REVIEW: Four Lads Part 2 hampered by music never meant to be played live

The Mayfield Dinner Theatre had great success with “The Buddy Holly Story” back in 2010 – it was a corker, despite the fact you knew going in that it wasn’t going to have a happy ending.

So there are high hopes for “Four Lads Who Shook the World, The Beatles Story: Part 2,” the current offering in the elegantly redesigned Mayfield, playing through Nov. 4. The soundtrack to many a Baby Boomer’s youth, The Beatles’ catalogue is the greatest of any rock group – ever. How can you go wrong with The Beatles?

Turns out, you can. Sad to say, “Four Lads Part 2” is a misfire.

A follow up to last year’s first chapter that chronicled the rise of the Fab Four in their earlier, poppier, happier days, Part 2 focuses on the tail end of the Beatles’ revolutionary run, when the band was crumbling, yet still producing its most experimental and daring music.

And here lies the problem with “Four Lads Part 2” — the music.

While early Beatles songs were some of the most infectious in the history of rock – just try not to sing along to “She Loves You,” later music possesses little of that sheer unadulterated joy. It’s album music that was never intended to be played live (the Beatles actually stopped touring during the period depicted in Part 2), better suited to listening to on your headphones in your parent’s basement than a dinner theatre.

The performers give it an honest try, and when harmonizing present a reasonable facsimile of the Fab Four. Individually, however, they’re lacking. It’s not fair to expect spot-on impressions of John, Paul, George and Ringo from Chris Wynters, Kevin Dabbs, Harley Symington and Bob Rasko, respectively, but to be blunt, most of the time they aren’t even close. From time to time, Wynters and Dabbs do a reasonable John and Paul, but the moment doesn’t last. Occasionally, the performers remember to at least throw in the distinctive body gestures John and Paul were known for, but just as quickly they would disappear.

While you can’t get too terribly upset that the performers couldn’t quite nail The Beatles sound (not many can), there is no excuse for the excruciating exposition. Two narrators (Roman Pfob, Melissa MacPherson) pop up to move the story along with cringe-worthy puns and clichés. Worse, they switch from narrating to playing a character, never very convincingly. (At one point, Pfob portrays a notorious Beatles hanger-on named Magic Alex, who was Greek. Pfob gives him a British accent.)

The set is drab, a poor representation of a recording studio. The Mayfield has added a couple of large TV screens at either side of the stage which could have been used to set the scene with images of the time, but except for a very brief clip from Yellow Submarine, they remained dark. Why?

However, on the plus side … the buffet was excellent.

Once “Four Lads” ends its run in November, “The Buddy Holly Story” is back for another run. I never thought I’d recommend Buddy Holly over The Beatles, but if you can only afford the one, make it Buddy.