Backbeat: The Birth of the Beatles

Backbeat: The Birth of the Beatles

A Stage Play by Richard John Davis

Review of stage play currently at the Ahmanson Theater in L.A.


Backbeat: The Birth of The Beatles

Now playing at the Ahmanson Theater

Review by Richard Davis [email protected]


Backbeat is the aptly titled play that features love, loss and a little band called the Beatles. But don’t expect a knock-off tribute band in the guise of a “dramatic reenactment” used to greasily slip through a legal loophole. Backbeat is the story of the band’s early days, and it hits some darkly somber notes.  


Before fickle fame lifted them to the stars, The Beatles were down in the bowels �"�" Hamburg’s basement nightclubs �"�" playing to a netherworld of drunks, rowdies, prostitutes and other Germans.


It was in this Petri dish of primordial rock star ooze that the boys �" sans Ringo Starr �" performed American Rockabilly, polished their stage act and traded jeers, even fisticuffs with the audience. But much of the madness was intentional. Acting wildly on stage was one of the only ways the English-speaking band could keep the German-speaking crowd’s attention.


And it was also here in Hamburg that one of the band members, Stu Sutcliffe, fell in love. And the ballad of Stu and Astrid began. Deep in love, Stu eventually chose Astrid over the band, much to the chagrin of John Lennon, who was infatuated with Stu’s talent as a painter and overall cool guy, which, in John’s eyes, made up for the fact that Stu couldn’t really play the guitar or even sing a decent note. But Stu isn’t the only one who lost his ticket to ride the Beatles’ fame train.

With the Beatles’ return to Liverpool and under the management of Brian Epstein, things begin to pick up. And that’s when drummer Pete Best gets the axe, and is replaced by the drummer from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Ringo Starr. Incidentally, Gibson Kemp, who replaced Ringo as the drummer for the Hurricanes, later married Astrid (there’s some nice trivia for you and, who knows, maybe the seed for another play).

If you’re a Beatles trivia junkie, you’ll feel like the heavens have opened above to release a deluge of little facts, marvelously performed for your amusement. By the end of the night, your fancy will surely be sore from the tireless tickling it will receive as you watch things like John and Paul working out the lyrics to Love me Do, or even little 16-year-old George Harrison getting deflowered by a groupie as the other band members cheer him on.


Backbeat may be a disappointment for some since the Beatles’ story mostly takes a backseat to Stu and his relationship. There’s less music than I had expected and the performances occasionally froth up a rich head of melodrama. But overall, it’s well acted and has a strong story. Among the great collection of Beatles-inspired media, it's certainly above-average.

© 2013 Richard John Davis

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Added on February 4, 2013
Last Updated on February 4, 2013
Tags: beatles