moraghan, Stephanie Dooley and Alan Stocks join fellow actors Eric Potts, Jake Abraham, Lynn Francis and Roy Carruthers in a comedy play that is already making headlines around the world. The cast includes former Beatles’ drummer Pete Best, who will play himself during three special performances of the show’s two-week run. Produced by Pulse Records Ltd in association with Bill Elms, Lennon’s Banjo opens at the Epstein Theatre on Tuesday 24 April, continuing through until Saturday 5 May.

Lennon’s Banjo is written by Rob Fennah, who will also co-produce the show.The show is about a quest to find the holy grail of pop memorabilia – the first instrument John Lennon learned to play, which has been missing for 60 years and is now worth millions to whoever finds it. Set in present day Liverpool, Lennon’s Banjo is based on the 2012 novel Julia’s Banjo written by Rob Fennah and Helen A Jones. The production will be directed by Mark Heller.

Pete Best was The Beatles’ drummer between 1960 and 1962, playing more than 1,000 live performances including nightclubs and dance halls in both Liverpool and Hamburg. He recorded 27 songs as a Beatle, and he also played The Beatles’ very first show in Liverpool at the Casbah Coffee Club. The ex-Beatle will appear as himself in Lennon’s Banjo in three performances – the 2.30pm and 7.30pm shows on Wednesday 25 April, and the 7.30pm show on Saturday 5 May.

It was John Lennon’s mother, Julia Lennon, who introduced him to the world of pop music, teaching him to play rock and roll on a banjo, given to her by John’s grandfather. Lennon often recounted how he would sneak off to visit his mum, who lived only a few miles away. There, he would learn to play songs like ‘That’ll Be The Day’. He has been quoted as saying: “Mum would sit there with endless patience until I managed to work out all the chords.”

On 9 October 1957, a young John Lennon turned 17. It was the last birthday he would spend with his mother, Julia, who was killed the following summer in a road traffic accident. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Julia’s death and the banjo’s disappearance. Mysteriously, the banjo went missing shortly after Julia’s death and no-one has set eyes on it since. One thing is certain though, if it did resurface it is estimated to be worth in the region of five million pounds.

Co-Producer Bill Elms commented: “We are very excited to announce a further three cast members to join the already strong line-up. Together, the cast along with special guest appearances from former Beatles’ drummer Pete Best, is going to make Lennon’s Banjo the show of 2018 you will not want to miss.” So where do the facts end and the fiction begin? Everything will be revealed in this intriguing, colourful and fast-paced comic caper.