Lennon is a musical with music and lyrics by John Lennon and book by Don Scardino, who also directed its premiere. The musical is about the life of John Lennon and was notable for Scardino's choice to be almost exclusively-based on Lennon's own words and to focus on Lennon's solo career, with no songs from the Lennon-McCartney catalogue.
The "$7 million bio-musical" first opened in San Francisco, California in April 2005. After what The Times described as "a troubled try-out in San Francisco, a cancelled run in Boston and a radical rewrite", it had 42 previews and 49 performances on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre from August 14 to September 24, 2005. The roles of Lennon is played by performers of both sexes and different ages and skin colors, an approach Scardino said was inspired by "I Am the Walrus" where Lennon writes, "I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together." This use of multiple actors was scaled back after the San Francisco production, with the final rewrite having a single actor narrating Lennon's story.
Yoko Ono was actively involved in the production, retaining final script approval and requiring the show's Broadway producers to complete the script and present it to her live (albeit in workshop format).. The show's credits included the phrase "With Special Thanks to Yoko Ono Lennon"; Ono was frequently seen at the theatre during the show's Broadway run.citation needed
The limited use of Beatles songs, attributed to creative choices and not licensing issues, led critics to dismiss the work as “Ono-centric”. Ono was unapologetic about the choice: "If we put Yesterday in, it's not really fair to the Beatles because we're leaning on their power. We're talking about John now, thank you." She later said “It is definitely John’s story — from Liverpool 1940 to New York 1980. I am the B-side, and that’s how it should be. I think he would have loved it.”
The Broadway premiere was produced by Edgar Lansbury (who conceived the show and brought in Scardino), Clear Channel Entertainment and Jeffrey Sine.
The opening night cast of Lennnon included Will Chase (who as narrator was the "lead" John Lennon), Chuck Cooper, Julie Danao-Salkin, Mandy Gonzalez, Marcy Harriell, Chad Kimball, Terrence Mann, Julia Murney, Michael Potts, Rona Figueroa, Mark Richard Ford, Nicole Lewis and Darin Murphy.
Playbill quoted Paul Shaffer in its coverage of the musical's opening night:
The musical includes two previously unpublished songs by Lennon: "India, India" and "I Don't Want to Lose You". A December 2004 Playbill article mentioned that the rarely-heard Lennon song "Cookin' (in the Kitchen of Love)" (heard on the Ringo's Rotogravure album by Ringo Starr) would also be included, though the song was cut before the musical's Broadway opening.