2014 marks a milestone in popular music here in the U.S., In 1964 The Beatles stormed our eastern shoreline and invaded our musical lives forever. Continuing the Beatles celebration is musician/actor Tim Piper who brings his stage show JUST IMAGINE back to the Los Angeles area on October 9th 2014… the anniversary of John Lennon’s birthday. Just Imagine tells the “what if” story of Lennon coming back to speak to us about his life and all it’s failures and successes in a loving tribute by Tim Piper backed by the LIVE band Working Class Hero. The show is scheduled to run throughout the month of “Rocktober” at the ARTN Theater located at 4407 San Fernando Road in Glendale CA.
Recently I met up with Tim and his brother musical director & bass player Gregory Piper at the ARTN Theater to get a look at the venue and also have the opportunity to sit and ask Tim about his thoughts on the show, how it all began and what people can expect when they buy a ticket and come to the show.
SG) Tim, it’s very exciting news you’ll be bringing back Just Imagine to the L.A. area stage. First, tell us how this particular telling of the life of John Lennon came about?
TP) In October 2002, we opened at Hollywood’s “Stella Adler Theatre” in a version of the show that was called: “One Night Only”, where Lennon puts together a group at a New York nightclub to see if he still has what it takes. We played for 5 weeks and at the beginning we could only sell a few seats but by the end of the run you couldn’t get a seat. We even attracted some celebrities like Reba McEntire, Leonard Nimoy, and Burton Cummings along with Chris Carter – host of KLOS’s ‘Breakfast with the Beatles’, who is still working with us today. The LA Times gave us a good enough review that we were signed by The William Morris Agency and put on the road for the next 6 years. “One Night Only” became “A Day in His Life” which was a parody of a talk show that Lennon ended up on in the Midwest. Finally, after meeting writer, director, artist Steve Altman – and combining our talents & expertise – the show evolved into “Just Imagine” which is the truest version in emulating John Lennon’s character as he goes the arc of his life and explains, ‘why’. In 2000, I’d put together ‘Working Class Hero’ as a tribute act to John Lennon and his music – having already played many years in the Beatle business in different Beatle acts. Rock City Magazine honored us as the Tribute Act of the Year. This group included my brother Greg Piper who plays bass guitar and is our musical director, Don Butler on lead guitar – also known internationally as ‘Tone Man’, and over time we added Morley Bartnoff a.k.a. ‘Cosmo Topper’ on keyboards and finally Don Poncher on drums. Eventually we landed venues in Los Angeles including The North Hollywood Performing Arts Center, The Platinum Club in Studio City (which was originally Bob Eubanks’ Cinnamon Cinder in the 60’s) and The Hayworth Theater on Wilshire Blvd. near downtown. This show has also performed internationally in places as far reaching as Santiago Chile, Bangalore, India and Liverpool, England to name but a few.
SG) I understand you sorta grew up in L.A., is this where you’d like to keep the show….close to home?
TP) I’ve traveled the world for over 25 years and although it’s exciting to see new places and different people it’s always good to be home. You never really appreciate it until you return. We’re also talking about Los Angeles which is one of the media capitals of the world and one of the few places where one day they’re filming a movie at a local restaurant and the next day Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh are performing on Melrose Boulevard for free.
SG) Is there difficulty in playing a person so well known and so dearly loved. What kind of pressure do you put yourself through to play John Lennon?
TP) Not considering myself really an actor, I believe it is difficult to play someone else. As I am performing, in my head, I am constantly thinking ‘how would John say this’ or ‘position himself for that’ and I am hyper-aware of the fact that this is a world known icon – where everyone already has a preconceived idea of what they want to see in John Lennon. On the other hand, I put my 1,000% effort into every performance with the idea that if I went to see someone’s performance of a character that I had a great passion for, I would want them to be just as caring about their effort in bringing that character to life. I’ve studied John and The Beatles for over 50 years now, have read all the books, seen all the videos and still constantly search the internet for any and all relative information to try to keep, what I feel, truth in the performance of the character. Trying your best is all you can do.
SG) Looking back on any of your performances on stage has there ever been a Deja Vu moment or something completely unexpected that stands out?
TP) Live performance always brings the unexpected. There are times when people will shout out something being caught up in the moment and all you can do is react. Fortunately, I believe I have a pretty good ability at being able to react and quickly. I have had people shout out angrily against Yoko Ono, or scream with delight when they hear a particular Beatles song that must’ve affected them greatly. There is also a portion of the show which I find unique where I actually engage the audience into singing along with me which becomes a very poignant moment in the show as we all seem to be channeling the spirit at the same time. It feels like one big family.
SG) Now with Just Imagine finding a new home…what can audiences expect to see? For fans returning to experience the performance or for people who have never seen the show.
TP) For those who have never seen the show, it is as if John Lennon returns for one evening and you are there. Being a live performance always brings a new element although the show pretty much remains the same as we are telling a story. Other elements will change as well as we continue to tweak the video accompaniment and add a couple of new songs surprises here and there. It speaks for itself as some of the audience members have been there on several occasions – one fan in particular now going on his 44th attendance of the show. What is also interesting is that we are now in Glendale at The ARTN Theater – which stands for ‘Armenian Russian Television Network’ and having just done a television interview for the station we are now reaching out to even a greater range of audience as we spread the goodwill of the show.
SG) From a personal stand point, I wish you all the best, fantastic luck in the new venue and my hope is that newbies find Just Imagine and be completely amazed by it’s richness, texture and all around love and admiration of John Lennon, his life and his work which is captured amazing by you and the band Working Class Hero.
TP) Greatly appreciated Sal, and as you know it gives me an opportunity to meet other artistic people like yourself where we share in the story and utilize our talents in helping to promote, discuss and share the performances through photographs, media and memories of coming together for a cause.
The special opening night event on October 9th will feature guest master of ceremonies Chris Carter, host of the world famous radio show “Breakfast with the Beatles”. For tickets to Just Imagine at the ARTN Theater visit http://www.justimaginetheshow.com or call 323-960-4442 and use the Promo Code FAN50 for a great discount on all tickets.