The “musical biography” is the most dopily reliable theatrical form ever invented. All you need is a driven genius misunderstood by the forces of reaction, and happily there are thousands to go round. Doesn’t really matter who you pick: Elvis, Buddy Holly, Mozart, Patsy Cline, Laurence Welk. It helps if they died young, but they’d have a hard time expiring as prematurely as the drama always does. There’s invariably a scene where the misunderstood genius confronts a squaresville music-biz exec who doesn’t get it and defiantly tells him, “I gotta play ma music ma way.” Then he does. Producers love these shows: they come with a catalogue of big hits and a write-by-numbers script that does its best to stay out of the way. You can sing along to the songs and the dialogue.

Yet even those of us with a lifelong antipathy to John Lennon would have to concede he’s an unlikely candidate...

 
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