Q&A with a Beatle impersonator

Who: Actor and drummer Axel Clarke portrays Ringo Starr in Abbey Road. After successful visits the last two years, the Beatles tribute act will return to the Tower Theatre in Bend at 7 p.m. Sunday to perform “In My Life — A Musical Theatre Tribute to the Beatles.”

As its name suggests, the all-ages show is part theater, part concert, tracing The Beatles’ career arc through the eyes of narrator Brian Epstein, played by Murphy Martin. The Bend High School String Quartet — senior Isabella McIlvenna, junior Abbigail Kolcun and sophomores Molleigh Weaver and Julian Simmons — will join the faux Fab Four on the classics “Eleanor Rigby,” “Yesterday,” “A Day in the Life,” “Hello Goodbye” and “Hey Jude.” Tickets are $35 to $55, plus a $3 preservation fee, and are available at towertheatre.org and the Tower Theatre box office at 835 NW Wall St., Bend, or by calling 541-317-0700.

Q: How did you end up a part of Abbey Road?

A: It was maybe not poetic or romantic — but they put out an ad, “Hey, we’re casting a Beatles band for a play. If you’re interested, come on in for auditions.” It sounded like fun, so I went into a rehearsal room, they had, like, 50 other Beatles guys in there, and they just started mixing and matching us all until they got down to the four they liked. From there they said, “OK, here’s the script, here’s the concept we have.” Seven years later, I’m still doing it.

Q: Is it challenging as a drummer to play Ringo’s parts?

A: A lot more than you’d think. You kind of have to just forget everything you’ve been taught or learned, and embrace his unique style. It’s hard to copy someone exactly. It’s like trying to do an impersonation, but there’s a lot more things involved in it to keep track of. I have to constantly go back and listen to the recordings and kind of police myself to make sure I’m doing things the way he does them.

Q: What’s the most fun era of The Beatles to play — the mop-top era or the full-hippie era?

A: The early, mop-top stuff is fun because it’s just energetic up-rock stuff, and the psychedelic Sgt. Pepper-era stuff’s fun, because there are lots of twists and turns, and you have to really be on your toes to keep track of all that. And then a lot of the late stuff’s really got a cool, laid-back, heavy kind of rock vibe to it. So they all have things that are a lot of fun, and things that are big challenges, too.

Q: Have you ever met Ringo?

A: No. I haven’t been fortunate enough yet, but I don’t know what I would say even if I did, you know? “Hey, I’m a fake you. How’s it going?”

Q: Do you always work with local string quartets when you’re touring?

A: When we’re doing tours with the play, yeah. It’s a part of just about every show we’ve done. It’s fun to get the local talent up on stage, a nice little connection for the community. It’s also fun for us. It opens up the possibilities to do a couple of songs, which we can do with keyboards and synthesizers, but it’s more fun to do with the real, organic instrument.

Q: Is it tough to do Ringo’s accent?

A: I mean, I always kind of leave it up to the audience to decide if I’m doing it well or not (laughs). It wasn’t too bad for me. My family’s all from Scotland, so they have pretty strong Glaswegian accents. The Scottish and the Liverpudlian accent aren’t that far apart, so I didn’t find it hard to pick up the accent. But to actually nail Ringo’s vocal tone and inflection, that still takes some work — especially on a stage, because you’re supposed to be projecting, and Ringo’s voice was never a loud, booming voice. The second I try and reach the back row with a line, it loses a little of that Ringo element, so that can be challenging.

— David Jasper, The Bulletin

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