Front & Center

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.”

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