Mark Morris mines the Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper' for an irresistible 'Pepperland'

The look of "Pepperland" — Elizabeth Kurtman's mod costumes are as bright as neon, with vividly clashing colors and patterns — is not so surprising, nor is Morris' playful choreography. That's the popular side of Morris, such as in his hit "The Hard Nut." But every single move in the dance is, while being utterly musical, entirely unexpected. What first seems wrong always feels right, as though, to confirm John Lennon's lyric, "Nothing real, but nothing to get hung about."

Choreographer Mark Morris interprets 50-year-old ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ songs as dance

“I’m not interested in a Beatles tribute at all,” [Morris says]. 
“If you want that, put on the record. I do. It’s nice. [Pepperland] is for those who love or hate The Beatles. I mean that. It’s not reverent or irreverent. It’s a new piece and I like it. It’s not too long, it’s wonderful and my dancers are great. It’s a very interesting evening.”

Superstar choreographer Mark Morris reimagines classic Beatles' songs in Pepperland

Choreographer Mark Morris, hailed by the New York Times as "the most successful and influential choreographer alive, and indisputably the most musical," returns to Toronto with the Canadian premiere of Pepperland, a tribute celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' ground-breaking album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Mark Morris joins Tom Power live in the q studio to talk about his latest work and how he executed a fresh take on a classic work…

British Invasion: Mark Morris' Full-Length Beatles Ballet Hits North America

Pepperland celebrates the semicentennial of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Clocking in at just under an hour, its kaleidoscopic color palette draws direct inspiration from the "tangerine trees and marmalade skies" psychedelizing The Beatles' 1967 record. The dance pays homage to the Fab Four and the Summer of Love with Elizabeth Kurtzman's mod-meets-flower-power costumes, Nick Kolin's trippy lighting design and an original Ethan Iverson score that creatively reimagines six songs on the record. Pepperland is its own pop sensation…

The Times (U.K.): Who wowed our critics in 2017? Find out in The Times arts awards

SHOW OF THE YEAR
As part of the Liverpool festival celebrating the 50th birthday of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the American choreographer Mark Morris presented a premiere inspired by the Beatles’ groundbreaking album. Pepperland was marked with high-spirited humour, eccentric charm and a joyous musical sensibility. Ingenious, entertaining and wonderfully performed...
 

The Guardian: The Top 10 Dance Shows of 2017

4. Mark Morris: Pepperland (Royal Court, Liverpool)
With Mark Morris, it always starts with the music. In creating this celebratory work for Liverpool’s Sgt Pepper at 50 festival the American choreographer worked with six boldly idiosyncratic reinventions of the Beatles’ songs, including a wonderfully arthritic version of When I’m Sixty-Four. With his 15 dancers dressed in a fusion of Carnaby Street and Woodstock, Morris had a choreographic ball, interpreting the world of Pepper through a nostalgic mix of disco, jive and free-form hippiness.

The Independent: Pepperland refuses to be a nostalgic romp - 4 stars

The Independent: Pepperland refuses to be a nostalgic romp - 4 stars

Kicking off Liverpool’s huge Beatles celebration, Mark Morris Dance Group’s Pepperland is both sunny and unpredictable. For all its pop 1960s costumes and Lennon-McCartney numbers, it refuses to be a nostalgic romp...  Pepperland has both idealism and community at its heart.

The Observer: Beatles with a touch of Broadway shuffle - 4 stars

The Observer: Beatles with a touch of Broadway shuffle - 4 stars

Ethan Iverson...subjects the songs to playful but respectful deconstruction. There’s even a theremin player (Rob Schwimmer) making strange electronic magic. The choreography is deft and nuanced, at times skimming across the music’s bright surface, at times dipping deeper.

The Guardian: Mark Morris's Lonely Hearts Club dancers are a dream - 4 stars

The Guardian: Mark Morris's Lonely Hearts Club dancers are a dream - 4 stars

At one end of the spectrum are deftly literal period vignettes bringing characters from Penny Lane to life. At the other are the scintillating abstract inventions with which the deceptively simple opening to With a Little Help from My Friends builds to an asteroid-burst of meticulously timed, explosively complex patterns of dance.

Arts City Liverpool: Pepperland review - 4 stars

Arts City Liverpool: Pepperland review - 4 stars

...what comes over more than perhaps anything else is how much fun the dancers appear to be having on stage. You almost want to leap out of your seat and join in with the Carnaby Street-clad chorus. Iverson’s eclectic score is brought vividly to life by a small band which includes harpsichord, a wonderful, winding soprano sax, and the weird and other worldly sound of the theremin – possibly the only odd ‘instrument’ the Beatles didn’t use on Sgt Pepper but you can see how they might have done. All these things - humour, innovation, musical creativity -  combine to make Pepperland a fitting opening to a celebration of an album which pushed the boundaries in so many different directions half a century ago.

The Telegraph: A brilliant homage to one of the great rock albums - 5 stars

The Telegraph: A brilliant homage to one of the great rock albums - 5 stars

Morris’s extraordinarily talented dancers perform choreography that combines balletic precision with deliciously unexpected moments of physical discordance and quirky humour. The delightful exuberance of the dance finds the ideal partner in Elizabeth Kurtzman’s gorgeous costumes, gloriously colourful affairs... Pepperland is a wonderful platform for the skill, intelligence and athleticism of the Mark Morris Dance Group. It is also a suitably unique and brilliant homage to one of the great rock albums.