Napoleon, a Victorian prostitute, and a flying piano walk into a theater, where they collide with The Beatles
That’s honestly the best description I can give of “Come Together,” a theater concert I saw in Amsterdam’s Carré Theater last night. I was given tickets to this show for my graduation and really did not know what to expect. Sure, I looked up clips on YouTube, but I still had no idea what I was getting myself into. Theater concerts have been pretty happening here over the past few years, but they’re always done by the original bands/singers in question and there are never elaborate costumes involved.
Not so with “Come Together,” which is made up of Beatles songs performed by an ensemble of excellent Danish performers, and had its first run in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. For a solid 90 minutes, they sweep you up in a drug-addled, uncomfortable, hilarious, alien, wonderful, gravity-defying smoke-filled haze of theatrics and newly-arranged, magnificently performed, musical classics. From the unsettling opening with “Yesterday,” which is sung out of its usual order, through the fantastically gothic incarnation of “Eleanor Rigby” and the contemporary rock-concert version of “All You Need Is Love,” to the intimate, tender rendition of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” the audience is swept up in a wave of “I don’t know what the fuck is going on, but I am loving the shit out of it.” When the last song before intermission ended, I turned to my friend and asked “is this the Apocalypse?” To which she replied, “I think it might be.”
I hope that by now it’s become clear there is no way one can truly explain the nature of this theater concert. It is big and bold on some occasions, sparse and alien on others, yet can also be lovely, friendly, intimate. It does away with our ideas of what musical performance should look like, especially during numbers like “I Am The Walrus,” which is sung by Napoleon while he stands on a wall at a 90 degree angle to the rest of us and “Across the Universe” which is sung, bafflingly and fantastically, completely upside down by a performer floating through the darkness, suspended from his feet.
“Come Together” is a great many things (as evidenced by the fact that I’ve run out of adjectives to describe it), but it is most emphatically not a musical. There is no narrative structure. There is, most certainly, a structure to the complete performance, but is not something that can be retold. It’s a structure which builds, but which must be experienced. It is, then, perhaps most like a dream – or what I imagine a trip on certain hallucinatory drugs is like.
Here’s where I would usually link you to upcoming shows, but I’ve run into a slight snag, which is that I can’t find a performance schedule anywhere online. Their final performance in Amsterdam is tonight, so if you’re in the area I highly recommend that you contact Carré to inquire after tickets, but beyond that, I have no clue when (and if) this show will be performed again. So I’ll just send this blog post into the ether, hoping that it will one day reach someone who, like me, considers going to see this show, but has no clue what she (or he) is in for. To that person I say, go. It doesn’t matter that you don’t understand what you’re going to see. It doesn’t matter that after you’ve seen it, you still don’t truly know. But you’ll be happy you went. I promise.