Creative Supervisor: Keith Strachan
Sound Designer: Mike Whyte
Musical Director: John Maher
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
“Act like you’re 17 again!”
“Wave your mobile phone in the air!”
It could be impossible for a large part of the audience to carry out both suggestions simultaneously, but everyone at The Grand in Leeds gets into the spirit for their idols, The Beatles. The lads from Liverpool who changed pop music forever. The group’s reign of ten creative years at the forefront of modern music spanned much of the sixties and seventies when ahuge social change was taking place. In many ways, their music moved through almost as many phases as the society their hysterical fans lived in. Change has continued, but The Beatles remain just as vibrant to their followers, and if this audience is anything to go by, not all of them were around for the real deal.
This production is grand. Touring extensively throughout the world it is somewhat hyped up, but nevertheless, captures the essence of The Beatles. Two screens in the form of old-fashioned box televisions mounted above the stage run footage of the era, creating a background to the show, supplemented by a large screen behind for amazing special effects. Twiggy in Carnaby Street and Avenging Diana Rigg run by; there are the daft adverts; and snippets of the patriotic campaign I’m Backing Britain in a Mini car and a skirt. It all sets the scene as the journey progresses.
The lads start out playing the early hits in the dismal Cavern Club, I Saw Her Standing There, Please Please Me, It Won’t Be Long, then move onto the grand Royal Variety Performance with its satin curtains, washed first purple, andthen gold. Then it is on to conquering America: enter true Beatlemania with sobbing fans and paparazzi flashbulbs, and hear such memorable hits as Day Tripper, I Feel Fine and I Wanna Hold your Hand.
Then, of course, it all turns silly and flower power takes over. The costumes are wacky and With a Little Help From my Friends, a Yellow Submarine glides past Eleanor Rigby on a London bus, surrounded by palm trees, road signs, and phone boxes. Is it any wonder Lucy [is] in the Sky with Diamonds and how could anyone possibly imagine what life will be like When I’m 64? A Day in the Life brings it all back down to earth, and all this is in the days when CDs were as big as LPs.
In the second half of the performance, a subtle change takes place. The individuality of the four lads come across. They dress in their own style, there are hints of Paul growing Wings, John is dreamy and laidback, Ringo does solos and all of them forge their own tracks. This was the beginning of the end; Vietnam imploded and man landed on the moon, but it didn’t stop The Beatles creating more, even greater music. Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, All You Need is Love, and in collaboration with Eric Clapton, While my Guitar Gently Weeps.
Let it Be is definitely worth a visit whether you’re a diehard Beatles fan or you just like their music. It is a rather canned and artificial version of the group’s story, obviously tailored to the mass market. On the other hand, the lighting effects are amazing and the cast very personable. It would be very difficult to not get up and dance, even if you don’t pretend to be 17.
Runs until 16 July 2016 | Image: David Munn Photography