When Billy McGuigan asked, “How many virgins here tonight?”, a few hands went up and nobody shouted, “None of your business.”
He wasn’t wondering about their sex life. Just checking the full house to see how many were attending his Yesterday and Today Beatles experience for the first time. Since Billy packed the Omaha Community Playhouse in 2001 with his title role in the musical Buddy, he’s been back every season, first with its Rave On! spin-off, and since 2007 with the interactive Beatles-fest that opened Friday.
I don’t need to repeat past reviews because the interplay with an enthusiastic audience is always new each year. For example, the Saturday crowd included more children than usual, starting with the first request from Daniel who wanted to hear “Revolution.”
He probably wanted to hear everyone shout, “All right!.” Just two seats away in our row, Ayden, 7, called for “A Hard Day’s Night” (working like a dog, sleeping like a log) because she likes the movie.
It wasn’t all kids, of course. A man who was 64 about 15 years ago asked for “When I’m 64” and everyone sang along. Then another youngster up in the balcony wanted to dance with her sister and we loudly proclaimed, “We all live in a yellow submarine.”
But that’s not what brings me back every year. It’s the McGuigan brothers and their sidekicks, especially lead guitarist Jay (Superman) Hanson. And next year I hope to hear more from newcomer Tara Vaugan who really cut loose before the boys closed with an unplanned encore of “Let It Be.” Blame “Sesame Street” if you associate it less with the Beatles and more with the Muppets.
As usual, the show lived up to my usual claim that it’s as enjoyable an evening as we spend in the theater all year. Where I get all wishy-washy is wrestling with what’s my favorite performance of which Beatles song.
Billy’s younger brother Matthew never disappoints with his acoustic treatment of “Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night.” Middle brother Ryan is always the coolest cat on stage, especially when doing the likes of “Happiness is a Warm Gun.”
But then Billy himself takes over or Jay tops his vocals with high-powered guitar chords or drummer Rich Miller delivers a few low-key lyrics and you settle for saying, “What, me worry?” and loving it all.
Lets see, did they miss any of my favorites? Of course. No “Strawberry Fields Forever,” no “Walrus,” no “Sgt. Pepper.” (Sorry, purists, if you’re looking for full and proper titles.)
If any of them top your list, be sure to fill out the little request card, and add a heart-throbbing reason behind its status: “When I first heard the song, I looked across the room and there stood the man/woman who became the love of my life.”
So I’m not complaining. Not when we got to hear all the early hits, from “Hey Jude” to “All My Loving” and “I’ll never dance with another” and we got to sing along with “Obla di, obla da, life goes on” and scream, “Ya, Ya, Ya” and “Come together right now” and everything else from “Paperback Writer” to “Day Tripper,” “Taxman” and “Birthday.”
Billy’s version of “Yesterday” may remind some of us that we’re not the men we used to be, but the Beatles make it easy to remember what we still are.
Yesterday and Today, the Interactive Beatles Experience runs 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Sunday with no performance Dec. 3, added performances Dec. 22 and 23, plus New Year’s Eve at the Omaha Community Playhouse Howard Drew Theater, 6915 Cass St.. Tickets are $40 except New Year’s Eve $50 at 7 p.m., $75 at 10 p.m. with complimentary champagne punch and cake before those two performances and champagne toast at midnight. Tickets at OCP box office, by calling 402.553.0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.org or TicketOmaha.com.