Tony Kishman should have realized his mission in life back in the mid-1960s,
when he brought in a Beatles 45 for a grade school show and tell and mimed Paul
McCartney’s singing and playing.
But it took the Tuscon, Arizona native
another decade or so until that childhood admiration and obsession with the
famed Fab Four transformed into a durable career choice.
“I was playing
guitar in a cover band in clubs in the 1970s, and we’d be doing the latest Peter
Frampton song or whatever, and then we’d play a Beatles song,” recalled Kishman
in a phone call from him home earlier this month. “Invariably, somebody would
come up to me in between sets and say, ‘you know, when you were doing that
Beatles song, you kind of looked like Paul.’ I was flattered, but didn’t really
think anything of it at that point.”
However, in 1977, Kishman’s visual
and aural similarities to McCartney prompted a friend to suggest that he
audition for Steve Leber and David Krebs, the producers of a new Broadway show
that was in the planning stages called Beatlemania.
“I flew out to LA and
did my audition. The musical director said to me, you’re certainly good enough,
you look enough like Paul and you have the vocal ability, so all you have to do
is apply yourself and you have a spot in the show,” said Kishman.
the real work started as Kishman spent countless hours “becoming” Paul McCartney
through grueling rehearsals, studying film clips of The Beatles in all their
various stages, and adopting not only the musical tics and idiosyncrasies, but
the physical ones as well.
The effort paid off, as Kishman, alongside
future power pop star Marshall Crenshaw, were among the 50 musicians chosen to
join one of the casts of the show.
For the next six years, he spent his
waking hours as Paul, as the smash hit Beatlemania took off and moved from
Broadway to stages around the world.
In the early 1980s, while performing
with Beatlemania in London, Kishman looked out in the audience and saw, front
and center, the striking white mane of George Martin, the legendary producer of
The Beatles, who had brought his family to the show.
“I’m up there
singing and I see his face – it was just amazing to me that he was there,” said
“Afterwards, he came backstage and told us how much he enjoyed
the show. I asked him why he, the producer of The Beatles, would come see
Beatlemania when he had experienced the real thing.
“And he said, ‘I
wanted to give my kids the opportunity to see what it was like, how The Beatles
looked and how they performed.’ So here I am teaching George Martin’s kids about
the Beatles – it was amazing.”
Following the successful six-year run,
Kishman continued his own musical path, recording and performing original music
and spending the next few years as a working musician.
But it turns out
that playing Paul McCartney was his destiny. And for the past decade, he’s been
leading what is generally considered to be one of the leading Beatles tribute
bands in the world – Twist and Shout – in a multi-media musical extravaganza
devoted to their career called “All You Need is Love.”
Israel has its own
talented Beatles tribute band, the Magical Mystery Tour, who perform to
enthusiastic crowds around the country. But “All You Need is Love” – featuring
Jim Owen as John Lennon, Chris Camilleri as Ringo Starr and David John as George
Harrison – takes the experience to another level.
Enhanced by video clips
of The Beatles’ rich history, and wardrobe changes (as well as the appropriate
hair pieces) reflecting their transformation from teen punks in Germany to
riot-provoking mop-tops to psychedelic pioneers to bearded veterans, the show
tells the chronological story of the band that changed the world.
musical biography of The Beatles, starring Twist and Shout,” explained Kishman.
“What we’re doing is telling the story of The Beatles, from the
We even have a performer playing Tony Sheridan [a British
singer whom The Beatles back up in the studio in the early 1960s just before
they hit it big in England] and we do a song with him. We show the audience how
The Beatles became The Beatles.”
For a generation too young to have
experienced the real thing, and even more so for those who lived through it,
Twist and Shout is purported to capture the excitement and charisma of The
Beatles in all their glory.
For Kishman, touring now on the cusp of the
50th anniversary of The Beatles’ 1964 breakout in the US at the forefront of the
British Invasion, provides an even notched-up level of excitement for both the
fans and the band.
“When I first saw them on the Ed Sullivan Show in
1964, I was immediately hooked,” said Kishman. “I never realized though, back
then, exactly how incredible they and the whole phenomenon was. Now, with the
50th anniversary coming, it’s astonishing to think of how amazing their music
still is 50 years later.”
Although he professed to loving all of The
Beatles’ music from “She Loves You” to “Let it Be,” Kishman admitted that his
favorite period to listen to and to perform is later, more expansive Beatles of
The White Album and Abbey Road.
“Just think of all those great songs they
came out with then, and they weren’t even really functioning as a band,” said
Kishman, adding that Martin had described to him how McCartney came into the
studio with the others and single-handledly recorded “Back in the
Kishman’s fixation on McCartney extends beyond Twist and Shout and
“All You Need is Love.” Along with band mate Owen/Lennon, he founded and
performs in a Beatles symphony show, Classical Mystery Tour. And he’s also
developed and stars in Live and Let Die, in which he performs the solo material
of McCartney backed by a symphony orchestra.
But his bread and butter
remains Twist and Shout, and Israeli Beatle aficionados – which include former
energy minister and current world chairman of Keren Hayesod, Eliezer (Moody)
Sandberg, who hosts a weekly Beatles radio show on 88FM – will be able to judge
the show’s Beatle-worthiness as Twist and Shout arrive for six performances next
month – December 5, 6 and 7 at the Tel Aviv Opera House, December 9 at the
Beersheba Center for Performing Arts, December 10 at Kibbutz Yagur and December
11 at the Jerusalem Theater.
When asked to explain the Beatles phenomenon
and its enduring attraction, Kishman theorized that it all comes down to the
“There are lots of Beatles tributes out there, some very bad and
some pretty good. But even with a really bad Beatles group – a short, little guy
playing Paul, a tall, skinny John, just horrendous looking – as long as they’re
playing Beatles music then people want to hear it,” he said.
because the music is timeless. Even when you hear their first album, it’s not
dated. They’re a phenomenon we’ll never see again.”