Musician, actor and songwriter Tim Piper has traveled the world performing music made famous by The Beatles and has distinguished himself as the preeminent John Lennon with roles in the CBS production The Linda McCartney Story, E! Channel’s John Lennon Story, Beatle Wives and as the singing voice of Lennon for the NBC TV movie of the week, In His Life – The John Lennon Story. With Working Class Hero, Piper has performed at numerous special events, including the only tribute act to perform at the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame, a pre-screening performance for the re-release debut of Yellow Submarine and the John Lennon 20th anniversary memorial gathering in Central Park.
Tim has performed at numerous ‘Celebrity Special Events,’ such Tom Hanks’ 10th wedding anniversary party, a private party for Irwin Winkler (producer of Rocky), and a pre-screening performance for the re-release debut of Yellow Submarine. Piper’s other credits include: Legends In Concert (Las Vegas, NV), Shea Stadium concert for a Mets baseball game, and even a Bob Hope Worldwide Television Special. Tim was invited to attend the inaugural “Adopt a Minefield” Charity Benefit in Beverly Hills, where he met with Beatle-legend Paul McCartney in support of their charitable efforts. McCartney told Tim and his band to “Keep up the good work lads!”
GREG PIPER (Musical Director/Bassist) was born into a show business family whose parents were traveling actors in their own theater company, performing with Red Skelton on his television show and are the co-creators of the hugely popular TV game show, Concentration. Greg started his entertainment career in 1971 scoring the lead role and bassist in the musical melodramatic production, “Curse You Villain.” In the early 80’s Greg joined the punk band Womanizer (now called The Tooners), whose music video won the Gold Plaque Award at The Chicago International Film Festival. In 1988 Greg began touring the world with the Beatles tribute act Revolution. Along with his brother, Greg performed at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio with Working Class Hero – The John Lennon Experience, in connection with the premiere of Yoko’s John Lennon exhibit. After headlining with RCCL for over 13 years, Greg became the Musical Director of Just Imagine. Greg is co-founder of Unsigned Records and Rock N Roll Rehab. Based on the book, “The Official Rock & Roll Rehab Members Guide” (available as a Kindle eBook) and soon to be adapted as the Rock & Roll Rehab movie, the live rock and roll multimedia show showcases Greg’s wry wit, dynamic personality and shows why he’s an audience favorite.
MORLEY BARTNOF (Keyboardist) Sometimes known as Cosmo Topper, Morley has been performing & recording music in Los Angeles for a very long time. Bugs Tomorrow, (Casablanca Records) Burning Sensations (Capitol Records) & Dramarama, are just some of the bands he has written for as well as recorded, performed and toured with. Burning Sensations song/video “Belly of the Whale” was in heavy rotation when MTV used to actually show videos as well as being a significant radio hit on KROQ-FM . In addition, Morley’s songs have been appearing in motion pictures. His original track “For… The Time Being,” from the Cosmo Topper CD Pure Fast Vibration, is heard during the closing credits of Mayor of the Sunset Strip, a rock documentary examining the life and career of legendary KROQ-FM DJ Rodney “On the ‘ROQ” Bingenheimer, produced by Dramarama’s Chris Carter. In 2011, Morley was inducted into the first ever “Las Vegas Rock Hall Ceremony & Reunion Concert” where he had grown up, moving back & forth between Vegas & his place of birth, Los Angeles California. After seeing an amazing performance of “One Night Only” with Tim Piper & “Working Class Hero” at the Stella Adler Theater on Hollywood Blvd., Morley-thru a series of magical coincidences wound up being the keyboardist for the premier opening of “Just Imagine” at The No/Ho Variety Arts Theater October 9 2009 and has toured The World with Just Imagine ever since . “Having done a fair amount of theater as well as being in bands in Las Vegas growing up, its been my ultimate dream to combine both art forms and be in this Live Rockumentary with such a high quality rocking band. Thank you Tim & Greg Piper”
JERRY STRULL (Lead guitar/vocals) – Pasadena-based Jerry Strull has been a musical affiliate of Tim and Greg Piper for many years. When just out of high school, back in the golden musical era of the early 70’s, Strull and the Pipers would play rock and roll shows for colleges and prestigious private functions while taking the Hollywood Club scene by storm as they were being shopped to several record companies. Born in Texas, but raised in L.A., Jerry’s been a sought after guitarist for both live and studio work. Best known for his lead guitar work on The Tooners “Rocktasia”, he’s also an accomplished singer / songwriter and has recently completed a series of music videos of unplugged performances of his music. As Jerry says “I’ve been a Beatles superfan all my life, so I’m thrilled to be recreating my favorite music with such great musicians!” When Jerry is not playing Lead guitar with Just Imagine he can be found at various Los Angeles and surrounding hot spots performing and singing a combination of soulful cover songs along with his original works. His musical style has been described as, “Neo-Apocalyptic Campfire Songs for Dreamers” (… aka “Urban Americana” music.)
JIM LASPESA (Drums/Percussion) – Jim Laspesa is a Los Angeles-based musician who has recorded and performed with such artists as Dave Davies (the Kinks), Susanna Hoffs (the Bangles), The Wild Honey Orchestra, Brian Wilson (the Beach Boys), Peter Case (the Plimsouls), Bob Cowsill Band, Green Jello, the Muffs, Baby Lemonade, Marizane, White Flag and others. He is the host of Bubbling Over, a radio show on Luxuriamusic.com. You’ll see him soon as the Wrecking Crew percussionist in the upcoming Brian Wilson biopic Love and Mercy, in theaters June 5.
STEVE ALTMAN (Director/Writer) studied with Stella Adler in New York. He toured as Judas in ‘Superstar’ and Berger in ‘Hair’ with the New York City Repertory Theatre. He co-starred with Ed Begley (in Fox’s ‘Chameleon’), William Baldwin (‘A Plumm Summer’) and Robert Vaughn (‘Transylvania Twist’). As a stand-up Steve worked with Jerry Lewis, Garry Shandling, Dennis Miller, Brad Garrett and Bill Mahar appearing on HBO, Comedy Central, Showtime, MTV, NBC, A&E, Fox and the BBC. A songwriter, Steve has written for Motown, José Feliciano, Smokey Robinson, Disney, HBO, Dick Clark and NASA. Steve wrote and directed “Duality: A Psychological Comedy” starring David Strassman to five star reviews at the Edenburgh Fringe Festival (dualitytheshow.com) and also produces a quarterly film/sketch revue, “Saturn & Vine” at the Lillian Theatre. He is currently working on “Tock”, a musical version of HG Wells’ Time Machine and many of his short films can be viewed at saturnandvine.com or youtube.com/stevealtman. His collaboration with Tim, Greg and the band has been a creative dream come true…getting “as close to working with Lennon and The Beatles as one could hope for,” describing Tim as “the most generous collaborator” he has ever worked with. Steve is also the shows art director and has created some of the more surreal videos to the production.
On behalf of all of us, we loved having you here! You were all so gracious and kind and that is what life is all about. I really hope that we can work together in the future.
Our patron base really enjoyed the unique performance that you guys brought in and they all left swimming down memory lane.
We’ll be in touch and I hope that you all have a very happy holiday season.
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
Arts In LA
Reviewed by Melinda Schupmann
Tribute band concerts have become more and more common, particularly when the band in question has aged or broken up. The performers generally have an ear for the melodies and mannerisms of their idols, but you are, by and large, aware that they are not the originals. In the case of Tim Piper playing John Lennon, that doubt vanishes immediately, as he projects the look, the mannerisms, the accent, and the talent.
The show is not a play but more like a concert. Then it’s time for “Revolution,” played by Tim Piper and his band, Working Class Hero. Piper’s musicianship is uncannily familiar for die-hard Beatle fans. It appears that the composition of the audience falls into that category, because in nearly every sing-a-long, the audience knows the words, rhythms, and pauses. It is truly a love-fest.
If it were just about the music, it would be worth the ticket price, but Piper channels Lennon as he relates his life story. From the earliest days in school when Lennon formed a band with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Stu Sutcliffe, he recalls that he was pretty much on his own. With a completely absent father and a mother who turned him over to her elder sister to raise, he remembers it as a rather loveless and painful time. Even though he regained a relationship with his mother, she was killed when he was 17, which appears to have made an indelible impact on him. He recalls that his relationship with most of the women in his life was violent and abusive. He describes himself as a bad husband and a worse father to Julian, born to him and Cynthia Powell, his first wife.
As the music progresses, much of it a result of his partnership with McCartney, he alludes to his early performing, their time in Hamburg, drug use, and Brian Epstein’s leadership that put them on the map.
Providing an ever-changing backdrop to the reminiscences are Piper’s video projections of photos and psychedelic images, enhancing the experience. From Ed Sullivan’s 1964 television broadcast, on which the boys gained world fame, through the stages of their evolution as a band, Piper is witty and acerbic, as well as thoughtful in his evaluations of how Lennon handled his life. Paired with Yoko Ono, whom most people disliked, he reveals that she was Lennon’s muse, the person with whom he finally found love.
Piper plays to the audience intimately, at one point coming out into the audience for a sing-along, greeting some people he obviously knows. He ties his songs to personal experiences, to Powell, to drugs, to friction with his bandmates. For those who know Lennon only through his songs, it is an expanded glimpse of a man who was a rebel, a counter-culture figure, and a person whose demons obviously drove him to acts recounted here with remorse.
The accompanying band—brother Greg on bass, Jerry Strull on guitar, Morley Bartnoff on keyboards, and Jim Laspesa on drums–contributes mightily to the enjoyment of the performance. They are top-notch in every way. Greg Piper is superb as musical director.
Written and directed by Steve Altman, with writing credit also granted to Tim Piper, the show is a notch above most tribute concerts in its narrative and lyric delivery. Straddling the line between play and musical, it provides context for the familiar hits, as well as Lennon’s less widely known works. Where most tribute shows play the standards, this show also includes his latter works created when he was on his own away from the Beatles.
Lennon is an icon, arguably one of the greatest musical talents of our time. Piper’s homage to his work and life paints a vivid portrait of the man and re-creates some of his best songs with intensity and seeming spontaneity. The energy of the band and Piper’s superb delivery make for a totally enjoyable experience.
Tim Piper Channels John Lennon in JUST IMAGINE
at the Hayworth Theatre
by Shari Barrett
Tim Piper returns to Los Angeles with JUST IMAGINE, an extraordinary rock ‘n’ roll celebration of the life and music of John Lennon. Backed by rock band Working Class Hero (Greg Piper on bass; Jerry Strull on guitar, Morley Bartnof on keyboards and Jim Laspesa on drums), Piper brilliantly embodies the much-loved music icon at the Hayworth Theatre through August 25.
Written and directed by Steve Altman, JUST IMAGINE intertwines John Lennon’s songs with the stories behind them to create a unique and electrifying multimedia concert experience. The multimedia show begins with the announcement of his death and goes on to take you through a final performance with John Lennon, revealing his outlook on his life, his music career, as well as his inspiration for songs and his relationships with loved ones.
The show is really about the impact of love, and the lack of it, which drove Lennon to seek affirmation from the world inspired by his bitingly witty personality. Having a mother and father pass on their responsibility to love and nurture you in your most formative years led Lennon to express his rage through music following the accidental death of his mother after being struck by a drunk, off-duty Liverpool policeman when John was 17. Forced by his Aunt Mimi to either get a job or go to art school, John Chose the latter which led to him meeting and forming a band with Stu Sutcliff, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and then Ringo Starr. Following their return to Liverpool after playing in the red light district in Hamburg, Germany in 1960, the Beatles took up residence at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. And their lives were changed forever the day Brian Epstein walked in and offered to manage their careers.
Enhanced by a multimedia backdrop of photos, videos, interview clips, and lots of psychedelic “light” shows, you will feel as if you are really watching Lennon perform songs we all know and love. It was extremely easy and so much fun to sing along with Piper when asked to accompany him on “In My Life,” “Girl,” “It’s Only Love” and “If I Fell” as he strolled up and down the aisles. I have to admit I am a huge fan of the album “Abbey Road” and the band’s rendition of “I Want You – She’s So Heavy” rocked the house with Piper’s heartfelt yell sealing it as the real deal. Other highlights include “Revolution,” a medley of early songs from the Ed Sullivan Show, “I am the Walrus,” and “Imagine.” I do think a few selections need to be played at a slightly faster tempo, especially “Help” and “Norwegian Wood.”
Piper has made a career out of playing Lennon after being obsessed by the Beatles like this writer and so many others, when they came to America in 1964 when we were kids or especially teenagers. Although he is the center of the show, Tim’s brother Greg Piper serves as music director and plays bass guitar in the band. The brothers, as well as the other band members, boldly share the sheer joy of rocking out to Lennon’s music, proud to be part of a worldwide family that shares strong emotions and fond memories of the man, his music, and the magic of a time gone by that still resonates today and hopefully will forever. Give peace a chance.
JUST IMAGINE – Backed by a live band, Tim Piper channels John Lennon in a multimedia rock ‘n roll tribute that celebrates Lennon’s life and music.
Starring Tim Piper as John Lennon
Directed by Steve Altman
Musical Director Greg Piper
Backed by the band Working Class Hero
Just wanted to let you know that Just Imagine was really well received in Rochester, NY. The group did an amazing job. We had approx. 180 people attend Tim’s wonderful behind-the-scenes pre-performance talk, and he gave the audience an interesting glimpse into his life touring worldwide as John Lennon. And the show itself was exactly what we were hoping for: a high quality musical production and an historically-based, professional and well thought-out tribute to Lennon’s life and music. Tim and the band were also very generous with their time, and accommodated numerous requests for photos and autographs. We had a fabulous, enthusiastic crowd of approx. 600, and they gave Just Imagine two standing ovations. It was a great evening all around.
Thanks, Tim and Greg – you guys rocked it!
Susan Chekow Lusignan
Nazareth College Arts Center
JOHN LENNON REVEALED
by Peter Foldy
Just as Sir Paul McCartney threatens to erode the legend of the Beatles by being perhaps too accessible, a most welcome accessibility has surfaced in Los Angeles with Tim Piper’s raw and inspired performance as John Lennon in “Just Imagine, ” currently playing weekends at the Hayworth Theater through October 9, 2011 (Lennon’s birthday).
An uncanny look-alike for John Lennon, Piper brings the multi faceted Beatle back to life, giving him an opportunity to explain himself and tell us what was in his heart and mind during those crazy days of Beatlemania and beyond.
Piper has Lennon down to a T, even making a very familiar facial gesture that was a favorite of the Beatle. But by no means is he some Las Vegas impersonator. This show feels like a theater performance, a one man psycho drama if you will, featuring some of the greatest pop and rock songs of the 20th Century.
With powerful projected images behind him, Piper starts the evening by taking us back to Lennon’s early years where the loss of Lennon’s mother and later his best friend, Stuart Sutcliffe are discussed. He delves into many aspects of Lennon’s life, talking candidly about his mistakes and screw ups. His neglect of first son Julian. His heroin use in the 80′s. About the hate hurled at the love of his life, Yoko Ono, not only by his best friends, the Beatles, but the world at large. It really hurt, Piper as Lennon explains.
John Lennon’s pain was our gain, for it inspired an amazing catalogue of songs that may outlive us all. “Just Imagine” has a rocking soundtrack to accompany Lennon’s story.
A particularly great touch was the start of the second act where, Piper wanders through the audience with just his acoustic guitar, singing Lennon songs, even taking requests, making us really feel as if the real John Lennon was walking among us. It actually feels like that throughout the entire show and even beyond when Piper and the band join the audience in the lobby for a meet and greet and a glass of wine after the curtain call. Piper is never out of character and it truly becomes a night of peace and love, just the way Lennon would have wanted it.
For anyone who is a fan of the Beatles and their music, “Just Imagine” is a must see. Tim Piper channels John Lennon and the results are simply amazing. Directed by Steve Altman and featuring Greg Piper on bass, Jerry Strull on guitar, Jim Laspesa on drums and Morley Bartnoff on keyboards.
We give this show: **** (four stars)
Just Imagine / Hayworth Theater / Los Angeles
Reviewed by Ethan Silver
Some of our readers are lucky enough to have seen John Lennon perform, either as part of The Beatles or after his departure from the famous group. Others, like me, have only videos to watch as we reminisce about a time of which we may not have been a part. But, in Just Imagine, John Lennon returns and is given “…one more chance to see life from a different perspective.” The audience, in turn, is given a chance to experience the life story of one of the most iconic men in the history of music, as told through the eyes of actor / producer/ Lennon impersonator, Tim Piper.
From start to finish, the production wows the audience with a combination of live music, video animation and actual footage, which creates such a surrealistic 60s vibe that one can not help but feel in the moment. With so much music and an incredible number of songs included in the set list, it is amazing that the production lasts only 90 minutes. Although many songs are played in full, the band keeps it moving by playing only the meat and potatoes of certain selections, being sure to include the well-known hooks from the biggest hits. This has it all, from early Beatles to Lennon’s work with Yoko.
Just Imagine is indeed a concert, but it is also theater. Between songs, Lennon (Tim Piper) spellbinds the audience with stories about his life from his tumultuous beginning, to the formation of the Beatles, to his last days. The dialogue is full of actual Lennon quotes which are seamlessly integrated into the script and delivered as if for the first time, including the Yoko Ono controversy (cue the jeers from the crowd) and the last days with the Beatles complete with the resulting media backlash. This comes from an entirely different point of view than one could gain from an outside-looking-in perspective and it through this dialogue that the audience is allowed a glimpse of a uniquely human John Lennon.
One of the unexpected elements of the show is the ten minutes or so when Lennon gives the band a “union” break, takes out his guitar and heads into the audience asking for requests, which he plays without hesitation, resulting in an all-out audience sing-along. It is obvious that this production is a labor of love for those involved, as evidenced by the actors / musicians onstage. Greg Piper (Bass / Musical Director / Producer), Jerry Strull (Lead Guitar), Jim Laspesa (Drums) and Morley Bartnoff (Keyboardist) are all fascinating to watch as each visibly enjoys his work. The highlight of the night comes as the band plays “I Want You” in a style that rivals any version this writer has seen performed either live or recorded.
In a refreshing change of pace, the show steers clear of discussing Lennon’s untimely death, except for a brief newspaper headline at the opening. Instead, we are allowed to experience a celebration of his life, music and message in a hybridization of a Pink Floyd concert and an episode of MTV Unplugged. All in all, this is a fun and unique journey into the history of John Lennon and perhaps the most famous rock group of all time, The Beatles. Just Imagine is the show to see for die-hard fans and anyone who loves rock and roll. What a great time!
Just Imagine: The Legend Returns
A musical – presented by True Rock Theatre
By Ceebs Bailey – Los_Angeles_Entertainment
From the audience reaction alone, you might think that John Lennon himself had descended from the heavens to spend an evening at the Hayworth Theatre on Wilshire to perform the hit musical Just Imagine.
The premise is that Lennon is coming back for one last concert and, in doing so, also tells us his story of the birth of the Beatles, his marriages, his political activism, raising his sons, lots of tidbits we might not know. “The guitar’s all very well, John, but you’ll never make a living out of it,” a teenage Lennon’s aunt told him. He takes us from childhood abandonment in Liverpool to the last years in the Dakota in New York City, with a few dozen classic songs and several engaging monologues along the journey.
The audience was totally, utterly, thoroughly enthralled by Tim Piper’s portrayal of John Lennon, from his Beatle boots to his Nehru jacket. Even though the theatre seats were bolted to the floor, the house was shaking from the first song to the last. I swear to you on a stack of declassified documents that this is not exaggeration. People were singing, clapping and toe tapping, all much more difficult to do in a packed house with seating meant for sitting still and acting one’s age. And this audience didn’t just know the words, they knew all the harmonies.
While the look-alike sound-alike and highly personable Piper worked his ass off in this one-man show, his four-piece band kept pace with Greg Piper on bass, Mortley Bartnoff on keyboards, Jim Laspesa on drums, and Jerry Strull handling lead guitar. Even though Tim Piper (who also wrote and produced) is quite a proficient guitarist himself, this man is busy.
He conducted a few sing-alongs, took impromptu requests from the audience and engaged in a little conversation, as well (prepare your Lennon-centric song choice ahead of time because I suffered a cataclysmic brain fog and could only think of Blackbird. Wrong.). At the close of the show, the audience members who weren’t leading the standing ovation rushed up to shake his hand or get a quick photo. Now that’s the real deal.
Native Wayne Jobson
Indie 103.1 Radio
Just Imagine is a portal that takes us on a magical mystery tour into the mind of the most important non-classical musician that ever lived, John Lennon… The images, the script and the music are outstanding, but the real gem is Tim Piper who channels John with remarkable wit and grace. Absolutely brilliant ! Don’t miss it !
Theater Review: “Just Imagine”
From Issue: Volume XIX – Number 5
by Ben Miles
The Beatles’ melodic declaration–“All You Need is Love”–is not a literal truism. We know that. Of course, man does not live by bread alone. But neither can he live without it. Nevertheless, if you love John Lennon, were swept-up in Beatle-mania, or simply have an affection for classic rock ‘n roll, Tim Piper’s musical tribute to Lennon – at Los Angeles’ Hayworth Theatre, through April 24 – is a must see event.
With an ever-changing video collage projected onto a screen up center stage (thanks to Piper), and Paul Gentry’s psychedelic lighting motif colorfully raining upon Director Steve Altman’s perfectly believable bandstand set-design, Piper takes us on a 1960s musical history tour, and it is magical. Yes, we get the low-down on Lennon’s life from its beginning in the war-torn Britain of 1940 until its tragic ending in December of 1980. Yet “Just Imagine” is no mere docudrama; though it does have plenty of psychodrama – Lennon’s checkered relationship with his mom and dad is touched on, for instance.
More accurately, “Just Imagine” is a celebration of Lennon’s artistic and free-spirited legacy. Further, Piper’s – who’s made a career of characterizing Lennon onstage and on television – is a ringer for this preeminent Beatle, not only in appearance, but vocally as well. With numbers such as “Revolution,” “Help,” and “Twist & Shout,” Piper captures Lennon’s primal and rhythmic screams and screeches. In renditions of “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Beautiful Boy,” we get a glimpse of Lennon as the soul-touching composer and singer.
Moreover, we gain insight into the collaborative process that went on between Lennon and (Paul) McCartney, arguably the most accomplished and prolific songwriting duo in the annals of popular music. As Lennon (Piper) explains with regard to McCartney, “We complimented each other. He was salt. I was pepper. He was oil. I was vinegar… (and) together we made a tasty salad.”
Piper’s Lennon is a singular presence, infused with rebel-rousing intensity and heartfelt passion. But because of a Kick-A-Plus backup band – Morley Bartnoff on keyboard; Jerry Strull, lead guitar; Greg Piper, bass guitar; Jim Laspesa, drums – we are loath to call it a one-man show. After all, not only have these accomplished musicians mastered the scope and depth of the Beatles’ and (solo) Lennon songbooks, they also pose as surrogate Beatles, helpfully adding their own quirks and comedy to the festivities. “Just Imagine” is a vivid recreation of the life and times of John Lennon – including his joy, his anger, and his contagious vitality. To experience Tim Piper’s near-channeling of Lennon defies imagination. You must see it to believe it.
Only one production to share with you this week…
By Pat Taylor
But it was a joyous trip down memory lane… and highly recommended!
Tim Piper as John Lennon
There’s a “Rockin’ and Rollin’” party going on in town… and you’re invited! This is a fabulous show and a psychedelic must see! We loved every magical moment! The remarkably tireless and wildly talented Tim Piper, whose likeness to John Lennon is mindboggling… has been cloning the “superstar’s” life and career for many years. I first saw this electrifying show in Hollywood a few years back, and was so excited to catch it again now at this “cool” downtown LA theatre! Having brilliantly resurrected the spirit, humor and persona of Lennon on countless stages and in numerous television productions, his loyal following is gigantic! Under the “hip” and energetic direction of Steve Altman, who also co-wrote the script with Piper, we the audience… are mesmerizingly hurled into a “kick-butt” concert… retrospective flashbackl. Experiencing the music, life, heart and challenges of Lennon’s deeply felt relationship with the unpopular Yoko Ono, The Beatles, his own troubled childhood… and so much more… we peer into the inner soul of the man. The beloved songs had the entire audience singing along nonstop, as our own personal memories of those times touched each of us throughout the night. The back up band is phenomenal, driving the pulse of the era with perfection! Kudos to: Greg Piper on bass, Jerry Strull on lead guitar, Morley Bartnoff on keyboards and Jim Laspesa on drums. Paul Gentry’s soulful lighting, and Piper’s own reminiscent overhead multimedia video design add greatly to the magic! People of all ages universally know and love these timeless songs, written and performed by the world’s most famous band, “The Beatles.” Tim Piper’s highly entertaining and “down to earth” depiction will ignite memories in all who catch this multi-faceted show. Don’t miss it!
Just Imagine:Imagine You Are There
By Laurel Belgreen
“Just Imagine” at The Hayworth Theater is more than a concert by a Beatles tribute band. It is a kaleidoscopic experience, a peek into the diary of one of the greatest of all the rock-star legends, and a musical examination of the last half-century from a unique perspective – that of John Lennon.
Tim Piper, as Lennon, talks to the audience as if he is sitting in the living with an interviewer. He offers answers to questions before they are asked. He speaks about the intimate details of his life with surprising candor and you realize that, although he had extraordinary experiences, at his core he shared the same emotions we all feel.
Mr. Piper does not “channel” the public persona of John Lennon as most people knew him. He does not adopt his soft demeanor and politely postured charisma. Mr. Piper displays an anger that prevailed throughout Lennon’s life. He shows him as angry that his parents divorced and he had to choose between them, that his mother died young, and especially that his band-mates and the world did not embrace his beloved Yoko Ono. Most of his emotions were negative, such as guilt over abandoning his son, Julian (named after his mother, Julia) and competitive jealousy of Paul McCartney. He tells the stories behind the songs and is not afraid to shatter some of our ideas of Lennon as the man we want to believe he was. We want to believe that he mostly enjoyed his life and that with Yoko, he found inner peace. Mr. Piper’s portrayal of Lennon’s inner rage is difficult to accept, and sometimes difficult to watch, but is interesting.
Mr. Piper’s fondness for John Lennon is apparent as he comes into the audience and asks for song requests, most of which he is happy to accommodate. With Lennon’s trademark glasses and hairstyle, if not his mannerisms, that moment of the show does feel like being in the audience for John Lennon’s final concert, the one he performs, as the show suggests, after his death.
The backdrop to Mr. Piper and his band is an award-worthy video with a terrific collection of photos of Lennon’s life, mementos, and images of the 60s and 70s. Perfectly timed to “Strawberry Fields Forever” are photos of a gate leading to fields that have such a sense of nostalgia, you feel as if you are looking at your own photo album. Black and white photos fade into the background, eliciting feelings of melancholy until the screen erupts into colorful, dancing graphics of unrelated topics.
Mr. Piper is backed up by Greg Piper on bass guitar (he’s also the Musical Director); Jerry Strull, the lead guitarist; Morley Bartnoff on keyboard; and Jim Laspesa on drums. The production is directed by Steve Altman.
Imagine it — then live it.
“JUST IMAGINE” STARS TIM PIPER AS JOHN LENNON
A MUST-SEE MAGICAL TRIP BACK IN TIME
By Debra Graff
From the moment you enter the theatre, greeted by a ‘Bobby’*, you sense the enchantment and begin a transformation you can’t possibly imagine. Tim Piper brilliantly intertwines Lennon’s music with a verbal and visual history of the times, never losing sight of the message that idealism carries on. You’ll be captivated and thrilled as you journey through Lennon’s life, with Tim and his incredibly talented rock band, bassist Greg Piper, keyboardist Morley Bartnoff, drummer, Jim Laspesa, and guitarist, Jerry Strull. After two hours of delight, you’re guaranteed to feel lighter, brighter, more hopeful and passionate, ready to face the world, realizing that “All You Need Is Love.”
Highlights are Tim’s heartfelt, rendition of “Julia”, dedicated to John’s mother; a sweet, sensitive version of “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” written for Lennon’s son, Sean; Tim serenading at tables, asking for song requests (“no Paul songs,” he jokes), and an extraordinarily affecting “Imagine,” prompting the audience to sway back and forth, while holding candles, as if their hearts had come together to give peace a chance. Just Imagine!
Nowhere else can you find true rock theatre, in gorgeous dinner club surroundings, that will fascinate ages 8 to 88. The SRO crowd spanned four generations. Enthusiastic fans, Vanessa and Jasmine Tucker (ages 12 and 10 respectively and dressed in Beatle paraphernalia) from Oxnard, brought THEIR parents to the show. Others traveled from as far as San Diego, for a second or third time. Many were holding hands, dancing in their seats, mouthing the words, tapping to the beat, shouting ‘love you,’ cheering for more, beaming from head to toe, moved to tears, and smiling inside and out.
Tim, also credited as Writer, told me it’s humbling to portray such an icon. He gets to meet people from all walks of life who relish in sharing their personal stories because of the familiarity factor. They regard him as someone they already know. “The show represents a time when we banded together to make love not war. The best part is being Lennon’s conduit.”
Director, Steve Altman, believes we need to recall that Lennon stood for love, peace, speaking out, being heard, and making a difference. “Tim as Lennon, this music, this band, it just hits a chord in your soul.”
Sound technician, Greg Feo, says the show has a life of its own. “We all miss John and want to keep his message of love alive. Everybody here is like family.”
Producer, Philip Wegener, describes The Beatles as universal, and their music, timeless. He stresses the need to follow their models of peace and love, especially in our current situation of war, recession, violence, catastrophe. “Here’s a place where you can forget your troubles for a couple of hours, going back to a time where you felt safe.”
Musical Director/Bassist, Greg Piper, says, “People think Beatles music is easy. Absolutely not true! Go ahead and try it! My contribution was to take these monster players, who can play anything, and keep them focused on the sound and arrangements to capture the essence and energy of three decades of Beatles /John Lennon music.”
Keyboardist, Morley Bartnoff, told me, “this is the most fun and exciting gig I’ve ever had.”
The cast and crew are honored to be at The Platinum Theatre, formerly Bob Eubank’s celebrated Cinnamon Cinder Club, that once showcased acts including Little Stevie Wonder, the Beach Boys, and the Supremes. Fortuitously, The Beatles held a press conference here, prior to their first Hollywood Bowl concert in ’64, receiving five gold records and the keys to California. This luxurious location has comfortable seating, amazing sound, a remarkable buffet, a chef that rocks, a full bar, and no age limit, attracting sellout crowds Fridays through Sundays.
John Lennon stage performance
The Global Film Village
by Marla Lewin
Just Imagine, the show has been extended in Hollywood, through Janurary 3rd, don’t miss it if you love the man and his music. We sat next to a fan who brought his young teenage son, wearing Lennon glasses. There were other children also present who were getting their first chance to experience the “magic” of the Beatles live. It was a packed 99 seat theatre with an audience that believed that “All You Need is Love” and for that night we could be back in those days. Mickey Jones, the drummer, and actor, who played with Trini Lopez, and Bob Dylan, said it was his second time at the show. The Beatles opened for Trini years ago in Paris in 1963 at the Olympia Theater. The gig was for six nights a week, two shows a night and three on Saturday. Everyone got to know each other really well. Mickey remembered flying back to London with John. This was when John was still married to Cynthia and before the Ed Sullivan show introduced the Beatles to America. Mickey felt he was back there, watching John.
The star of Just Imagine is Tim Piper, who has also played the John Lennon role in the CBS Production, “The Linda McCartney Sotry, ‘E! Channels’s; ‘John Lennon Story,’ ‘Beatles Wives,’ and most recently as the singing voice of John Lennon for the NBC Movie of the Week, “In His Life- The John Lennon Story”. Tim Piper performs with his band, Working Class Hero, which includes Pipers’ brother Greg, also the musical director (electric bass); Jerry Strull, (lead guitar); Morley Bartnoff (keyboardist; and Jim Laspesa (drums).
Tim shares John’s life story, interspersed with video clips and song performances. He envelops the audience into the belief that he is John, and you are hearing his inner most thoughts and feelings about his life and loves. It is a transformational and healing experience to look into his eyes, hear his Voice, and listen to so many of his wonderful songs.
The other musicians; add to the mix splendidly. This is a show that people respond to with their hearts. Children of all ages were swaying in their seats. The adults were reminiscing of a time of innocence, and when our collective identity allowed us to unite to “Give Peace A Chance”. We were transported from their earliest days in LIverpool and Hamburg to the Ed Sullivan show with “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” to the final days of Double Fantasy’s, “Imagine.”
The New Year’s Eve show will be special, Champagne and hors d’ouevres will be served at 8pm. At 8:30, there will be a screening of a short doc, “Strawberry Field 2000,” chronicling Tim Piper’s trip to NY to perform in Lennon’s memory, 20 years after his passing. Then the full show will be performed. What a magical way to experience the birth of a new year with old songs, memories and friends.
The theatre has been packed for this show and it should do well touring anywhere their are John Lennon and Beatle fans, including Broadway.
by Cynthia Citron
Nearly 30 years after his death, John Lennon is still getting standing ovations from a whistling, screaming, sing-along crowd at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood. Playing to packed houses every night, Tim Piper takes us through the life of the flawed hero, illustrating Lennon’s ups and downs with the songs that flew from his fertile brain throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Playing a couple of mean guitars and keyboard, Piper is backed up by the band Working Class Hero, comprised of four master musicians: his brother Greg Piper on bass guitar, Jerry Strull on lead guitar, Morley Bartnoff on another keyboard, and Jim Laspesa on drums. One more than the Fabulous Four, but hey, who’s counting?
Tim Piper, who bears a haunting resemblance to Lennon, has become the quintessential Beatle, playing in Beatle Tribute bands since his teens, traveling the world performing their music, and portraying Lennon in various TV productions. He even portrayed Lennon before 350,000 Liverpudlians during Beatleweek 2004.
Backed up by photographs of the young John projected on a screen behind the band, Piper begins with the divorce of Lennon’s parents when he was five, and his mother’s subsequent death, which he never got over. The song “Julia” was his tribute to her.
The fabulous career of the four boys from Liverpool flashes onscreen as Piper and the band sing some of their biggest hits. “But not Paul’s songs,” Piper insists. “This is my show, not his!”
And there are movie clips from “Hard Day’s Night,” “Help!” and the cartoons featuring The Eggmen, and The Walrus. There are clips of screaming mobs and the summers of love. And clips from their “transcendental” period with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
At 25, Lennon had “done it all” and was at loose ends when he met Yoko Ono, the Japanese artist who was the love of his life. Piper deals candidly with their peace activism, the angry breakup with Paul McCartney and the others, and his descent into heroin addiction. As he tells of his overcoming his addiction, a Peter Max-type whirlwind of psychedelic images accompanies the music.
And finally, the troubled musician finds happiness and peace as a househusband and father to his “beautiful boy,” Sean Lennon.
The production, directed by Steve Altman, is called “Just Imagine,” and it has been running since October 9th, having been extended several times, to January 2nd. It’s a truly wonderful show, beautifully mounted, and encouraging happy sing-along participation. Only two small quibbles: like every live rock concert, it is VERY LOUD!!! And we wish they had played just a couple of Paul’s songs.
By Angela Gomez
Imagine that for just one night you were privy to the most intimate thoughts of a music and public icon. John Lennon, portrayed by Tim Piper (backed up musically by Working Class Hero), provides a once in a lifetime opportunity that allows him to recount his personal life’s successes and failures to you.
Descending a black staircase wearing the infamous Beatle black complete with boots, immediately you are swallowed into Lennon’s history as he straps on his guitar and strums the all too familiar strings. Entranced in his early history, a pained and longing for his parents is passionately sung and memorialized in the audience’s memory. A frigid thrust into John’s past reveals his want for his mother’s love. His mother, Julia, died tragically before she and John were able to completely mend their broken relationship. This event created a fiery rage in John’s life that fueled his musical ambition but sadly was never to be abated until the end of his life.
Thoroughly enjoying the early band memories and explanations to why they picked who and what contributions they provided the band, I sat unmoving in my seat. My most favorite line from the whole play was when John defined his relationship with Paul. A musical genius himself who possessed the talent of guitar tuning, John describes Paul as being extra virgin olive oil and he as vinegar (quite the metaphor). Separate they were good but together they make a hell of a salad. John was able to finish the songs that Paul started and vice versa. They displayed a symbiotic lyrical relationship peppered with familial squabbles brimming with respect and love.
Times ceases to exist while watching the projected images and listening to John serenade his personal and current event history of the 60’s and 70’s. Yearning for more time with John, I am time warped into his past and become a spectator to his most private thoughts and
watch as he spirals into a personal hell that was prepared just for him. To hear his struggles with drugs, women, and self loathing, John defends the love and muse of his life, Yoko. As boos and hisses reverberate through the audience, John valiantly plays his response to the world, the Beatles, and the audience detailing his love for Yoko.
A fun rollercoaster evening laced with familiarity, laughter, anger and tears, the audience only leaves the theater because the lights have come on and we have politely been asked to leave. The magic that was encased in the four walls of the small theater has begun to float as flotsam into the black atmosphere and enhance a star that shines lonely over the city of North Hollywood.
by Steven Stanley
Just imagine you could turn back time and spend two hours with one of the most influential music superstars of the 20th Century. Just imagine that this pop music legend is John Lennon, a month or so before his tragic murder at the age of forty. Just imagine that during these two hours, you could hear Lennon perform live and in person several dozen of his greatest compositions, backed by some of the best rock musicians in the business. Just imagine that Lennon would, between songs, share stories about his life—from his childhood in working class Liverpool to his rise to superstardom in the mid-60s to the controversies which surrounded him during the turbulent Vietnam years to the happiness he eventually found as husband and father. Just imagine that all this could actually take place in an intimate setting, say in one of L.A.’s finest 99-seat theaters.
If you can imagine all this, then you will have some idea of just how amazing an experience Just Imagine, a guest production at the NoHo Arts Center, is. It’s just you and about ninety-eight other John Lennon fans, a four-piece backup band, and the legend himself. No wonder Just Imagine has become such a buzzed-about hit. There’s truly never been anything like it.
Part of you knows that it’s not really John Lennon up there on stage. Part of you is aware that John’s songs are being sung (and his life story told) by Tim Piper, the multitalented Lennon lookalike/soundalike who has made a career of keeping the legend alive. But an even bigger part of you oh-so willingly suspends disbelief, choosing to imagine yourself with none other than the real John. No wonder audiences are cheering, telling their friends about Just Imagine, and coming back for more.
Piper starts the evening out with an electric rendition of “Revolution,” and a more appropriate opening number he could not have picked. If ever a pair of songwriters and a quartet of musicians revolutionized music, it was John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and The Beatles. To anyone growing up in the 1950s and
‘60s, there was music before the Beatles, and music after, period.
As video images are projected onto the big screen behind the band, John (I know it’s really Tim, but I’m going to call him John from now on) sings his life in song, beginning with film footage of the WWII England into which he was born—during a German air raid. A pair of songs recall his mother Julia Lennon. In “Mother,” John rages against the woman he picked to live with upon his parents’ divorce, only to have her turn her five-year-old son over to her sister Mimi for rearing. A more tender “Julia” shows a John willing to forgive the Mum whose loss came far too early in John’s life. (He was only seventeen when she was struck by a car driven by an off-duty policeman and killed.)
It goes without saying that what we the audience have come to hear (and hear about) are the songs that made John Lennon and The Beatles household words the world over. John talks about the time he and his mates spent in Hamburg (with great video footage setting the scene), time during which he not only “grew up” but (along with childhood friend Paul McCartney) began to write and perform the songs that would eventually bring him international fame.
Around that time, two early Beatles (Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best) left the group, to be replaced by George Harrison and Ringo Starr. (Comparing Starr to Best, John tells us, “Ringo wasn’t a better drummer than Pete, but he was a better Beatle.”) The foursome soon became the talk of Great Britain, and it wasn’t long before Beatlemania crossed the Atlantic and became a worldwide phenomenon.
Actual footage of Ed Sullivan introducing the Beatles’ first appearance on his weekly variety show (interspersed with images of screaming fans) accompanies live performances of the best of those early Beatles hits, including “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” though John doesn’t sing that distinctive midsection of “A Hard Day’s Night.” Why? “That was Paul’s part,” he tells us.
Just Imagine is a great primer in Beatles/John Lennon history. We hear about their monster success, John’s frustration at performing live before fans whose screams drowned out the music (and prompted the Beatles’ decision to stop touring), and of course the group’s eventual breakup. Mention of Yoko Ono brings a hiss or two, but as we hear John talk about her, we realize that whatever our preconceptions about Yoko may have been, she was indeed not just his muse but his soul mate as well.
Hit after hit gets performed. There’s “We Can Work It Out,” “Help,” “Come Together,” “Strawberry Fields,” “The Magical Mystery Tour,” “I Am The Walrus,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” “Cold Turkey,” and “Instant Karma” (among many others). Each song has its own story to tell —John’s heroin addiction, the eighteen-month “Lost Weekend” he spent away from Yoko in the arms of personal assistant May Pang, the birth of John and Yoko’s son Sean in 1975, and John’s discovery of a new life as a househusband, becoming for Sean the father than his own had never been. (“Beautiful Boy,” dedicated to Sean, provides one of the evening’s most moving moments.)
It should be obvious by now that Just Imagine is much more than just a “what if?” John Lennon concert. It is two hours spent with a friend, and Piper’s performance as the pop music legend is nothing short of brilliant. He comes well prepared for the role, having been performing Beatles and John Lennon music for most of his career—in Beatles Tribute Bands and TV movies as well. In Just Imagine, though, Piper is much more than just a celebrity impersonator. It’s almost as if we are seeing him channeling the real John Lennon. No wonder it’s so easy to believe.
Credit for the evening’s success goes also to director/set designer Steve Altman, whose experience as a musical theater performer and stand-up comedian has helped shape what is both musical theater and one man standing tall on stage. Not that Piper is alone up there. He’s backed by as sensational a band as you’re likely to find—his musical director brother Greg Piper on bass guitar, Jerry Strull on lead guitar, Jim Laspesa on drums, and Morley Bartnoff on keyboard. (The volume is loud and the notes are crystal clear). Luke Moyer’s lighting once again proves him one of our finest SoCal designers.
I never heard the Beatles perform live, though I could have. They played the Hollywood Bowl the summers I was fourteen and fifteen—but teenage me was into The Supremes, Lesley Gore, and Petula Clark. (Hmmm…) Still, I can’t hear those early Beatles’ songs without being transported back in time. (My senior year at Samohi comes back in an instant whenever I hear a track from Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.) The Beatles stopped performing live the year after their second Bowl concert, and Lennon’s last full-length concert was in 1972.
For this reason alone, Just Imagine is a bona fide event, a chance to hear the concert John Lennon never gave but the one we wish he had. Thanks to Tim Piper, it’s easy to believe we’re actually there if we Just Imagine.
Lennon Is Alive In NoHo!
by Joe Mock
I never saw the Beatles in concert. I’ve seen Paul many times and Ringo a couple. I missed George’s only US tour in the 70s and of course, John never played a show on the west coast. Very few people who are alive today ever saw John Lennon perform on stage. That’s what makes Tim Piper’s performance in “Just Imagine” so special, and a must-see for anyone who loves his music.
This is not a tribute concert. “Just Imagine” is a living autobiography of one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived. Piper, who’s portrayed Lennon in various TV movies, grabs the audience’s attention from the opening guitar riff of “Revolution” and holds it until the closing “All You Need Is Love.” In between is an emotional performance that’s never over the top but wholly authentic. For two hours, Tim Piper IS John Lennon.
The elephant in the room is quickly discarded with the opening video images of weeping fans in New York city the day after Lennon was murdered in December 1980. A smart way to deal with the tragedy that could follow this performance like a dark cloud. Suddenly, Piper appears in the audience, looking bewildered as he stumbles on stage to find himself surrounded by four amazing musicians.
With little fanfare the band plunges into “Revolution” followed by a clever White Album medley of “Glass Onion” and “Dear Prudence.” The sound is perfect and so is Piper’s voice as he moves from rocker to ballad, dark to light, harsh to sweet. In just three songs Piper captures the essence of John Lennon, a man known for his wit as well as his temper. Sitting at the piano, Piper begins to tell the Lennon story. How he was abandoned by both his father and his mother and her shocking death when he was a teenager.
In the audience I found it hard to hold back my emotions as Piper sang the gut-wrenching “Mother” followed by the sweetly acoustic “Julia.” The anger and gentleness of this complex artist is a running theme throughout the performance. Its all about attention to detail and hard core fans will recognize the instrumental “Cry For A Shadow” performed by the band as Piper explains how the Beatles came together. He has a simple explanation for the decision to sack Pete Best for Ringo Starr. “Ringo wasn’t a better drummer than Pete, but he was a better Beatle.” This segment is especially lively with a rocking version of “Money” as Piper explains how the Beatles “were raised in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg.”
Then its on to America and the beginning of Beatlemania. Most of the songs are performed faithful to the originals but Piper knows when to throw in a twist or two. “A Hard Days Night” is played without the middle 8 because “that was Paul’s part.” Piper as Lennon calls his song writing partner a “talented bastard”, explaining how songs like “We Can Work It Out” and “I’ve Got A Feeling” were true examples of their different personalities. Paul was the sweet olive oil and John was the vinegar and together they made a beautiful salad, drinking scotch and cokes while writing some of the greatest songs in pop music history.
The band behind Piper is called “Working Class Hero” and they really shine as the music gets more complex. Drummer Jim Laspesa makes one appreciate Ringo’s stylings on “Strawberry Fields” while Greg Piper showcases McCartney’s fluid bass lines on “Don’t Let Me Down.” Guitarist Jerry Strull and keyboardist Morely Bartnoff get a nice workout on “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” which is one of the show’s musical highlights.
Throughout the music the video screen behind the stage flashes images from each segment of Lennon’s life, but this show is all about the music and the story of the man behind it.
After a brief intermission, Piper roams the crowd with acoustic guitar while taking requests. When he brings up Yoko Ono there are scattered hisses from the audience and Piper remarks: “I get that a lot” and everyone laughs.
The solo years are marked by a wrenching “Cold Turkey” and an uplifting “Instant Karma” as Piper explains Lennon’s difficult transition from rock star to house husband. The LA Times review of the show complained that this “overwritten confessional can sap the momentum” of the show but I totally disagree. Piper keeps the stories short and they are what makes this performance completely different from the usual Beatle tribute shows. This one ends with a touching medley from Lennon’s last album “Double Fantasy” which leaves the crowd wanting more. And they get it with the song everyone is waiting for: “Imagine.”
For two hours I did not have to imagine that John Lennon was still alive. As the talented Tim Piper constantly reminded us, he lives on through his music, which will live forever.
NOHO ARTS CENTER, NORTH HOLLYWOOD
Written by BRAD AUERBACH
Tribute shows and jukebox musicals are dodgy affairs. Undoubtedly all such productions trade on the source material, or the fan’s recollection thereof. It is likely that The Beatles have spawned the largest share of tribute bands.
Along comes “Just Imagine” – a small show with grand ambitions, as stated in its tagline ‘John Lennon performs one last show and you are there.’ Fortunately and against the odds, the show does not disappoint.
Tim Piper plays Lennon with aplomb. The lights dim on a stage manned by four musicians, and the spotlight finds a somewhat perplexed Piper/Lennon striding up to the instruments. He looks quizzically at the musicians, shrugs and rips through a few Lennon gems.
The musicianship is remarkable, led by bassist and musical director Greg Piper. But before one becomes worried that this will merely be a well-honed tribute band performance, Lennon begins to tell his story. First in spoken words, and most cleverly via song choices. He describes his life story, starting with the early blitzkrieg air raids in Liverpool through his troubled childhood with missing parents. The songs are not played out chronologically; rather they are cleverly intertwined with Lennon’s oral autobiography.
Jerry Strull provides some amazing guitar work, and Jim Laspesa’s drumming is completely solid. Morley Bartnoff ably handles keyboards, adding lush fills on many of the complex arrangements such as “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
Many deep catalogue songs are given an airing; it is great to hear live renditions of “Dear Prudence” and “Glass Onion.” Two times during the show a medley serves to capture the era: Beatlemania and post-house husbandry.
A very clever sequence is when Lennon describes his songwriting partnership with McCartney, sketching out who wrote what. Indeed, the central conceit of the show is allowing Lennon to address myths head on. Describing the importance of Yoko, the head-spinning heights the Beatles reached and the calm he found in raising his second son are told with conviction.
The show has already been extended, but do not miss your chance for a splendid time. Guaranteed.
John Lennon Comes Alive In Emotional New Show
by David Haber, Beatles News Editor
Imagine it’s today, the year 2009. Imagine that the world really was captured by Beatlemania in the 60’s, but for some reason the Beatles are not as big today as they once were, they’re a bit forgotten now. And then imagine one more thing. Imagine that John Lennon’s still alive, and he’s come out of quiet retirement to go on stage with a one-man show to tell the world his story, what it was really like being in the middle of it all, in his own words.
That’s what you will see in a truly unforgettable show, Just Imagine, starring Tim Piper, which makes its world premiere at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood, California, on John Lennon’s birthday, this Friday night, October 9, running through November 15.
Tim Piper, who has traveled the world performing music made famous by The Beatles, takes his life’s work to incredible new heights with this show. In addition to being a member of various Beatle Tribute bands, including Revolution, Tim has distinguished himself as the pre-eminent John Lennon with roles in the CBS production “The Linda McCartney Story,” E! Channel’s production of the “John Lennon Story,” “Beatle Wives,” and more recently as the singing voice of John Lennon for the NBC TV Movie of the Week, “In His Life – The John Lennon Story.” He’s even played at Shea Stadium!
But if you’ve seen tribute bands, you know what they do is dress up like the Beatles and play music that sounds like the Beatles. They’re enjoyable (especially if you’re seeing a band that Tim’s in), but that’s not what you’ll see in this show.
In Just Imagine, Tim Piper literally becomes John Lennon, and performs for you, one-on-one, playing songs that illustrate the part of his life that he’s telling you about. Or perhaps what he’s saying illustrates the songs he’s performing for you, it’s hard to tell. And he’s backed up by four great musicians. They don’t look like or sound like the Beatles, they look and sound like a really great rock band, exactly the kind of guys you’d imagine John Lennon would have playing with him.
Greg Piper on bass, Jerry Strull on lead guitar, Jim Laspesa on drums and Morley Bartnoff on keyboards.
These guys are hot, but it’s John Lennon’s show, and I know when I say it that Tim Piper really becomes John Lennon you’ll say, yeah, right. But it’s true. All throughout the show, Tim is John Lennon, speaking to you and an intimate audience of about 100 people, in John’s voice. But there are a few places where Tim is so much like John Lennon, I swear it is spooky. You will have deja-vu moments, your reality will skew and you will feel like you are seeing and hearing the real John Lennon. Be prepared for this phenomenon when he sings the words “Come Together.”
And if you’ve ever heard John’s recording of “Mother,” you will feel like you’re hearing it for the first time when you see it performed in this show. Tim doesn’t put any more emotion or feeling into his performance than John put into the original recording. But when you hear Tim sing “Mama don’t go!” it is emotionally staggering. You will never again be able to hear this song in the same way.
In Just Imagine, John takes you through his childhood, talks about what it was like working with Paul McCartney, and speaks candidly with you about the “Y” word (Yoko). When you hear what John says about her in the show, you may not feel different about how you feel about Yoko, but you will understand more, and appreciate more about how John felt about her.
Tim has been been performing as John Lennon nationally and then internationally since 1989. He told me that while performing in Beatles tribute acts, he started thinking about delving deeper into the character of John and his back-story. In October, 2002, a very early version of the show, then called “One Night Only,” ran at The Stella Adler Theater in Hollywood for five weeks, attracting celebrities like Reba McEntire, Leonard Nimoy and Burton Cummings.
Tim says, “I love John and The Beatles as much as anyone on earth so it’s a thrill for me to perform my favorite bedtime story live for people and share the joy and tragedy that the world has to offer. Everyone wishes that John was still with us as with any loved one who has passed and certainly in such an unresolved way. I want people to remember the humanity behind the character we knew as John and to revive and carry on the message he tried to give to us. He was the greatest artist and spokesman of our generation, but he was also like a member of our family.”
Beatles tribute bands are tributes with a small “t”, just entertaining imitations. But this show, Just Imagine, is a Tribute with a capital “T”, the real thing, a Tribute to the life of John Lennon. After seeing this show, you will really feel like you have seen John Lennon perform live, for you, in person. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which may never happen again and is not to be missed.
Just Imagine, starring Tim Piper, makes its world premiere at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood, California, this Friday Night, October 9, with performances on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday matinees.
‘Just Imagine’ John Lennon
By Julie Riggott
Tim Piper is John Lennon reincarnate in the new show, “Just Imagine,” which had its world premiere Oct. 9 at the NoHo Arts Center. Because Piper looks and sounds so uncannily like the legendary Beatle who was killed in 1980 at the age of 40, there is no need to imagine anything. You just get swept up in the music.
Piper and his Working Class Hero band of Greg Piper (bass/musical director), Jerry Strull (lead guitar), Jim Laspesa (drums), and Morley Bartnoff (keyboards) perform Beatles and Lennon songs (including “Revolution,” “Help,” “Come Together,” “Strawberry Fields,” and, of course, “Imagine”) and snippets from others. The show is essentially an hour-and-a-half concert, and the intimate NoHo Arts Center is a dream venue for it, one in which we are up close with the band and yet never blasted out of the room. If you’ve been watching all the Beatles movies and documentaries on VH1 in celebration of the Sept. 9 release of the remasters, this live show will be the icing on the cake.
Lennon’s anecdotes throughout the show – including inspirations for songs, emotional confessions, and straightforward history (all exceedingly well-written by Piper) – add another level of appreciation to the music. They also heighten that underlying poignancy that this is it – Lennon is gone and Piper and his band can only bring him back to life for a moment.
Piper’s acting is flawless; he channels the former Beatle, as he shares Lennon’s life story and that of the Beatles, an emotional journey from parentless youth to international celebrity and then, more importantly, to happy husband and father. Steve Altman (actor, comedian, songwriter, and theater and film director) directs Piper’s one-man show to great effect; there is a definite sense of drama as the show winds toward its inevitable conclusion.
Piper, who has been with Beatles and Lennon tribute bands for more than 20 years, has Lennon’s voice down, and he uses his instrument to its fullest. For instance, “Mother,” which Lennon wrote while participating in primal therapy and is full of screaming, is not just amazing as you hear it, but also afterward as you wonder how he does this three days a week for this show, not to mention how many times he’s done it over the years with his tribute band.
The band is airtight and a thrill to hear. Piper and Working Class Hero pull off songs that the original band never performed live (The Beatles stopped touring in 1966 before “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”). Their performance of “I Am the Walrus” rocks hard; it’s absolutely incredible to hear live and worth the ticket price alone.
During various anecdotes and songs, videos are projected on the wall above the band in a concert-ticket frame: clips from Beatles movies, photographs from the Vietnam War, the band’s introduction on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” and other wildly varied video. Black-and-white footage (with added psychedelic colors) of rock icons who died young reminds us that they are forever frozen in time, and we can’t help imagining what they would sound like now, what kind of songs they’d be writing, what they would say. That’s why “Just Imagine” is so powerful. You’ll leave with the strong feeling that you just saw Lennon, and didn’t just imagine him.
Just Imagine …. Seeing John Lennon alive one more time. Just Imagine …. Hearing Lennon’s music performed by John Lennon himself. Just Imagine …. Taking a trip through a time that was both wonderful and horrifying. Just Imagine …. Hearing the “behind the scenes” stories of John Lennon’s songs told by Lennon himself.
These experiences were all beheld by a packed house this afternoon at the NoHo Arts Center Theater.
This writer was both touched and amazed by the beauty of the concept and the performance of one amazing actor named Tim Piper. Half way through the pJim Laspesa (Drums). Artfully directed by Steve Altman, Just Imagine had the audience on it’s feet for at least fifteen minutes after closing and that says it all.
Just Imagine is a “must see” in this writer’s book. The performance made my day and brought back a time I thought I had forgotten. Not to mention a tear and a giggle.
Leigh Kennicott / www.stagehappenings.com
There is renewed interested in the Beatles since the release of Rock Band, the “new” collection of Beatle tracks, and the re-mastered mega-box set of Beatles hit albums. But don’t think that Tim Piper’s new show, Just Imagine, rides on that crest as much as on the idea that we really miss John Lennon. Piper provides just enough of an echo of the man, and certainly, with his own assembled musicians, an eerily similar sound, to make the most jaded Lennon watcher happy.
A bit beefier, and at least a head taller than Lennon, Tim Piper dons the characteristic glasses, adopts some spooky mannerisms and as KABC once swooned, “Tim Piper IS John Lennon.” The show, tracing John’s history from his childhood in Liverpool and almost up to his assassination, is amply illustrated by a superlative assemblage of footage (also by Tim Piper) that reinforces the image. Rather than a chronological run-down of songs, Piper and his director, Steve Altman, interweave suitable melodies to create a tapestry of memories. He begins sweetly and quietly with “Moma” and “Julia,” then segs into the Hamburg scene with “Money” and “She Loves You,” and on through “The Magical ‘Misery’ Tour.”
Unfortunately, toward the end of Lennon’s life, the reclusive Lennon was not as much in the spotlight, and there is less supporting video documentation for the later years. But what the video may have lacked about that time, Piper more than makes up for with renditions of “Cold Turkey,” “Instant Karma,” and “Mind Games” among others, from the latter part of his career. Throughout, Piper delivers his patter without histrionics, letting the music track its own emotional journey.
A medley from the “Double Fantasy” album signals that we are reaching the crux of the evening, but Piper ends as he began with the sweet sounds of “Beautiful Boy” and “Shadows on the Wall.” The show ends as it began with the lingering chord that is now so identified with Lennon. But opening night’s standing ovation begged for a definitive encore, and they got it with the anthem, “Imagine.”
For this tribute – one could almost say, this reinactment – Piper has assembled a particularly expert group of musicians: under the direction of Greg Piper (Bass Guitar), the band members are Morley Bartnoff (suitably top-hatted) on keyboards, Jerry Strull (who provided the arrangements, I’m told) as Lead Guitar, and Jim Laspesa (who out-Ringos Ringo) on drums. A psychedelic set (designed by Steve Altman) with supporting artwork by Neal Warner, affords the perfect backdrop with lighting, including strobes (from Luke Moyer) that compliments the illusion.
On opening night, John Lennon’s 69th birthday, the entire evening served to remind us that in missing him, we can almost be said to be missing a part of ourselves. Happily, at the NoHo Arts Center, Tim Piper is bringing it all back together.
Go, go, go. I cannot say that more, to Just Imagine.