It’s that time of year when Omaha’s greatest musical act teams up with history’s greatest band. Yes, indeed, it’s Yesterday and Today: An Interactive Beatles Experience and it has returned for its twelfth season at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
It’s amazing the massive effects one small change can have on something. After twelve years, Billy McGuigan had felt the band had become a little too complacent with the show and were only playing their favorite requests and veering away from the original spirit of the production. Lead guitarist Jay Hanson then hit upon an idea that would completely reinvent the show.
Why didn’t they just pick the songs live on stage and then play them?
As hard as it is to believe, that idea has evolved Omaha’s premier holiday tradition into something even greater.
The McGuigans (Billy, Ryan, and Matthew) and their band were energized in a way I’d never seen before due to the element of danger in walking this musical tightrope. Would they be up to the challenge of playing any Beatles song suggested?
The answer was a most emphatic YES!!!
I had wondered how well this new format would work as there are three kinds of Beatles fans. You’ll have your casual fan who would know their biggest hits like “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude”; your more knowledgeable fan who will know their more successful works like “Eight Days a Week” and “We Can Work it Out”; and finally the hardcore megafans who have the library imprinted on their minds and want to hear “Dear Prudence” and “I’m Only Sleeping”.
Would there be enough variety to satisfy these three groups?
Again, a most emphatic YES as the night was filled with a plethora of famed hits and a few obscure delights that were picked right on stage or flashed directly onto monitors behind the band.
Billy McGuigan once again ruled the night with a supercharged performance. Billy seemed imbued with an almost unearthly energy and that’s saying something for this indefatigable engine of talent. Billy and his devastating tenor ripped through rockers such as “Roll Over Beethoven” and “The Night Before”, sweetly sang “Let it Be”, and was melancholically vibrant with “Things We Said Today”.
Ryan McGuigan got to be the most versatile performer of the night as he and his other worldly raw tenor voice went through a mini-history of the Beatles library as he belted out classics like “Ticket to Ride”, nailed the 50+ year masterpiece that is “A Day in the Life”, and visited the Beatles’ flower power phase with “All You Need is Love”.
Matthew McGuigan supported the numbers with his pluperfect bass playing and had his own impressive run when he came out roaring on “Revolution”, dominated the stage with “Hey Bulldog”, and revved up the crowd with a particularly peppy “Paperback Writer”.
The McGuigans were once more aided by their incredibly talented band who each got their moments in the spotlight. Jay Hanson had the audience riveted with his phenomenal guitar work and was in fine voice on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and the obscure gem, “For You Blue”. Rich Miller was the rock with his flawless rhythm on the drums and on a simple box during a segment where the band performed Beatles songs acoustically. He also shone in a solo as his strong baritone entertained the crowd with “Yellow Submarine”. Tara Vaughan masterfully played the keyboards as only she can and dazzled with a musical solo mimicking the piccolo trumpet part in “Penny Lane” and she belted out “Oh Darling!” with an alto that would have had Paul McCartney’s jaw dropping.
I’d also like to salute the guitar genius of Max Meyer as he warmed up the crowd with soft instrumental versions of the Beatles’ songs. Eleven year old Ciaran McGuigan also showed he will be more than capable of leading the next generation of this show as he showed some potent skill with his own guitar playing on instrumental versions of “Blackbird” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” as well as supporting his dad, Billy, with pitch perfect playing on “Yesterday”.
It was obvious that the crowd hungered for more as they lingered about after an encore hoping that the band would return to grace us with another tune or twenty, but they and you can certainly get another dose of the one of a kind talent of this group as the show will run through New Year’s Eve. But I’d get tickets mighty quick if I were you as the sellouts have already started.
It’s hard to believe that Yesterday and Today has been going strong for twelve years and continues to strengthen with each passing year. With the talent of the McGuigans and their all-star band and the blossoming skill of the next generation, we may very well see Yesterday and Today. ..forever.
Yesterday and Today: An Interactive Beatles Experience plays at the Omaha Playhouse through Dec 31. Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets begin at $40 and can be obtained at www.omahaplayhouse.com, calling 402-553-0800, or visiting the box office. On New Year’s Eve, a double performance will be held with shows at 7pm and 10pm. Tickets for these shows will be $60 for the 7pm show and $80 for the 10pm show. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.