By Kyle Poluyko
Tyson Kelly, who alternates in the role of John Lennon in Let It Be, is no stranger to playing one of the greatest musical icons of the 20th century. Kelly has toured the world with a number of Beatles tributes acts including The Apple Band and The Fab Four from Las Vegas. Kelly understudied the role of Lennon in Just Imagine: A Tribute to John Lennon in Los Angeles, and made his Broadway debut with Let It Be in 2013 before joining the international tour.
Kelly, however, is not one who can be simply pigeon-holed as a Lennon impersonator. Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, he began performing – theatre and music – at the age of 10. With his cousin he made over 180 short films by age 14, though “Obviously,” he says half-jokingly, “100 of those are just awful.” Those early endeavours led to him becoming a graduate of the New York Film Academy. Musically, the immutable classic piece “Clair de Lune” had a profound impact on Kelly, propelling him to teach himself classical piano and guitar with an enduring appreciation for classical music.
Following the aforementioned preceding gigs as Lennon, Kelly made his Broadway debut in 2013 when he joined the New York company of Let It Be, an experience he describes as enthralling but one that ended too soon when the Broadway company closed after a short run. Enthralling, too, is the musical legacy Kelly comes from. His father, Tom, whom Kelly calls inspiring, co-wrote several Billboard hits, including “True Colors” for Cyndi Lauper, “I Drove All Night” for Roy Orbison, “Like a Virgin” for Madonna, and “I’ll Stand By You” for The Pretenders. Kelly fondly recalls Chrissie Hynde who bought him a golden retriever puppy and gave him chocolate cigarettes.
When not portraying John Lennon, Kelly has his own band, King Washington, a top critic’s pick by LA Weekly, with two full-length album releases and multiple US tours to their credit. But for now, Kelly is finding the passion in portraying the passionate John Lennon in the musical spectacular, Let It Be.
Let It Be is on stage at the TBCA on Friday, March 6.