(Just Like) Starting Over
One of the great figures of the 20th century, John Lennon captivated a generation with his contradictory impulses of concealment and revelation, rage and resignation, martyrdom and liberation. Representing such an enigmatic and beloved mega-celebrity poses several difficulties, not least of which is overcoming the powerful sense of propriety fans still feel for this Beatle murdered some 25-plus years ago. Seattle playwright Steven Roseta, building on an unpublished interview conducted just before Lennon’s death, avoids simple mimicry by focusing on the heated dialogue between Lennon (David Natale), Yoko Ono (the superb Naho Shioya), and the unnamed Interviewer (Brian Upton). Director James Veitch follows suit by amping up pace and allowing Lennon’s manic, wildly charismatic energy to carry the show. For the most part, the cast is excellent. Natale occasionally lapses into a slouching clownishness that resembles the stumble-bum antics of Ozzy Osborne; yet, given the almost insurmountable burden of expectation shadowing the role, he tackles it with confidence and talent (and the rhythms and cadences of his voice are spot-on). With the blessings of Ono herself, the play is sprinkled with cuts from Lennon and Ono’s final album, Double Fantasy, and there are some nice abstract/symbolic flourishes used to emphasize or evoke moments from the couple’s past (the wall of their apartment is plastered with newsprint headlines about Reagan, Nixon, Vietnam, and Lennon himself). Given the collective weight of the world’s memory of the musician—as well as younger generations’ unfamiliarity with his legend—(Just Like) Starting Over provides an engaging and respectful memorial both to Lennon’s creative genius and his average-guy generosity of spirit. And by focusing on Lennon and Ono at home, talking about parenting and the politics of peace while sipping coffee, the play also works as a love story, albeit one tinged by an impending sense of tragedy.
Seattle Public Theater at the Batthouse, 7312 W. Greenlake Dr. N., 206-524-1300, www.seattlepublictheater.org. $14-$24. 7:30 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Sun. Sept. 17. RICHARD MORIN
This 23-year-old crowd-pleasing pianist can play fast and loud—faster and louder than just about anyone since Horowitz—but is it all sizzle and no steak? Some critics have made that charge; it’s telling that another young Chinese keyboard firebrand, Yundi Li, has been called “the thinking man’s Lang Lang.” But while Lang fills concert halls around the world with party pieces like Liszt’s Don Juan Fantasy, recent recordings, such as a highly fluid but never oversold account of a Chopin nocturne or a sensitively subtle, watercolorish approach to some contemporary Chinese miniatures, have shown his deeper, poetic side. He’s on hand for the Seattle Symphony’s season-opening gala, playing the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the favorite Rachmaninoff piece of those who hate Rachmaninoff: The work has a glinting, astringent edge that cuts the Russian syrup. Gerard Schwarz also conducts Rossini’s William Tell Overture, music from Verdi’s Aida, and Respighi’s brass showpiece The Pines of Rome. Last time they did it, Schwarz stationed trumpeters in the balconies and marching down the aisles; he has a taste for this kind of rah-rah showmanship, and it works. Benaroya Hall, Third Avenue and Union Street, 206-215-4747, www.seattlesymphony.org. Concert only, $26-$90; gala packages $150-$5,000. 7 p.m. Sat. Sept. 16. GAVIN BORCHERT
Savion Glover is a tap dancer the way that Einstein was a physicist—his work transcends his category, becoming a signpost for where his discipline can go. In this program, Glover works with classical music, adding a new rhythm line to Bach and exposing the structures of Vivaldi, laying down hundreds of taps, while taking the next step. Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., 206-292-ARTS, www.themoore.com. $30-$55. 8 p.m. Sat. Sept. 16, 3 p.m. Sun. Sept. 17. SANDRA KURTZ