The gargantuan rise of The Beatles from a small time Scouse four-piece to the masters of rock ‘n’ roll and all the narratives that occurred along the way would no doubt lend itself wonderfully to a theatrical production, but Let It Be is not that show. There is no narrative, barring some scene-setting archive footage which tracks the band’s progression, and dialogue is used minimally in order to allow for as many songs as possible to be played from the Beatles catalogue.
That said though, the production is certainly one that does not struggle to entertain. The show knows what it is – a showcase of four very talented musicians providing a tribute to one of the greatest bands of all time – and it provides the big stage necessary to turn a tribute act into a production worthy of the theatre stage.
Former Fame Academy man James Fox impresses with vocals as Paul McCartney, the Italian Michael Gagliano looks the part and sounds great as John Lennon, and John Brosnan’s George Harrison and Ben Cullingworth’s Ringo Starr looked on form as well. A well rounded grouping then, and one which were up to the task of doing the great band justice.
We start off at The Cavern in Liverpool, hearing the likes of ‘I Saw Her Standing there’ and ‘It Won’t Be Long’, and soon move to the Royal Variety Performance in 1963, where we hear favourites such as ‘Help!’, with ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ soon following. All of this is performed by the team in an effort to re-enact very precisely the past performances of the group at specified venues, and while at times rigid, they do a good job. Shea Stadium also features, although a visit to the Ed Sullivan Show comes first that prompts a great rendition of ‘Yesterday’ from Paul.
The simple truth of this production becomes apparent pretty quickly. While there isn’t much narrative, the musicians are more than commendable and it’s needless to say that the songs on show are brilliant. Good songs and good musicians make a good night.
The show does rely heavily on a fat dose of nostalgia to drive it forward, but this tactic clearly struck a chord with the Edinburgh audience (not least the 65-year-old to my right who unleashed deep sighs of delight throughout the production). The costumes were familiar and well chosen and the archive film footage focused on events from around the 60s, not just relating directly to the band.
It was the kind of show you would expect to see if you went to see a big name band at The SEE Hydro in Glasgow rather than a production in the West End in London though, an example of this being seen in the fact that any brass or string input was added electronically rather than performed live.
Indeed, the show made use of a simplistic set, but provided what was needed – all the footage and costume changes worked well to provide a clean transition from that famous early Beatles suit and bowl cut look to the more contemporary, hippy vibe later on.
Getting back to the on stage performance though, when the band stopped trying to copy the exact movements of The Beatles in past gigs to take on the more concept range of tracks performed in the later years, they seem to come into their own. Continuously impressive performances pleased the crowd after the interval; the show moved fast and entertained.
By the end of the night, as the group closed with ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Hey Jude’, the entire theatre were on their feet, twisting and shouting, waving their hands and reverberating the words back to the band on stage. It was an enjoyable night of Beatlemania for fans, and one dominated by nostalgic amusement.
Verdict: There is no prevailing storyline, no narrative, and really nothing but the music to drive this production on from the start. Over the course of the two and a half hours though, that didn’t prove a problem. The talented four-piece musicians performed well, the songs, of course, are still wonderful, and the overall production provides its audience with continuous fun.