It was a packed house and a long line outside of the Boch Shubert Theatre in Boston on a cold Sunday afternoon on February 10 to witness Mark Morris Dance Group’s Pepperland, a humorous and visually-captivating tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Beatles lauded album, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Having made its debut in Liverpool in May 2017, Celebrity Series of Boston presented this distinct musical celebration for three performances only from February 8-10. The show was approximately an hour with no intermission. Click here to see where Pepperland will be next, here for more information about the Celebrity Series of Boston and their upcoming performances, and here for more on the Mark Morris Dance Group.
From depicting the Beatles rampant popularity to a psychedelic journey to enlightenment to the lonely journey of finding love, Mark Morris Dance Group offered a fresh take of this beloved Beatles album through Ethan Iverson’s original compositions. Often instrumental, Pepperland is partially sung and narrated, highlighting some of the Beatles most popular and insightful lyrics.
Renowned costume designer Elizabeth Kurtzman’s brilliant color schemes such as mesmerizing black and white checkered suits and kaleidoscopic pleated dresses seamlessly blend with the crystallized multi-color backdrop, thanks to set designer Johan Henckens and lighting designer Nick Kolin. This mix created an alluring flair.
Within these original orchestrations lie hints of some of the Beatles most popular songs. A particular highlight was the song, Magna Carta, where dancers bring some of the celebrities featured on the album cover, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band to life, like Marilyn Monroe and Laurel and Hardy, just by their signature poses. Mark Morris Dance Group performed a nostalgic version of With a Little Help from my Friends, punctuated by peace signs and a simple, yet memorable wave.
The dancers’ somewhat trippy and complicated moves personify the essence of the album while also providing a new vision. Dancing in brightly colored socks, they performed a blend of classic and contemporary moves as they bent into a complex slant and defied gravity as they leaned back into each other. In bright, bold colors, they formed clever dance combinations spinning in pairs, purposefully out of sync.
Their interpretive, ensemble dance of A Day in the Life was another particular standout, telling their own tale. Couples flourished and dancers were lifted through the crowd. Also weaved into the songs were energetic dance moves reminiscent of the era. During the song, Within You Without You, dancers lapsed into moments of loneliness as the Beatles reflected, “We were talking about the space between us all and the people who hold thousands behind us all.”
Book ending the show was the iconic title track, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. The psychedelic, signature beat punctuated by a captivating and unique march kicked off and ended a journey that featured moments of joy, beauty, and individuality as they paid tribute to one of the most brilliant bands of all time.
Click here to see where Pepperland will be next. Celebrity Series of Boston offers a dynamic roster featuring the annual Stave Sessions, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, What Makes it Great with NPR’s Rob Kapilow, and much more. Click here for more information and for tickets. Tickets can also be obtained at the Celebrity Series of Boston’s box office. Follow Celebrity Series of Boston on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.