Director: John Maher
Reviewer: Matthew Bagnall
The Beatles need little introduction. Their impact on the British music industry was a phenomenon in the 1960s with their popularity ceasing to decline ever since – a testament to the incredible talent they had to offer. Let It Be is a celebration of the music of The Beatles. Debuting at the West End’s Prince Wales Theatre in 2012 its popularity with audiences has seen the show embark on another tour across the UK.
Before watching Let It Be you will be forgiven for questioning what type of show this is. It is incomparable to jukebox musicals which have collated the greatest hits from internationally recognised artists and threaded their songs through a carefully thought out storyline that may have no direct relevance to the band themselves. An example of this being We Will Rock You or Mamma Mia!.
Let it Be is certainly not a jukebox musical and it is a disappointment that the great work of The Beatles can’t be celebrated in a similar manner. The ability to use the greatest hits of such a well-received band and create a story around their work would have provided a real creative edge and extra dimension to the success of the band. A connection to the songs in a different light from the story that is unfolding on stage would have been welcomed, even if the plot was related to their journey as a band. What is seen in this production is a concert – and a very good one at that – which is epitomised by the cast’s encouragement for the audience to sing, scream, twist and shout and even use your mobile cameras from the first song. A chronological and descriptive look at The Beatles from start to end is what is shown, including re-enactments of the Royal Variety performance and the Magical Mystery Tour.
Despite the shows shortcomings as a piece of theatre, as a concert it is of a reasonably high standard. The cast – many of whom still remain from the original run in 2012 – are able to portray the eccentric gestures and mannerisms of the bandmates very well while demonstrating their musical talents simultaneously. Emanuele Angeletti deserves particular praise for this, especially with him having to learn to play left handed as a right hander.
The production values are impressive. The show features many projections of different sizes. Some larger backdrop screens are distorted and stretched but the two retro television screens are both visually appealing and engaging for their content. A mixture of audience reactions from historic concerts as well as periodic footage such as television adverts from the 1960s provide a context for the show and may bring a touch of reminiscence for those old enough to remember them.
The lighting design by Humphrey McDermot is spectacular. The use of atmospheric lighting on stage is mixed with wonderful strobing effects directed at the audience. The high production values complement the show well and do bring some theatricality to what is otherwise a concert.
Let it Be is definitely not a theatrical masterclass but it is a thoroughly enjoyable concert that is sure to leave you singing Hey Jude in your sleep. If you are an avid Beatles fan you will appreciate this production for what it is. Remember, all you need is love… and a taxi to the theatre.
Runs until 5 March 2016 | Photo: David Munn Photography