Quite a trip this new musical from celebrated Broadway director Julie ‘The Lion King’ Taymor, and of the sort you might experience if you locked yourself in a room, mixed LSD with domestic bleach and put your entire Beatles collection on shuffle on your iPod while two televisions simultaneously played Milos Forman’s ‘Hair’ and some old episodes of ‘Bread’. What Taymor has done, along with former ‘Porridge’ writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, is take a bunch of Beatles songs and spin a narrative around them which is set in Liverpool and the US in the late ’60s and which takes its prompts from those same songs’ lyrics, characters and themes. The result is a weird, loud and colourful mix of the literal and the lateral that is often so embarrassing to watch that you’ll be checking over your shoulder to check that no one’s looking.
Jude (Jim Sturgess) is a good-looking Liverpool lad who’s bored of his job in the docks and hops on the boat to America, where he hooks up with Princeton drop-out Max (Joe Anderson) and falls for Max’s sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). This being 1968, the wind of change soon blows over them all and Max is sent to Vietnam, Jude struggles as a painter in Greenwich Village and Lucy joins a protest group that morphs into the Weather Underground. Again and again, spirited singing bursts out of banal dramatic sequences, and you’ll be chewing your fist at the dialogue: ‘Where did she come from?’ ‘She came in through the bathroom window?’ God help us. Taymor has mistaken a deeply clichéd view of the late ’60s for a radical slice of the zeitgeist. Let it be.