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'Pepperland': Barely Beatles, mostly Morris

Sunday, February 10, 2019

How do you celebrate the 50th anniversary of a cultural landmark like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”? The Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool threw a 2017 “Sgt. Pepper at 50” festival that commissioned everything from DJ Spooky and Judy Chicago to a John Cage Trust event at Aintree Racecourse. Kicking off the celebration was Mark Morris Dance Group’s “Pepperland,” a riff on the album that, this weekend, has made its way to the Shubert Theatre, courtesy of the Celebrity Series. It’s a romp, but it has nothing new to tell us about either Morris or the Beatles.

The problems start with the music. The 12 songs (plus a shortened reprise of the title number) on “Sgt. Pepper” run 40 minutes. “Pepperland” incorporates just five of them: the title number (with reprise), “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Within You Without You,” and “A Day in the Life.” No “Lovely Rita,” no “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” As a bonus, we do get “Penny Lane,” which was intended for “Sgt. Pepper” before ending up as the flip side of the “Strawberry Fields Forever” single.

Source: Jeffrey Gantz Globe correspondent /bostonglobe.com

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