Goodbye Broadway! 'Ono-centric' Lennon show closes early

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The Independent US

Even the postponement of the musical's opening for two nights to allow for "fundamental changes" failed to dent optimism that they were on to a theatrical winner after enlisting the creative support of Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono.

In the end, it took five weeks of excruciating performances in a theatre that was playing last week at less than 40 per cent capacity to persuade the makers of Lennon to bow to the inevitable and pull the plug.

The producers of the show at New York's Broadhurst theatre announced yesterday that it will close next week after 42 previews and 49 regular performances. In a bald statement, the theatre said the production had reached the end of its run and would have its last performance next Saturday. It is expected to lose its entire budget of $7m (£3.9m).

Written over seven years using Lennon's own words (apart from his murder, which is recounted from police records), the musical was supposed to have benefited from the involvement of Ono, who went to many of the rehearsals and attended most of the previews.

But after a troubled debut in San Francisco and then a risky transfer to New York after a radical rewrite, the critics made clear their feeling that the influence of the former Beatle's second wife had been too much.

The critic of Newsday wrote: "This is John Lennon as filtered through the protective, selective, later-life self-interest of Yoko Ono Lennon."

The New York Post concluded that the show was "so shaky it can scarcely stagger from one side of the stage to the other".

The so-called "jukebox musical" was slated for ending its examination of Lennon's Beatles career by the middle of the first act and concentrating on his later life with Ono. It gave scant attention to his first marriage, the birth of his son before meeting the Japanese artist and the affair that forced the couple's separation for more than a year.

One of the devices used by the play's producers was to have each of the nine cast members take turns to play the title character throughout. It failed to charm The New York Times, which wrote: "Instead of making Lennon seem multifaceted, it turns him into a one-size-fits-all alter ego." Ono, 72, who controls the use of her late husband's solo music, insisted that Lennon would have approved of the tribute, which contained 28 of his songs but only one original Beatles track, "The Ballad of John and Yoko".

After the opening night last month, she said: "I think he would be jumping up and down. I think he would have loved it."

From the outset, audiences begged to differ. The musical opened to such disappointing reviews in San Francisco in April that a second run in Boston was cancelled.

Complaints that the set design for a show, in which tickets cost up to $100, consisted almost entirely of backdrop projections of its title character did not help boost sales.

The Critics: 'We loathe it'

The New York Times: "A fierce primal scream is surely the healthiest response to the agony of Lennon ... This drippy version of his life suggests he was just a little lost boy looking for love in all the wrong places until he found Ms Ono and discovered his inner adult."

New York Post: "The widow of Lennon is up to her old tricks, undermining last-ditch efforts to save the seriously flawed bio-musical about her late husband at every turn."

Newsday: "Imagine there's no Beatles, imagine no iconic movies, no White Album, no poetry books, no drawings. Then imagine there's no son before Sean, no mistress named May Pang, no deep depression, nothing really serious with drugs."