Astrid Kirchherr met the Beatles in 1960 when they were five lads from Liverpool pounding out marathon shows at a club in a seedy part of her native Hamburg, Germany.
She fell for the bass player, Stuart Sutcliffe, and found the others — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best (the group's drummer before Ringo Starr) — fascinating. "I was just amazed how beautiful these boys looked," she told National Public Radio's Terry Gross in 2008.
Kirchherr, a photographer's assistant, began taking pictures of her new friends. Her black-and-white images established her place in Beatles lore as did her romance with Sutcliffe — to whom she was engaged before he died in 1962. (She also is credited with helping to develop the band's "look," including its signature mop-top cut.)
The story of Kirchherr and the Beatles is told in "Backbeat," a play with music about the group's early years that is making its U.S. debut at the Ahmanson Theatre through March 1. According to producer Karl Sydow, "Astrid is definitely a central character" in the show, which is based on a 1994 film and premiered in Glasgow in 2010. She also is involved in one of the play's main dramatic conflicts, in which Sutcliffe leaves the group — and his best friend, Lennon — and stays in Germany to pursue his relationship with her (as well as his passion for painting).