The seedy beginnings of the Beatles come under the spotlight in a London stage production.
“Backbeat” remembers a time in the early 1960s when the band members, on a residency in Germany, were so poor they slept behind a movie-theater screen.
The musical focuses on the relationship between bossy John Lennon, photographer Astrid Kirchherr, and bass player Stuart Sutcliffe, who gave up abstract art to join the band (and died of a brain aneurysm at age 21).
“Backbeat” is at the Duke of York’s Theatre. Information: http://www.backbeatlondon.com or +44-844-871-7627.
If the rock songs of “Backbeat” get you in a party mood, Wahaca is just a short walk away. This lively Mexican restaurant is friendly and inexpensive. It’s also popular and doesn’t accept bookings, so be prepared to queue. Information: http://bit.ly/9iddX. (If the line is too long, the nearby Da Polpo is a quieter option. Information: http://dapolpo.co.uk/ or +44-20-7836-8448.)
What’s the Monument to the Third International doing in Piccadilly Circus? Signposting “Building the Revolution,” an exhibition on Soviet art and architecture at the Royal Academy.
The model in the courtyard is of a never-realized mega-tower by Vladimir Tatlin, with a rotating block for each arm of Soviet power. The legislative branch took a year to complete its rotation.
Not all early Soviet buildings were clunky pipe dreams. Architect Le Corbusier built in Moscow, and was copied all over, such as in the Narkomfin apartment block, now a ruin. Stalin in 1932 put an end to all that avant-garde design.
Yet Russia is still viewed as a cradle of modern architecture, and you can see why. The show ends on Jan. 22, 2012. Information: http://www.royalacademy.org.uk or +44-20-7300-8000.
There will be fireworks displays all over London on Saturday night. It’s not the Olympics starting early, just the U.K.’s annual Bonfire Night, originally introduced to celebrate a failed plot against the king in 1605.
Head for Battersea Park for full-on festivities. Aside from fireworks, there’s a food court with toffee apples, candy floss, and mulled wine. Just don’t bring your pet.
Information: http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/fireworks. There are fireworks also in Southwark Park, Wimbledon Park and Blackheath.
Butcher & Grill is an informal bar and grill (with attached butcher’s shop) close by Battersea Park. Children are welcome and there’s all-day dining on Saturdays, with a separate menu for brunch.
Information: http://bit.ly/rlwdtZ or +44-20-7924-3999.
George Michael is the latest rock star to follow Sting and rework songs with a full orchestra.
He starts a run of concerts at London’s Royal Opera House on Sunday and continuing through Nov. 11.
His “Symphonica” tour features only a few hits. Instead he is showcasing lesser-known tracks such as “A Different Corner” and cover versions of songs by stars such as Rufus Wainwright, who played the opera house himself earlier this year.
While some shows are sold out, tickets are still available online. Michael moves on to Germany and Italy, returning to London’s Earls Court in December. Information: +44-20-7304-4000, http://www.roh.org.uk or http://www.georgemichael.com/tour/.
(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)