Video from my appearance on ABC’s “The View”
Dave Jay’s “johnpaulgeorgeringo” is a real treasure for dedicated Beatles fans.
For a little over an hour, Jay succeeds in entertaining the audience seated in the tiny 13th Street Repertory Company theater by himself, with spot-on Beatles impressions, fun musical performances and a ridiculously extensive knowledge of the Fab Four. The homey theater across from 13th Street residence hall gives off a comfortable, welcoming vibe. The show begins with the lights down and a soundtrack of frantically screaming girls, turning the time back to Feb. 9, 1964: the Beatles’ very first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Jay arrives in their debut outfit, with the famous black trousers, leather shoes, turtleneck and, of course, the legendary haircut. Read More…
John Lennon mocks an audience member’s mistake with a vintage mix of wit and scorn; Paul McCartney flaunts his facility for pop melody by tossing off a catchy tune on a moment’s notice, only to face bitter mutterings from George Harrison for his glibness. Ringo Starr…well, Ringo was there. It takes a certain chutzpah to play a Beatle on stage. Dave Jay goes not one, but three steps further. In his quirky and unique solo show johnpaulgeorgeringo, Jay plays each of the Fab Four, fielding questions from audiences at a faux press conference. John and George even talk about their deaths and incidents that occurred afterwards.
The show’s first major exposure came at last year’s New York International Fringe Festival; Jay’s magical mystery tour then took him to the historic Cavern Club in Liverpool and back to New York at several locales, including an extended run at the Huron Club in the SoHo Playhouse. Jay also records original pop songs and children’s music while performing singing telegrams and managing a doctor’ s practice to pay the bills. The voices come rather naturally,” says Jay, 40, though he jokes he now talks to himself in a British accent. He initially conceived of a show about Lennon, but while work shopping it in an acting class at Sally Johnson Studio, his flair for multiple voices and deep knowledge of the Beatles’ saga prompted his teacher, Brad Calcaterra, to push Jay to expand the show. Calcaterra is credited as both co-creator and director. He also emphasized audience interaction. “He felt improv was one of my greatest strengths,” Jay says. can do certain set bits and I have specific songs that I do, but each show is unique.”
Jay appeals both to hardcore and casual fans, providing intimate details of the Beatles’ careers. After
initial resistance he has added Beatles songs to his performance, both to please the expectant audiences and to set up related stories. His impersonations are more than just vocal distinctions. Jay captures the angle at which the severely nearsighted Lennon held his head, and the hair-tossing and other charming-while-insecurity-revealing bits of McCartney’s body language. Although Jay says McCartney’s was the most challenging” to nail down, his evocation is now spot on. His Harrison occasionally slips, though the jealousy, wariness and spiritual longing are all nailed perfectly. As in real life, Starr is the least compelling, and Jay’s impression sometimes sounds more like Dan Ackroyd doing Richard Nixon. Jay takes his show to Louisville in May for the Abbey Road on the River Festival and hopes to continue performing not only in New York but also around the country. For this ardent Beatles fan, “it is just a thrill to keep them alive for people who love them as much as I do.”
The Fringe Festival is presenting the guys whose trendy-long hair was itself fringe on the forehead. Once thought daring and scruffy (who knew grunge and punk were coming to make it seem mild?), those Beatles had a huge impact on music and society, still felt today. But you knew that. What you might also know are some/many of the facts and stories unspooled at johnpaulgeorgeringo.
As an avowed fan from childhood, who’s read and watched (and listened), I did. But since the questions come from the audience at each performance, what you hear will be largely different. Most of the show is simply Q and A. So, hope for interesting questions and ask some yourself. So here’ s the question — it’s about questions. If you had a chance to ask the Beatles a question from the perspective of 2008, and reflecting back on any time, what WOULD you ask? Don’t worry that two of the four have died. We have them all present, with John and George as if “visiting” from the other side, but just as down-to-earth as the living Beatles Ringo and Paul at their current ages (or perhaps ageless, but with the full knowledge of life up to the present).
This is a one-man show. That one man, skillfully playing all the Beatles (each audience member decides which one to address) is Dave Jay. An instantly likeable, attractive guy with a great smile and charming manner, Dave Jay simply changes voice and personality to be the Beatle of the moment, as easily as you’d change TV channels with a remote. He also sings a few (non-Beatles) songs, accompanying himself on guitar, with a low-key, ingratiating manner.
One assumes certain questions (or variations of them) are expected and answers planned (What did that first rush of fame feel like? What broke up the Beatles? Can you tell us about the groupies and drugs? What regrets do you have?) Certain known anecdotes could be worked into related questions easily enough, and there is a scriptwriter credit to this improvised show, and the credit goes to the performer and its director, Brad Calcaterra. The show is listed as being 55 minutes long and that timing was exact on opening night, when I attended.
Well, you probably have to come in with genuine interest in the Beatles to make this worth the visit, and hope for some entertaining and probing questions and answers that have some “wow-I-neverknew-that” potential. Too often on opening night, the queries were softball ones and the answers involved known trivia that wasn’t fascinating, all delivered in very causal, chatty ways without fiery or tender emotion. Some, of course, involved conjecture based on the clearly well informed performer’s expertise to extrapolate — what does John Lennon think of a certain recent rock act for example. My audience played along and didn’t try to trip him up or grab the spotlight, a danger in audience participation shows. Almost everyone who raised a hand was called on, with no favoritism. I can’t say whether or not there might be a few plants to get the ball rolling in case of a shy house. (It’s a small space at the Jazz Gallery, with several rows of seats, the first ones very close to the performer.) If you were setting things up, would you do that for insurance? I even asked a question myself, hoping for a little more singing and maybe improvised lyrics. I asked about the dummy lyrics (temporary nonsense words) known to have been set to their melodies as they were writing the songs and get the rhythms and structure in their heads so they’d scan. I remembered reading about the dummy lyrics to “Yesterday” being about having “Scrambled Eggs” (rhyming with a reference to a woman’s legs) and mentioned that. He dutifully spoke some of that dummy lyric, but when asked to sing a known Beatles melody with the original dummy lyrics, he said “I don’t remember them.”
He grabbed a few attempts at humor with quick answers: “Ringo, you replaced original drummer Pete Best. What did you have that he didn’t have?” (“A job!!”)… Big laugh. “John what was sex with Yoko like?” (“I suppose it depends who you ask.”) Some serious moments were not dodged, and he even took up the regrets question, with John talking about missing his sons but being able to watch them from Heaven. Pause. Then, in Ringo’s voice, sarcastically, “Thanks for bringing down the room, John.” In fact, some of the most entertaining moments came when he interrupts himself to create a discussion or argument among the Beatles, switching voices with quick speed. But when all was asked and answered, it’s maybe too relaxed, as he sips tea and chitchats. Rather than depend so largely on the luck of the draw with audiences, perhaps some questions should be set with interesting scripted answers before turning things over to the actual audience. Or something besides the Q and A format for a little while? A little goes a long way, even in a one-hour show. Then again, maybe you’ ll get an audience with very different, juicy, fascinating questions that inspire some juicier, and more fascinating answers, or it may be a hard day’s night.
It takes a fair amount of charisma to carry a one-man show; to do so while impersonating four iconic rock stars is an especially tall order. In johnpaulgeorgeringo, Dave Jay does just that, seamlessly morphing into all four Beatles and reproducing their most memorable mannerisms. The show is driven by audience questions, which range from the superficial (” Tell us about those haircuts”) to the provocative (” John, tell us about the day you died” ), allowing the performer to dig into a wide range of monologues. Jay has clearly prepared for virtually any question, and he is also engaging when he occasionally performs a Beatles tune. johnpaulgeorgeringo is thoroughly entertaining and a must-see for Beatles fans.
If you could spend an hour in a room with the Beatles, what would you want to ask them? Dave Jay’s improvised performance piece subtitled “an intimate experience with the fab four” offers Fringe-goers a chance to experience this fantasy. Letting the audience lead the performance, Jay uses his voice, facial expressions and imagination and conjures each of the Beatles to respond to our questions. The experience is as fun as a ride on a yellow submarine.
Jay is a generous performer who respects his inspiration but is also willing to poke affectionate fun at their personalities. From what I could see he is ready to respond to any question that comes his way, and if he seemed a little nervous at the beginning of his opening night show, once the Q-and-A started flowing he found his stride.
Of the Fab Four, his voice, body, and quirky imagination seem most vividly to sit with George Harrison, who observes the past from a spiritual if sometimes cranky distance. He describes how the smells and sounds of India influenced his music and contemplates the ontological importance of an onstage teapot, but it stilI ruffles his feathers that Paul kept much of his contributions off the records. Ringo comes across as fun and heartfelt, and gets the many laughs of the evening. Question: What did you have that Pete Best didn’ t? Ringo: A job.
Of the entire group, Jay’s evocation of Paul McCartney feels the least specific. The bouncy head and high voice didn’t help me picture McCartney in the room. Still, I loved it when Paul postulated an earnest response as to whether he believes that we all live in a yellow submarine. And when speaking about today’s popular music, Paul made a self-centered but sincere argument that he invented hiphop! Jay looks the most like John Lennon, who takes himself seriously and talks to us with intense focus. When asked about his sex life with Yoko, John wasn’t suffering fools. But later in the evening, reflecting on losing his life and not being able to watch his sons grow up, Jay/John expressed a tender, regretful acceptance of his Ioss that went far beyond parlor tricks.
Occasionally, Jay breaks from the talkback format to sing his own songs. He doesn’t have rights to perform Beatles songs, but justifies it well when one of the bands shrewdly quips, “We don’t own our music anymore.” Jay’s tunes are sweet, and seem like they may be inspired by the Beatles; but it’ s very tough for any song to get its fair due with all the focus on, arguably, some of the best popular music ever written.
This piece relies in large part on its audience to provide a steady stream of interesting questions, and the opening night audience did just that. Director and co-creator Brad Calcaterra has helped Jay be ready for anything and to find a distinct vocal and rhythmic energy for each man. Stylist Maria Cullalti provides the iconic Beatle haircut that transfers across all the guys I’d just request a little trim across the bangs. One performance issue still needs to be addressed: who is he when he’s NOT speaking for one of the Beatles? Jay doesn’t speak in his own voice, but in between the questions, there’s a drop in energy and it feels like no one’s in charge. During these breaks, small but frequent, the momentum halts and the press conference structure starts to wear thin. Clearly, each show and audience will bring its own rhythm, but it seems as if the concept works best when Jay gives more time to provide expansive answers, and the occasional moments where the Beatles start talking (or quipping) with each other are great fun. If you’ re a Beatles fan and go to this intimate rock-and-roll event armed with some provocative questions, you may experience your own magical mystery tour.
Improvised, interactive, and impromptu one man show debuts at Fringe NYC. The Fab Four will reunite for an evening of truth, tunes, and trivia during the 11th annual New York International Fringe Festival August 8th through the 24th. Can’t miss! johnpaulgeorgeringo will make its Fringe NYC debut this weekend. Performer Dave Jay morphs between four distinct characterizations of the Beatles to perform songs, divulge little known Beatles trivia, and answer audience questions. New to the Festival this year, the johnpaulgeorgeringo show features NYC native Dave Jay, who seamlessly morphs between distinct impersonations of The Beatles to take the audience on a unique magical mystery exploration.
johnpaulgeorgeringo is a unique one man show that combines historical fact and emotional truth. Completely improvised by Dave Jay, audience members guide the show with questions and requests for their favorite Beatle, such as “John, what was it like working with Phil Spector?” and “Paul, what was your inspiration for ‘Yesterday’ ?” Armed with an astonishing amount of knowledge about the Fab Four and an unmistakable Liverpudlian accent, Dave Jay responds, morphing between John, Paul, George, and Ringo and performing impromptu songs on his acoustic guitar. johnpaulgeorgeringo is a must-see show for Beatles fans.