CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Chicago native Jimmy Irizarry showed an early proficiency for portraying one of the Beatles, and Paul McCartney was his Beatle of choice as a teen.
"I found out when I was 10 years old that his real name is James Paul, and that's my real name," Irizarry said.
"My older brothers had bought the Beatles records and were fans, and that's pretty much what I grew up listening to. Right away, they were my favorite band."
He learned his first few guitar chords at 12 and has been playing ever since.
As for his fascination with the Beatles, it never ended, to the extent that Irizarry makes the better part of his living portraying one of the Fab Four.
Interestingly, he doesn't take the stage as Sir Paul, but as John Lennon.
"After he died, I got more into him," Irizarry said. "It was a better fit."
Irizarry, who plays Lennon as part of the "Experience the Beatles with Rain" tribute group, said he's come to appreciate the complexity and the quirkiness of Lennon.
"In his early years, he had more explosive songs and he sang with a more forceful voice," Irizarry said, pointing to "Twist and Shout" as an example.
"He used to sort of make fun of Paul, calling him the balladeer. And then later on, John wrote some of the softest, most beautiful ballads, like on the White Album with 'Julia' and 'Dear Prudence' and also later in his solo career."
During Tuesday's show at the Clay Center as part of its Broadway series, audience members will see something else Irizarry likes about portraying Lennon.
"His appearance changed dramatically," he noted. "He let his hair grow, and he let it all hang out with his attitude."
Irizarry has made a study of Lennon from appearance and mannerisms, noting goofy faces he would make on stage and for the camera.