Interview with Billy McGuigan on Family, Influences and John Lennon

Yesterday and Today, an interactive Beatles experience, returns to the Omaha Community Playhouse this year with a special focus on remembering John Lennon. On December 9, a special production in the month-long run of Yesterday and Today will be dedicated to Lennon, falling on the day after the 30th anniversary of his assassination. Billy McGuigan, the front man of the show, reflects on the influences of John Lennon in his own life and in pop culture.

Rewind to December 8, 1980. Were you alive then? What were you doing when you found out about John Lennon’s death? Billy was a mere five years old, yet he can recall that day very clearly. His father, a huge fan of The Beatles, woke him up one morning with tears in his eyes. He remembers his father trying to explain the significance of what had happened, but in his childhood he could not acknowledge it. Billy described that this experience to his father was similar to losing a family member. His family was quite poor, but his father owned every album of The Beatles, and for entertainment the family would stay at home and sing and play Beatles songs. Years later, when Billy’s father passed away, Billy and his two brothers, Ryan and Matthew, decided they would create a Beatles tribute show in memory of their father’s love of The Beatles. Yesterday and Today was born.

Lennon undoubtedly made a big impact on Billy; in fact, he said that Lennon’s influence was like that of a parent to him, musically and in his career. Billy has always been the “John” guy of his brothers, as they all found that they could relate to a certain member of the band. He especially appreciated Lennon’s fight against the status quo and his lyrical style, identifying “Come Together” as his favorite Beatles song. Billy is reading Lennon’s biography at the moment, and explained that Lennon was the first pop star who did not want to be a pop star. He said Lennon fought for peace in a time period in which it was not the cool thing to do. Lennon’s political activism defined him, and his influences can be found throughout the music world.

Billy loves that The Beatles are on iTunes now, and thinks this digital edition of classic Beatles music will be a great update to those who love The Beatles. He is even passing The Beatles tradition to his kids, as he named his daughter Cartney after Paul McCartney. He proudly mentioned that his 2-year-old son knows around one hundred Beatles songs already. Ryan and Matthew have also spread The Beatles tradition to their children: Ryan’s son is named Harrison and Matthew’s newborn son as of October is named Lennon.

Yesterday and Today is an entertaining and interactive show in which the audience members get to choose the songs they hear. With each request, audience members are encouraged to share their memories, stories and dedications. At the beginning of each song, Billy and his brothers announce the diverse requests, incorporating the audience members into the show and guaranteeing that every performance is unique.

This year, Yesterday and Today will be refreshing as well, with the addition of new band members and repertoire. Billy describes Yesterday and Today as a dream show that he’s just lucky to be a part of and hopes to share the joy of The Beatles’ music once again this December with Omaha. Yesterday and Today runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through December 31, 2010 in the Howard Drew Theatre. Tickets are on sale for $38 through December 30; the New Years Eve 7:00 p.m. show is $50 and the 10:00 p.m. show is $75. For tickets, call (402) 553-0800 or click here.

Article by Lindsay Nystrom

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