Lennon - the Broadway musical based on the songs of the John Lennon and authorised by his widow Yoko Ono – closed last month just five weeks after its opening night at New York’s Broadhurst Theatre (See The Goss, 4 Aug 2005). Now another UK musical about the late Beatle will try to succeed where that one failed – and will do so despite Ono’s attempts to ban it.

Ahead of a planned London transfer, Come Together Right Now, celebrating the life and music of Lennon, has embarked this week a brief regional tour which will culminate with a performance at the Liverpool Empire, timed to mark the 25th anniversary of Lennon’s assassination on 8 December 1980.

According to a show spokesperson, the show nearly didn’t happen after Ono, along with the Lennon Estate solicitors and the Sony Music Corporation, tried to ban it, allegedly threatening theatres and councils with legal action and forcing opening dates to be pulled at substantial financial losses.

Producer Ian Watts (who also plays Paul McCartney in the show) decided to forge ahead with the production, though Ono has still not given her blessing. “This show is about the music of John Lennon and the Beatles performed by the finest Beatle musicians,” he said. “The audience are treated to Lennon’s hits and history in the form of some of his most delicate songs right through to his hard-hitting political masterpieces.” Watts added: “It’s an irony that Come Together Right Now goes from strength to strength when the show backed by Yoko is cancelled on Broadway.”

Even before it opened in New York – ten days later than originally planned owing to technical difficulties – Lennon was beset with problems, with rumours about directors being replaced and complaints from Lennon’s one-time mistress May Pang that she as well as Lennon’s Beatles’ band members had been all but erased from the singer-songwriter’s story in favour of Yoko Ono. Lennon - which was billed as “a musical biography, a concert and a celebration all in one” – had its premiere in San Francisco earlier this year and started previews in New York on 7 July.

Ono explained that she gave her consent to the project because: "Over the past two decades, I have been experiencing the feedback from the world to John's life, statements and music. I realised what John had meant to the world. He was a catalyst who brought down the hypocrisy and the old world establishments by saying 'Gimme Some Truth'. What we present on stage should again give people insight, encouragement, inspiration and fun, so they can go on with their lives with some assurance and hope."

Come Together Right Now features Lennon classics such as “Imagine”, “Strawberry Fields” and “Give Peace a Chance”. In addition to Watts, it stars Lennon impersonator Johnny Silver, Mike Wilbury as George Harrison and Steve Heappey as Ringo Starr. It continues to Stevenage, Truro, Torquay, Hastings and Peterborough before concluding in Liverpool. It’s presented by Stagedeal Ltd in association with LADITL Ltd.

- by Terri Paddock