A couple of years ago, a rag-tag group of mop heads from the tourist destination of Australia’s Gold Coast visited Vernon.
No, they weren’t here to ski, or to cause a commotion at a Vipers hockey game, but to play some of the best loved music by The Beatles.
Put on by Showtime Australia, The Beatles Experience, a theatrical production that recreates The Fab Four’s life and music, is returning to tour 13 cities through western Canada, including Vernon on June 17.
This year sees the popular show renew itself. Gone are the Aussies, replaced by a new cast from the U.K., who are bringing new songs and sights from The Beatles’ huge anthology to the stage.
Clark Gilmour, who plays John Lennon on this year’s tour, says being from the same country as George, Paul, John and Ringo has a certain advantage.
“There are some idiosyncrasies and nuances that are native to Britain that I think gives us an advantage, although the best tributes come from all over the place, as The Beatles are so universal,” he said.
With his bandmates, Gilmour currently lives in Glasgow, Scotland and has been in constant rehearsal for the upcoming tour.
“It’s only when you do it all the time that you get it good,” he said.
Gilmour has lived and breathed The Beatles since he has a wee lad.
Growing up in southern England, he lived for a while in Germany and Pittsburgh in the U.S., and says channeling someone from Liverpool, or anyone whose dialect is different from your own, can be difficult, especially if that someone is someone as iconic as Lennon.
“I am never going to be that person,” he said. “Growing up I was a McCartney fan. I was obsessed with The Beatles. But the more I get to portray Lennon, the more I get to know him.
“The fact that their music is still appealing to my generation shows how incredible they were as a band. There has been nothing like that since. It’s not just a one generational thing, it goes beyond a lifetime.”
Gilmour isn’t the only member of his family to churn out a Lennon-McCartney tune. His father was a well known Beatles impersonator who played Paul McCartney for more than a decade.
“He did these amazing shows in the style that is not the same as now,” said Gilmour. “I came by it years later, but I always sang and played their songs, but now I get to do it with the costumes and instruments.”
About to turn 25, Gilmour has been singing and acting since an early age. He performed in numerous plays and musicals including The Wizard of Oz, The Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof, and Hamlet, and has sung in symphonic, madrigal, jazz and barbershop choirs.
After his own band, The Down and Outs, dissolved in 2009, Gilmour started a tribute called Them Beatles, which also features Joe Kane, who plays McCartney, Craig McGown (George Harrison) and Grahame Critcher (Ringo Starr).
When Showtime Australia approached the boys to become the new cast for The Beatles Experience, they couldn’t say no.
They have so far toured South Africa and will head to New Zealand after this visit to Canada.
“The four of us have been together for two-and-half years now, though Joe and I were in a couple of bands before this. We’re now a tight unit. We started as a band and it has turned into a cast. We treat it like a Broadway show. It’s music not a film, but we want to be visually exciting and present it in that way. In the end, it’s still four people making good music.”
The show follows The Beatles when they started off as ruffians playing dives in Hamburg and the Cavern Club in their hometown of Liverpool, then goes on to the screaming that was Beatlemania when the band first came to the U.S. to play Shea Stadium.
“We also go into Sergeant Pepper psychedelia and when they went into the studio to record Lady Madonna,” said Gilmour, adding the show ends in the same way The Beatles’ live performances did, with a reenactment of the famed rooftop performance on the Apple building in London.
“We try to keep the show fresh by putting in some new songs with authentic costumes and instruments. We try to keep it interesting and accurate,” he said.
The Beatles Experience – Beatlemania on Tour – takes to the stage at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Sunday, June 17 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $54/adult, $35/child at the Ticket Seller box office, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.