From Them to You

From L to R (Ryan, Billy, and Matthew McGuigan rock out with Jay “Superman” Hanson in ‘Yesterday and Today’

It all began with one man’s love for the Beatles.  He passed that love to his children who gift countless people around the country with the music of the greatest group in rock, sharpened and honed with their own unique energy and delivery.  And now they’re doing it again in their own hometown at their new home at The Slowdown.  It’s Rave On Productions’ Christmas present to Omaha:  Yesterday & Today:  The Interactive Beatles Experience.

Yes, the McGuigans (Billy, Ryan, and Matthew) and their band are once again blessing the city with their gift of Beatles music for the holiday season.  This year marks the 15th anniversary of Yesterday & Today and it truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  This is actually Y & T’s second year at their new digs and the move to The Slowdown has actually helped make this show better than ever.

Having seen this show in multiple venues I can tell you that the band sometimes has to adapt their show to suit the environment.  But The Slowdown allows them to adapt the environment to suit the show as they have the best sound equipment, lights, and effects available so musicians can mold a top flight concert.  Billy McGuigan has also been able to add horns and strings which allows the McGuigans and their band to get the maximum potential out of each and every number.  Toss in the most varied set list I’ve ever heard (kudos to the audience), a supercharged band, an audience ravenous for entertainment, and the longest set of encores I’ve heard from the band and you’ve got the greatest rendition of Y & T that I’ve seen to date.

Billy McGuigan

Once more, Billy McGuigan acts as your master of ceremonies and tonight he was especially up for the game.  You could see the joy just radiating from his eyes as he soaked in the crowd’s energy and funneled it into his playing and singing throughout the night.  Billy got the night started off fast and right with a high powered take on “Got to Get You Into My Life” and barely paused for a breath from thenceforth.  If he wasn’t rocking out on early tunes like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “From Me to You” then he was leading the crowd to gentle waters with a trilogy including “Yesterday”, “Let it Be”, and “Here, There, and Everywhere”.  Billy clearly had the gasoline to go all night, but had to leave the audience immensely satisfied with merely a dozen encore tunes including the classic “Hey Jude” to close out the night.

Ryan McGuigan

No performer fuses theatricality and singing quite like Ryan McGuigan.  His numbers aren’t just songs.  They’re performance pieces.  Add that tenor that makes him sound like John Lennon reborn into the mix and you will simply be agog at his musical might.  Ryan kicked things into high gear right out of the gate with the acid trippy “She Said, She Said” and kept his foot on the accelerator with “Revolution”, “Come Together”, and “I Am the Walrus” though he did slow things down with a beautiful take on “All You Need is Love”.

Matthew McGuigan

Matthew McGuigan flexed his musical majesty in the first act especially with his bass work in “From Me to You” and brought his musical chops to bear in the second act.  Highlights of his singing included the ethereal “Strawberry Fields Forever” and somewhere I can hear John Lennon asking himself why he didn’t think to end the song on the same plaintive note that Matthew does.  McGuigan also soars with a peppy version of “All My Loving” and indulges in a bit of hard psychedelia with “Hey, Bulldog”.

Ciaran McGuigan

Lead guitarist Jay “Superman” Hanson not only knocked things out of the park with his skilled guitar playing, but he got multiple chances to shine with takes on George Harrison classics such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Do You Want to Know a Secret?”, and “Here Comes the Sun”.  Ciaran McGuigan has blossomed into a fine guitarist and his sweet, almost shy, take on “With a Little Help From My Friends” shows he will carry the legacy of Y & T into the future.

Jay “Superman” Hanson

Billy McGuigan often says the show is not about him and his band, but about the music from four guys from Liverpool and the audience’s connection with that music.  There’s an element of truth to that, but that connection would mean nothing without the interpretation of this music by three guys from Omaha inspired by a father who left this world much too soon.  Yesterday & Today has truly become a family affair and it’s a comforting feeling to know these treasures of Omaha will continue to share this gift with our town and the rest of the country for a long time to come.

Yesterday and Today:  The Interactive Beatles Experience runs at The Slowdown through Dec 30.  Showtimes are Fri-Sun at 7:30pm through Dec 11 and Wed-Fri at 7:30pm Dec 21-30.  There are no shows from Dec 12-20 and the performance on Dec 4 is at 6:30pm.  Tickets range from $20-$50 and can be purchased here.  The Slowdown is located at 729 N 14th St in Omaha, NE.

McGuigans Sing. Are You Listening? Beatles Tunes Will be Ringing!!

Omaha, NE–The holidays are coming which means it’s time for Omaha’s beloved holiday tradition: Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience.

Once again taking place at The Slowdown (729 N 14th St in Omaha, NE), Omaha’s legendary locals, The McGuigans (Billy, Ryan, Matthew), will entertain you with the melodies of the legendary Beatles as only they can.

If you’re new to the city or haven’t had a chance to partake of Omaha’s best show, permit me to elucidate on the auditory treat that awaits you.

Yesterday & Today is unlike any concert you will ever see. The McGuigans will entertain you with a night of Beatlemania chosen entirely by you. You read that right! This is an all request concert and the McGuigans are waiting to hear your requests and the stories behind them. The end result is a classic rockfest that may have you thinking the Fab Four have been reincarnated in this Terrific Trio.

No song is beyond their ken as they know them all from “Love Me Do” to “Her Majesty”. Bring your favorites. Bring your obscurities. But be sure to bring yourselves and prepare for a splendid evening.

All showtimes are 7:30pm with the exception of 6:30pm showings on Dec 4 and 11. Tickets are available here.

SEATING OPTIONS:
Pit & Pitside – Reserve your row. Seats within your reserved row are first come first pick the night of the show. You are guaranteed seats in your reserved row.
Balcony – You are guaranteed seats in the balcony. Seats are first come first pick the night of the show.
General Admission – Located at the back of the venue. Seating is limited. Seats are not guaranteed.

8 ticket maximum per order. Click here to see the venue seating map. Have a group of 9 or more? Reach out to kate@billymcguigan.com for group reservations.

SHOW DATES:
November 25, 26
December 2, 3, 4
December 9, 10, 11
December 21, 22, 23
December 28, 29, 30

TICKET PRICES:
$20 General Admission
$30 Balcony
$35 Reserved Pit
$50 Reserved Pitside

Doors open 1 hour to showtime.
Ticket purchases are non-refundable.
Purchase tickets in person at the Slowdown at our open house, November 5 from 11am – 1pm.

The McGuigans Invade Denison

Denison, IA–The McGuigans (Billy, Ryan, & Matthew) are set to bring their amazing Beatles tribute show, Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience, to the Donna Reed Theatre in Denison, IA on Thursday, Sept 29 at 7pm.

If you’ve never attended Yesterday and Today, it’s unlike any performance you’ve ever seen because the show is different every single time because you get to pick the music.

That’s right, Yesterday and Today, is an all request Beatles show where you can pick any and, I stress, ANY Beatles song and the McGuigans and their incredible band will perform it for you.

Are you a casual Beatles fan who only knows classics like “Yesterday” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”? No problem. Maybe you’re a bit more adept in your Beatleness and know “Tell Me Why” and “I Am the Walrus”? They do those, too. And, maybe, you’re that rarefied superfan who wants to separate the Beatles men from the Beatles boys and challenge them with rarities like “Old Brown Shoe” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man”? They’ve got you covered.

It’s an experience you’ll never forget. Buy a ticket and see America’s finest ode to the Beatles from a band like no other. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Tickets for Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience cost $25 and can be obtained by calling 712-263-3334. The Donna Reed Theatre is located at 1305 Broadway in Denison, IA.

Seasons of the Valli

Four guys singing under a streetlamp become one of the most iconic pop groups of all time.  This is Jersey Boys and it is playing at Great Plains Theatre.

The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has got it all.  Pathos, greed, temptation, petty jealousies, the triumph of the underdog, the terrible price of success, and so much more.

And it’s all true.

It’s a fascinating story especially as it’s told from the point of view of each band member, all of whom have their own slant on the events of their career.  It’s also an incredible case study on super success as two handled it gracefully, one walked away from the pressure, and another caved to its excesses.  Combine it with the excellent pop tunes and you’ve got the makings for an incredible night of theatre.

Mitchell Aiello understands the many complexities of the script and his direction reflects that understanding.  This is a hard show to direct because, in a sense, the show tells 4 separate stories and the director has to make certain each tale gets the proper weight and focus and that becomes trickier when the stories start to intersect.  Aiello handles this task admirably as his four leads get ample opportunity to shine.  He also has done some terrific staging with some of my favorite moments being when the lights fade out on the Seasons as they fall away from the group.  Aiello also has coached his actors to a rock-solid set of performances.

Some wonderful performances in the supporting cast come from Braden Cray Andrew who adds just the right element of peculiarity to Bob Crewe, the eccentric, but talented, producer and lyricist who let astrology guide his business decisions.  Madelynn Washburn gives a fierce performance as the tough as nails Mary Delgado, Valli’s first wife and then flips that ferocity on its head with a turn as the airheaded lead singer of the Angels.  Washburn’s vocals match her fiery Delgado especially with her lead on “My Boyfriend’s Back”.  Annika Andersson finds some deep layers in the small role of Lorraine, a reporter who has a relationship with Valli, but isn’t wiling to share him with his career or family.

Matthew Ruehlman is a true con artist as Tommy DeVito.  Ruehlman’s DeVito has a certain likability crucial to a good con man, but he can be a real prick, too, as he writes checks his butt can’t cash and rubs the other Seasons the wrong way.  Ruehlman also brings a good sense of vanity to DeVito who thinks he’s the leader of the group (he’s not), but melds it with a tremendous force of will which arguably did hold the group together until they hit it big.  Ruehlman also brings some pathos to DeVito when his love of the high life and get rich quick schemes nearly sink the group at its zenith as well as endanger his continued well-being.

I was extremely impressed with the depth Bobby Guenther brought to the role of Nick Massi.  At one point, Massi compares himself to Ringo Starr, but George Harrison is the more apt comparison as Massi is the quiet Season.  Guenther’s Massi was content to go with the flow until the pressures of success and DeVito’s irresponsible behavior cause him to crack.   His breakdown was honest and true and you could feel his regret at the way he let stardom blow his family life to smithereens.  Guenther also has a big, beautiful bass voice who served as the foundation of the Seasons’ harmonies.

I really enjoyed Clayton Sallee’s take on Bob Gaudio.  Sallee plays the legendary songwriter with an ironclad sense of confidence with just the slightest sprinkling of ego.  Gaudio’s music was a big part of the equation in the success of the Four Seasons, but he never lords it over the others even though he argues, and pretty strongly, that “they couldn’t have done it without him”.  Sallee well communicates Gaudio’s knowledge of the music business with his negotiations with DeVito and his business dealings with Valli.  Sallee also an angelic tenor and knocks it out of the park with “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”.

This being my second go-around reviewing this musical, I’m starting to come to the conclusion that the role of Frankie Valli has to be one of the most difficult to cast in theatre as talent isn’t enough.  You also need an actor of a certain physicality who can emulate Valli’s singular vibrato falsetto and tenor.  Luckily, this show has the talents of Bear Manescalchi who fits the role to a T. 

Manescalchi lays out a beautiful arc for Valli starting with him as a shy, hesitant teenager smoothing out the rough edges on his singing and evolving him into the strong, confident leader of the Seasons and mimics that falsetto and tenor to perfection from “Sherry” to “Rag Doll” to “Dawn” and all the rest. Manescalchi brings some raw emotional power to the role and knows how to act through a song with renditions of “My Eyes Adored You” and “Fallen Angel” that made me want to burst into tears.  Manescalchi can act up a storm away from a song with his smoldering fury and frustration with DeVito and his personal collapse upon learning of the death of his youngest daughter being particular treats.

Mitchell Aiello’s choreography is right on the mark.  This show isn’t known for big, flashy numbers though he gets some boppin’ in with “Short Shorts” and the curtain call reprise of “December, 1963”.  Rather it just needs well-coordinated, simple moves as the singers perform and he does that in spades.  Aiello has also designed a simple set of risers and crisscrossed slats to create the world of this show.  Kent Buess’ lights add fantastic detail and are highly emotional with a tragic blue for sadder moments, red for angrier moments, and a sunset purple for passionate moments.  He also has a good use for shadow as he brings the lights down on each Season as he leaves the group and also leaves the replacements (at least initially) in the shadows to emphasize the star that is Frankie Valli.  Becky Dibben’s costumes fill the bill with the trademark colorful suits of the Seasons as well as the period correct clothing of the cast as the show evolves from the 60s to 2000s.  Donna Rendely Peeler’s musical direction is spectacular.  The harmonies are gorgeous, the solos are heavenly, and never is a sour note sung.

The performers definitely needed to tighten the cue pickups both internally and in dialogue to help boost the energy and some moments of violence and horseplay need some smoothing out to be a bit more realistic. I’d also like to see this show again with a more demonstrative crowd as the quiet crowd of this performance wasn’t giving the cast enough energy to feed upon and that high octane flow between cast and audience is essential for a production such as this one.

That being said, this show is still another feather in the cap of Great Plains Theatre and you should get a ticket to see it.  And don’t be shy.  Be big.  Be boisterous.  Let it all hang loose because this cast is going to give you a show to remember.

Jersey Boys plays at Great Plains Theatre through July 31.  Showtimes are 2pm on Wed, Sat, and Sun and 7:30pm Thurs-Sat.  Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased at the Box Office, visiting www.greatplainstheatre.com, or calling 785-263-4574.  Parental discretion is advised due to some strong language.  Great Plains Theatre is located at 215 N Campbell St in Abilene, KS.

Oh, What a Night!!

Four guys from New Jersey form one of the most successful musical groups of the 1960s.  This is the story of The Four Seasons.  This is Jersey Boys and it is currently playing at Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre.

Few things thrill me more than walking out of a theatre and knowing that I’ve seen something truly special.  This show didn’t just hit a home run.  It hit an out of the park, ball leaving my scope of vision home run.

While I am familiar with the music of the Four Seasons, I was unfamiliar with their personal story.  And what a story!  The Four Seasons were no saints.  Petty crime, infidelities, family struggles, tax issues, group strife, debt to the wrong people were just some of the problems plaguing the group.  Aside from their gripping story, I even learned there truly is a difference between The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice do an incredible job sharing this fascinating tale as each of the Four Seasons presents his own viewpoint on what went on in the group and shows the powerful influence of perception.  Throw in the group’s legendary hits and you’ve got a compelling show from start to finish.

The entire ensemble did a superlative job.  Each was always in the moment and really fleshed out the little world of the musical.  Some of the outstanding performances featured were supplied by Grace Bobber who is a combustible fireball as Valli’s first wife, Mary Delgado.  Steve Isom is a force as fixer, Gyp DeCarlo.  Lauren Echausse has some diverse turns as the lead singer of the Angels whose impressive pipes are matched by her dimwittedness and a sweet turn as Valli’s lover, Lorraine.  Anthony De Marte provides some levity as Joe Pesci (yes, THAT Joe Pesci) who played a key role in the formation of the Four Seasons. 

I was stunned to learn that this was Michael Ingersoll’s directing debut as he has the poise and polish of a director with numerous shows under his belt.  The energy of this show is relentless.  It starts at a fever pitch and just gets higher, pulling the audience in deeper and deeper.  His knowledge of the beats is spot on and he knew how to emphasize each crucial moment with proper setup, tension, and resolution. Ingersoll guided his actors to top quality performances with well defined interpretations and precision pacing and cue pickups.

Depending on one’s point of view, Ryan Williams’ Tommy DeVito is either the guy you hate to love or the guy you love to hate.  Williams just oozes confidence and charm as the founder of the Four Seasons.  DeVito is a lovable scoundrel and con artist and it’s hard to separate the truth from his bull because it is so finely blended together.  He claims to have watched over the group as a big brother and handled the seedier sides of show business during their salad days and there probably was some truth to that.  But he can also be a real prick and the way he rubs the others the wrong way and his own personal financial troubles nearly sink the group at their peak.  Williams deftly portrays all sides of DeVito’s complex personality getting you to despise, respect, or even be amused by him at his discretion.

Jason Michael Evans is an ideal Nick Massi.  At one point, Evans’ Massi compares himself to Ringo Starr and there is a lot of truth to that.  According to Evans’ interpretation, Massi was the most easygoing member of the group and his gift for harmony was equal to Starr’s gift for rhythm due to its intense precision.  Evans also brings a real depth to Massi with his being uncomfortable with success as its stress leads him to drink and the temptations of the road inspire him to screw around on his family.  Eventually the weight of the business forces Massi to make a life altering decision and Evans handles that moment with a gracefully understated honesty.

Bob Gaudio is to The Four Seasons what Pete Townshend is to The Who.  Gaudio was the genius songwriter of the group and already had a major hit at the age of 15 with “Short Shorts” before he joined The Four Seasons.  Erik Keiser is a sheer joy in the role as he plays Gaudio with a wise beyond his years vibe and keen intelligence.  Keiser’s Gaudio is nobody’s fool given how he negotiates his way into the group as an equal partner and never loses sight of the business aspect of music.  What I liked best about Keiser’s take is that he is fully aware of his role in the group’s rise, but isn’t arrogant about it.  It was just the truth. 

Courter Simmons is gold in the role of Frankie Valli.  Valli has the most distinctive falsetto in pop music and is instantly recognizable.  When I closed my eyes during Simmons’ singing, I would swear it was Valli himself singing as Simmons perfectly emulates Valli’s falsetto and singing style.  Simmons’ singing is well matched by his acting and he does beautiful work with Valli’s arc.  Evolving from the shy teenager whom DeVito wrangles into the group to the strong, confident leader who never forgets family.  Simmons skillfully handles the more dramatic moments of Valli’s life from his fractured relationships with his first wife and youngest daughter to dealing with the implosion of the original Four Seasons.

Brett Kristofferson and his band were so subtle and skillful that it took me until the end of the first act to realize that the actors weren’t playing their own instruments.  His music direction is spot on as the four principals nail the iconic songs to the floor and are always in perfect harmony.  Courtney Oliver’s choreography is exactly what’s needed for the show.  There aren’t any flashy dance numbers, just the well-organized movements of the singers as they perform, though she gets a wonderful big moment in the curtain call.  Ryan J. Ziringibl has designed a simple set of stairs, walls, and fence, but it is quite effective as it allows furniture to roll in and out to change the scenes.  Jonathan A. Reed’s lights greatly enhance the story from making you feel you’re at a concert or club to a fine moment when you see the group performing from a backstage point of view and his stage lights fuel that illusion.  Garth Dunbar’s costumes bring you back in time with the perfect suits and dresses from the late 50s to the late 60s.  Jon Robertson’s sounds help bolster the show and keep it in fine form.

This is an excellent show and I highly encourage you to grab a ticket while you can because they are selling like hotcakes.  For myself, this show was a superior introduction to Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre and I look forward to my inevitable return.

Jersey Boys plays at Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre through July 3.  Showtimes are 2pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and 2pm and 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  Tickets cost $46 and can be purchased at the Box Office, visiting www.lyceumtheatre.org, calling 660-837-3311, or visiting Wood & Huston Bank in Marshall, MO where single tickets can be purchased from Michelle England from 9am-3pm Mon-Fri.  Due to some of the subject matter, parental discretion is advised for this show.  Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre is located at 114 High Street in Arrow Rock, MO.

Rave On Productions Announces Sophomore Season of ‘The Omaha Series’

Omaha, NE–After a critically acclaimed debut season that blew in with the ferocity of a hurricane and netted a jaw dropping 9 nominations at the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, Rave On Productions has announced its second season of The Omaha Series and its guaranteed to have something for everybody.

The brain child of Rave On’s owner, Billy McGuigan, and Rave On’s Artistic and Education Director, Kimberly Faith Hickman, the Omaha Series presents musical productions in traditional and non-traditional venues throughout the Omaha metro area.

The Omaha Series 2022 Season

Rock of Ages
April 7-16
Venue: The Waiting Room (6212 Maple Street)

Rock Of Ages is a five-time Tony Award-nominated musical telling the story of a small-town girl, a city boy and a rock ‘n’ roll romance on the Sunset Strip. When the bar where rock reigns supreme is set to be demolished, it’s up to a group of rockers and their band of friends to save the day…and the music! Can Drew, Sherri and the gang save the strip before it’s too late? Only the 80s best rock anthems and power ballads hold the answer!

Rock Of Ages’ electric score features smash, hair band hits like Bon Jovi’s WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE, Poison’s EVERY ROSE HAS ITS THORN, Foreigner’s I WANNA KNOW WHAT LOVE IS, Whitesnake’s HERE I GO AGAIN, Journey’s DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’ and so many more! So grab your aqua net and get ready to rock and roll all night at The Waiting Room!

Don’t Stop Me Now
June 9-11
Venue: SumTur Amphitheater (11691 S 108th St in Papillion, NE)

Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time. I feel ali–i –i-iiiive celebrating the most popular and acclaimed rock musicals of all time! Don’t Stop Me Now delivers an energetic concert featuring favorites from musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar, Jersey Boys, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Rock of Ages, Dreamgirls, Hair, Rent and more! Everybody cut loose – Footloose – kick off your Sunday shoes and be swept up in a rock musical journey through time. All the strange rock and rollers, you’re know you’re doing all right at Don’t Stop Me Now!

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka
July 22-31
Venue: The Scottish Rite (202 S 20th St)

Roald Dahl’s timeless story of the world-famous candy man and his quest to find an heir comes to life on the Scottish Rite stage July 22 – 31. Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka features a cast of young performers as they take the audience on a fantasy ride into the land of pure imagination! Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka includes classic songs like “Pure Imagination”, “The Candy Man”, “(I’ve Got a) Golden Ticket”, “Oompa-Loompa-Doompadee-Doo”, “I Want It Now” and more! This family-friendly scrumdidilyumptious musical is guaranteed to delight everyone’s sweet tooth!

Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra
August 18-20
Venue: SumTur Amphitheater (11691 S 108th St in Papillion, NE)

Like many of us out there, the feeling Billy got from watching big rock bands from the 70s was exhilarating and it’s an energy that is re-created with Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra. His musical influences left an incredible impact on the type of entertainer Billy was to become. Think of 1970’s Jumpsuit Elvis, the Moody Blues who put symphonic interludes in the middle of a rock song, ELO with an electric horn and string section – rock & roll was transformed! As Billy navigates the audience through decades of classic gems, he does so backed by a rock orchestra that can match his energy in force. The set list is as varied and versatile as Billy himself.

The Rocky Horror Show
Oct 21-29
Venue: The Slowdown (729 N 14th St)

One fateful night, Brad and Janet – a wholesome, well-behaved, utterly normal young couple in love – innocently set out to visit an old professor. A thunderstorm and a flat-tire force them to seek help at the castle of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, an alien, transvestite scientist with a manic genius and insatiable libido played by glam rocker, Benn Sieff. Brad, Janet and Frank ‘N’ Furter’s cohorts are swept up into the scientist’s latest experiment. A loving homage to the class B sci-fi film and horror genres with an irresistible rock ‘n’ roll score is a hilarious, wild ride that no audience will soon forget.

Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience
Nov 25-Dec 30
Venue: The Slowdown (729 N 14th St)

Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience is the nation’s most innovative and unique show utilizing the works of The Beatles. This amazing band, anchored by brothers Billy, Matthew and Ryan McGuigan perform as themselves and leave the song choices completely in the hands of the audience. This is done through request cards that audience members fill out prior to the show. On those cards, the audience member only needs to fill out three things: their name, their favorite Beatles song and the reason why they chose that song. The cards are collected and two minutes before the show begins, a set list is created based upon the songs chosen by that particular audience. As an added treat, the reasons that the audience members chose those songs make up the narrative of the evening. Every show is different, every show is interactive, and every show Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience proves that The Beatles’ music truly is the soundtrack to our lives.

It’s Beatles Time in the City

Omaha, NE–The holidays are upon us which means it’s time for Omaha’s premier Christmas tradition: Yesterday & Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience. For the better part of two decades, the McGuigan Brothers (Billy, Ryan, & Matthew) and their band have been entertaining crowds with this all request show dedicated to the music of the legendary Beatles.

Now entering its 15th season, Yesterday & Today will be performing at a new venue: The Slowdown located at 729 N 14th St in Omaha, NE. Let the guys tell you a bit about it here.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Yesterday & Today is the concert series designed by the audience each night. Audience members will submit their requests and the McGuigans and their band will play them. It’s just that simple. And don’t worry if you like an obscure number because they know them all and will play them all from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Revolution No. 9”.

Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased here. The show runs from Nov 26-Dec 31. Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 6:30pm. And for a special event, you can ring in the New Year with the band on New Year’s Eve with performances at 7pm and 10pm.

Unsure of where to sit? No worries. Rave On Productions will host an open house at The Slowdown on Nov 7 from 11am-3pm. Tour the venue. Scope out the best seats. Buy tickets. You can even start submitting requests. Reservations can be made here.

Whether it’s your first time or your hundredth time, ready yourselves for Yesterday & Today. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Orchestral Enclave

May be an image of 4 people, including Billy McGuigan, people playing musical instruments, people standing, guitar and indoor

If you like your classic rock done classically, then this is the show for you.  It’s Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra currently running at SumTur Amphitheater under the auspices of Rave On Productions.

It was a beautiful night for an outdoor show and I was grateful for the cooler temperatures because Billy McGuigan and his orchestra truly heated up the night.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Pop Rock Orchestra show, Billy McGuigan and his musicians take you on a tour of music from the 50s to the 80s, but turn the traditional rock concert on its head by merging it with a big band orchestra of horns and strings to complement the standard guitars, basses, and percussion.  The end result is a dancing in the aisle, hand clapping, foot stomping good time.

I sometimes think Billy could create a new show based entirely around his storytelling.  He’s a raconteur without peer and never seems to lack a clever witticism, an off the cuff joke, or a poignant anecdote suitable for the moment or number.  This, combined with his stellar musicianship, is what makes him one of today’s premier acts.  McGuigan seemed extra energized tonight and used that juice to fuel a non-stop barrage of hits that the audience lapped up with a spoon.

Some highlights of McGuigan’s performance were his killer rendition of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting”, a blazing take on Sinatra’s (Nancy, that is) “These Boots Were Made for Walking”, a haunting cover of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and a spot on version of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World’.  McGuigan also featured numbers off his latest album, Together, including a version of “Little Metal Shed” rearranged by local sax legend, Darren Pettit, which tore the house down.

Aside from McGuigan’s powerful vocal chops, we were also treated to excellent featured performances from Matthew McGuigan who had a smooth and elegant interpretation of “My Girl” and Jay Hanson shone in one of my favorite numbers of the evening, George Harrison’s “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You”.  Steve Gomez’s musical direction always hit the mark and I thought the fingers of Omaha’s guitar guru, Max Meyer, would burst into flame with the speed and ferocity of some of his guitar solos.

A few instances of instruments overwhelming the voices of singers did little to stop the storm of this production and you’re going to have a beautiful weekend to take advantage of the final performances of this top flight production.  And I hope you will.

Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra runs at SumTur Amphitheater through August 15.  Remaining showtimes are Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 7pm.  Tickets cost $35 for stadium seating and $20 for lawn seating and can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/billy-mcguigans-pop-rock-orchestra-tickets-153047839207.  SumTur Amphitheatre is located at 11691 S 108th St in Papillion, NE.

Billy McGuigan Founds McGuigan Arts Academy & Announces Omaha Series

Omaha, NE–Super talent Billy McGuigan, known for bringing Buddy Holly and The Beatles to life on stage, announced the opening of McGuigan Arts Academy, a new twist on performing arts education and venues. The Academy’s mission is devoted to teaching life skills through hands-on studies in music, theatre, film, art and technology. Acknowledging that not every student of the arts wants to be a performer, McGuigan Arts Academy will nurture and showcase Omaha’s talent in every artistic realm. 

“If this year taught us anything, it’s the need to connect and nurture one’s soul,” said founder Billy McGuigan. “Art is essential to that. How we create and present that art can be done in many ways. There is nothing else like this in the Midwest. McGuigan Arts Academy is designed to give anyone – from age 3 to 103 – the opportunity to learn confidence, cooperation and creativity. It’s more than development of talent. It’s development of the human spirit. Believe me, there is nothing more important than being the best person you can be. The arts have taught me that.”

McGuigan Arts Academy classes will be taught by full-time professionals led by Artistic and Education Director Kimberly Faith Hickman. “Kimberly is this mega talent in our midst,” said McGuigan. “A rare Broadway-accredited director, she honed her talent working on numerous Tony Award winning and nominated Broadway shows.”

In addition to the Academy, Rave On Productions will launch The Omaha Series; a season of shows presented in various venues across the Omaha Metro. The 2021 Omaha Series includes Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Waiting Room, Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story performed one night each at the Davies Amphitheatre, SumTur Amphitheatre and Soaring Wings Vineyard, The Rocky Horror Show and the McGuigan’s holiday tradition, Yesterday and Today, performed at the Slowdown.

Hickman most recently served as Artistic Director for the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). In her nearly five years there, she directed 19 productions and launched initiatives such as the OCP Directing Fellowship, sensory-friendly productions in collaboration with the Autism Action Partnership, and performances translated into Spanish in real-time. Her latest innovations, including Drive-In and virtual productions, assured that the show would go on.

“The pandemic helped me see endless possibilities for programming experiences – especially when I let myself break free from the traditional norms in theatre,” said Hickman. “Creating a production in a parking lot was really inspiring. We took a bold chance and before long, we had a sell out!”

Hickman and McGuigan agree that it was this collaboration during their days together at the Omaha Community Playhouse and the discovery that they both learned to love theatre via the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia, that drew them together as co-visionaries for McGuigan Arts Academy.

“Our biggest revelation,” said McGuigan, “is that performance is a gift from performer to audience. Where that happens should be less tied to one space and more tied to access and an environment that blends with the creative product.”

“In addition to a myriad of classes,” added Hickman, “we will be casting and rehearsing four productions that will be performed at venues across Omaha including The Waiting Room in Benson, Sumtur Amphitheatre, The Slowdown and more.

McGuigan Arts Academy is located in Countryside Village at 87th and Pacific Streets. Thanks in part to generous sponsors, the Academy will offer class scholarships to those from across the greater Omaha metro who may not have the means to pay for them.

For more information, contact Kate Whitecotton at 402-682-2868 and kate@billymcguigan.com.  For class and Academy schedules and to learn more, see McGuiganArtsAcademy.com. For The Omaha Series visit www.billymcguigan.com/theomahaseries.

Masterful ‘McCartney III’ Hits the Right Notes

When COVID put a halt to Paul McCartney’s touring schedule, he retired to his Sussex farm and soon found himself working on a song he had put aside in 1992.  Enjoying the end result, he began working on some more numbers and, before he knew it, he had a new album.  The final product is McCartney III.

McCartney III marks the third part of a trilogy that began 50 years ago with the release of McCartney in 1970 and was followed by McCartney II in 1980.  On these self-titled albums, McCartney is the sole creative force as he wrote and performed all the songs, played all the instruments and produced the albums. 

The albums are also unique in that they’re not commercial work.  These albums are just Sir Paul playing around, experimenting and writing solely for himself.  As such, McCartney III was the first album where my excitement was tempered with a bit of caution.

Of his previous two DIY endeavors, McCartney is an OK album, but definitely feels more like a private work with its little song snippets.  But it did produce the instant classic “Maybe I’m Amazed”.  McCartney II was a grave disappointment relieved by two great instrumental numbers and the brilliant “One of These Days”.

After listening to the album’s opener, “Long Tailed Winter Bird”, I knew I had nothing to fear as McCartney clearly had another quality work on his hands.  The opener begins with McCartney playing a catchy riff on acoustic guitar and the song slowly layers up as more instruments are added until the song becomes a gem of an instrumental.

Each song of the album has that fine layered quality which gives each number a lot of texture and nuance.  Even the album’s weakest tune, “Deep Down”, is still an enjoyable listen due to the depth of McCartney’s melodies on this work.

McCartney III is definitely Macca’s most contemplative effort since 2005’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.  Many of the songs strike an unusually somber and reflective tone for the usually optimistic and cheerful performer.  But these songs also happen to be some of the album’s finest moments. 

“Pretty Boys” sounds like a reflection on the darker side of Beatlemania when mega-fame put the Beatles in a box where people could “look, but you better not touch”.  “Women and Wives” is a haunting lecture on the trials of love and marriage from the viewpoint of an experienced sage.   “Lavatory Lil” is a guilty pleasure song featuring a character who is the second cousin of “Polythene Pam” and “Mean Mr. Mustard”.  “Deep, Deep Feeling” is a heavy song about the deep feeling of love wrapped in one of McCartney’s most ethereal melodies since Electric Arguments.

Of course the album still has songs featuring Sir Paul’s classic energy and pep.  McCartney reminds us that he still lives life to the fullest with “Seize the Day”.  “Find My Way” finds a man still confident of his path while “The Kiss of Venus” is a beautiful love song enhanced by Sir Paul’s raspy falsetto making it sound like a grandfather telling his grandchildren the story of how he met their grandmother.  “Slidin” has McCartney revisiting the White Album days with a hard rocker akin to a slightly mellower “Helter Skelter”.  And the album is nicely framed with its closer “Winter Bird/When Winter Comes” where the album’s opener segues into a simple song about getting the farm ready for winter.

Even at the age of 78, Paul McCartney still has an impressive set of pipes though the passage of time has thinned them a bit.  But it also has the flip side of adding an aura of experience and life lived that add an inexplicable x factor to his songs. 

With McCartney III, Macca has reached the full potential of his DIY work and produced a great record that could be a candidate for Album of the Year.  More importantly, he’s shared the gift of joy with a world ready for a little positivity and ends 2020 on a very high note indeed.