The Magical Mystery Tour is well on its way to becoming a perennial favorite in Charleston. Its opening at Piccolo Spoleto 2009, while perhaps not the strongest the show has ever been, was nonetheless an absolute feast for the senses.
For starters, the music is sheer bliss. The iconic songs of the Fab Four are still known and loved four decades later because they are bloody brilliant. “Blackbird,” “Lady Madonna,” and the rest of their classics are going to stay in our collective consciousness well into the foreseeable future.
With the choice of music secure, the remaining question is what to do with it. Here’s where the choreographic genius of Jill Eathorne Bahr comes into play. She mixes more straightforward enactments of the lyrics (as with “She’s Leaving Home” or the comic “Rocky Raccoon”) with surreal interpretations of the emotional resonance of the music (“Drive My Car,” “Golden Slumbers,” and “Help!”) to achieve a richly satisfying whole.
This is not to say it was seamless: there were a few slight wobbles from some of the dancers in the periphery early on in the show, but let’s chalk that up to opening night. Overall, the dancing was as exhilarating as ever. This is a world-class dance company and a definite feather in the cap of the local arts scene.
Michael Fothergill, in particular, was spot on scene after scene. To say that Fothergill is a talent to watch would be an understatement. He demonstrated absolute mastery of his every movement throughout the performance with an expression of utter confidence on his face all the while.
Melody Staples was a joy to watch in “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” (the song was famously covered by the Beatles on their 1965 Help! album). Paired with James Peronto, Staples was lighthearted bliss personified. This is a performer who loves to smile and knows how to use both comic expressiveness and complex movements to grab the attention of audience.
Take it as a straightforward cornucopia of top-notch music and dance or as an artistic commentary on the unparalleled pop culture phenomenon that was the Beatles. Either way, The Magical Mystery Tour delivers sheer joy.