Classical Mystery Tour will be returning to the Stefanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts for the first time in 12 years to play with the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra on June 17.
According to SSO music director and conductor Kevin McMahon, who’s also a Beatles fan, it’s been a long time coming.
“We’ve been talking for about seven years now about having Classical Mystery Tour back,” he said. “It just seemed like a good time to have a special event.”
Classical Mystery Tour features Jim Owen (John Lennon) on rhythm guitar, piano, and vocals; Tony Kishman (Paul McCartney) on bass guitar, piano, and vocals; Tom Teeley (George Harrison) on lead guitar and vocals; and Chris Camilleri (Ringo Starr) on drums and vocals.
Armed with period costumes, an elaborate stage set and note for note renditions of Beatles classics, the band pulls out all the stops.
“All the music we’re going to do is recreated as closely as we can to the original recordings,” Owen said. “Basically, you can’t tell the difference.”
Classical Mystery Tour boasts two former Broadway Beatlemania production members in Kishman (played McCartney in the L.A. Beatlemania production) and Teeley (played Harrison during the original Broadway run and also appeared in "Beatlemania: The Movie").
With these credentials, the amount of care and precision in delivering exact re-enactments of the Beatles’ music is what sets Classical Mystery Tour apart from numerous other Beatles tribute bands.
“What sets us apart, I think, is just what we’ve done by so accurately recreating the orchestral charts," Owen said. "The people in our group are highly capable as singers and musicians because the Beatles were so incredible as singers, songwriters, musicians and recording artists. We just strive to do it as well as we can.”
The Classical Mystery Tour’s setlist will be mostly from the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” and “Magical Mystery Tour” albums, but will also include other gems from the “White Album,” “Abbey Road” as well as a couple of solo Beatles songs.
The impetus that led Owen to create Classical Mystery Tour in 1996 actually began in his younger days.
“When I was a child, I was really into classical music before I even knew the Beatles existed,” Owen said. “But when I heard the Beatles – I think I was eight – I wanted to play Beatles music, too. My idea started small; I thought how fun it would be to get a quartet one time to do 'Yesterday' or maybe a couple of friends to play ‘Got to Get You Into My Life’ with a couple of trumpets and saxes. But that proved to be too small and it very quickly snowballed into getting a whole orchestra, arranging our first show, getting all the charts made and putting the group together.”
At first, Owen didn’t have any interest in playing the John Lennon character, but over time, he began to realize that he looked more like Lennon than any other Beatle.
“When I was young and first listened to the Beatles, I didn’t really care about the vocals,” Owen said. “I was into the music of the Beatles and I was learning the George Harrison guitar parts. When I started as a teenager, I wanted to be the George Harrison part in the group. Later on, people that I worked with and saw me in the show started to tell me that I looked more like John and why didn’t I try that. So I did, and I do enjoy that a lot because now I really appreciate being able to sing his songs.”
Owen’s day job is to help keep the daily affairs of the Classical Mystery Tour running — and he couldn’t be happier with his career choice.
“I’ve never been able to write my own music, I’ve just been really good at playing other people’s music,” he said. “I’m really happy to do what I’m doing and I just hope this keeps going for a while.”
IF YOU GO:
What: Classical Mystery Tour: A Tribute to the Beatles
When: 7 p.m. on June 17
Where: Stefanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts, 826 N. Eighth St., Sheboygan
Tickets: Available online at weillcenter.com, in person at ticket office or by calling 920-208-3243