Review – Let It Be

Let It Be brings The Beatles to life presented as a series of excerpts from iconic performances in their career. We meet them as John invites wealthy patrons at the 1963 Royal Command Performance to rattle their jewellery. Not, perhaps, the greatest joke ever told at such a show, but certainly the most famous. But this isn’t musical theatre. It’s not like Jersey Boys or Buddy. It is essentially a concert. We move on through Shea Stadium and Sergeant Pepper to Abbey Road and the roof of the Apple Building for their last ever public performance. And that’s just the first half!

For each mini concert the Fab Four appear in appropriate clothes and with the required hair styles – including facial hair as necessary. Combined with some nifty set dressing and lighting, in appearance alone it is already clear this is way more ambitious than your average tribute band concert. The opening scene is effectively in black and white, as if we’re watching the original live broadcast of the Royal Command Performance. The psychedelic Sergeant Pepper segment is a joyous riot of colour.

Then there’s the music. I guess most people at The Orchard Theatre in Dartford had not ever seen The Beatles live. But this re-creation of those songs which are now part of our national heritage is truly outstanding. As the show progresses the feeling you’re actually watching The Beatles creeps up on you. An early highlight is Emanuele Angeletti playing acoustic guitar and singing Yesterday as Paul. The simple brilliance of the song shone through in a gentle and un-showy performance. I was just thinking how magic it must have been to have been in a world where Yesterday hadn’t been written and then hear it for the first time. This was only slightly spoiled for me when Emanuele/Paul invited the audience to join in. What this show also highlights is the fantastic contribution of Ringo Starr, with Ben Cullingworth driving some complex rhythms from his podium position centre stage.

The second half of the show is an imagined Beatles reunion taking place on John Lennon’s 40th birthday in 1980. This allows for each of the four to have their own moment in the spotlight as their respective solo hits are reprised. John Brosnan as George, having been somewhat overshadowed in the first half, really comes into his own with some simply brilliant solo guitar work, especially in While My Guitar Gently Weeps, channelling the original soloist on the track, Eric Clapton. And of course there’s John Lennon, a charismatic performance from Michael Gagliano, at the piano for Imagine. Another highlight was Paul McCartney and Wings’ Live and Let Die, truly one of the greatest of all the Bond themes. I’d never heard it live and this was loud, rousing and stylish. Augmenting the brilliant musicianship of the four leads is the show’s musical director Michael Bramwell on keyboards, who brings the added dimension of strings and brass to the later songs.

I’m a big fan of musical theatre and really like a great story and engaging characters to be at the heart of a show. But in this case, just letting the music speak for itself was clearly the right decision. All you need to do with the music of The Beatles is let it be.

Let It Be is at The Orchard Theatre Dartford until Saturday 20 October and on tour.



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