Director &Musical Supervisor : John Maher
Reviewer : Jonny Black
Let it Be is more of a tribute concert than a traditional theatre musical. There is no narrative or story line but don’t let that put you off though – for here the music does the talking!
A cast of 5 talented performers storm through 40 songs in a little over 2 hours, all faithfully reproduced and spanning the full 8 year career of the band. The performances are very natural with classic Beatle quips and Liverpudlian banter coming in-between songs.
There is plenty of encouragement for audience participation and we are more than happy to oblige. Arm swaying, hand clapping and shouts of ‘I love you Paul’ are a plenty! This is a very generous audience and definitely here to have a good time. It’s also good to see the big age range and the fact that the music of the Beatles continues to resonate down the generations.
The show charts the bands meteoric rise from the early Cavern Club days in their native Liverpool right through to the Abbey Road period. The music is played entirely live and very accurately represents the original sound. Even the later, more studio-based songs are excellently performed. No mean feat considering there are only 5 musicians on stage and even the Beatles themselves rarely attempted to play this later material live.
The ‘5th Beatle’ tonight is Steve Geere, a casually dressed keyboard player, half hiding at the back of the stage. He seems slightly embarrassed to be introduced by the band half way through the show! It does sort of break the well earned illusion a little bit – perhaps a 60’s costume Steve? The audience didn’t seem to mind though and perhaps it further emphasised the relaxed nature of the show.
The set is minimal but imaginative and costume changes are covered by TV and music clips which evoke memories of the decade. Although at one stage during the first half the costume change took so long, the audience actually thought it was the interval! The lighting is particularly good as well as the creative and clever visual effects which deserve a particular mention (Chris Greaves)
Anybody who has ever witnessed a Beatles tribute band is normally preoccupied by the usual shortcomings – bad wigs, unfaithful song arrangements and miss matching Beatle members. On this occasion however these performers are the cream of Beatle impersonators. The movements are very well observed. The instruments are accurate and superbly played. (I even forgave Paul for playing bass right handed!)
Particularly strong is James Fox as Paul he exudes a certain star quality. Having played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar one expected him to have the vocal range necessary but it is the attention to detail that impresses the most. Michael Gagliano caputures the mischievous John very well although the voice lacks a little bit of edge and the accent needs a little work. John Brosnan is perhaps more of a stage presence than the original George and is an exceptional guitar player and Ben Cullingworth is as steady as Ringo. More importantly as a group on stage, they have strong camaraderie.
The evening is thoroughly enjoyable and the ‘acoustic’ set where John, Paul and George take to acoustic guitars on stools at the front of the stage and the Sgt Pepper interlude with John on piano of particular highlight. Difficult to single out songs but ‘The Long and Winding Road’ sounds great – “stripped down and without the orchestration – the way it should be” boasts Paul. He is right! ‘While My Guitar Gently Weaps’, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’ are other highlights.
The show ends with an encore and a standing ovation. We then all get to our feet, sway our arms and ‘na-na-na-na’ through a stomping version of Hey Jude! Of course – what else could we expect! Off into the cold Manchester night we go, happy and full of nostalgia!
Runs until Saturday 8th March