Let It Be, the theatrical concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles, opened to press last night (24 September 2012) at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
Let it Be is jam-packed with over twenty of their greatest hits, recreating their meteoric rise from their humble beginnings through the heights of Beatlemania, to their later studio masterpieces.
Directed by Joey Curatolo, it runs at the Prince of Wales Theatre until 19 January. The critics were far from unanimous in their views...
…It's a fairly good concert, fairly rubbish theatre, and nothing like a musical even remotely, with a series of "visuals" that regurgitate every newsreel cliché in the book…There are two groups of Beatles alternating in what is admittedly a very big sing indeed, and the highlight on Press night was Stephen Hill as George leading "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", but even that ends with an almost perfunctory sign-off…There's nothing inflamed, urgent or strikingly original about the show's relationship with the music and, of course, Sergeant Pepper comes with a poor facsimile of the record cover, lots of hippy dippy bubbles and a sudden sprouting of Zapata moustaches. Love is all you need, and all this presentation lacks…
…after two glorious hours I left the show feeling as high as a kite…Let It Be is essentially a concert with a brilliant covers band offering a non-stop parade of hits…Some of the wigs and false moustaches sported by the cast may be a touch dodgy, but the music is almost spookily faithful to the originals…Reuven Gershon is especially good as Lennon, capturing the haunting, other-worldly quality of his voice, if not his famously sarky manner. Emanuele Angeletti lets rip to great effect as McCartney on "Hey Jude" while Stephen Hill as George Harrison delivers a thrilling solo during "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". For those who love the Beatles, this show is as about as good as it gets.
Let It Be is not so much a musical as a concert…a missed opportunity…The playful visuals notwithstanding, there’s nothing here that could be described as a story…Reuven Gershon the standout as John Lennon…As for the interpretation of the songs, it’s vigorous and well-rehearsed. You can’t fault the essential fidelity of execution. But if fidelity is what you are after, the original recordings are surely what you need…Yes, the music is great. Yet we don’t have to go to the theatre to be reminded of that. The Beatles song this show calls to mind may not be "Help!" – but neither is it "Got to get you into my life".
There is a good musical to be written about the Beatles, covering their artistic achievements as well as the internal friction that led to their breakup. Unfortunately, this is not it…The whole evening is an exercise in faintly necrophiliac nostalgia. For some, this may be enough. But I craved much more…The show also misses a trick in its use of two screens, shaped like 1960s TV sets, on either side of the proscenium arch…In short, this is just another tribute show. It is well performed and, from a rotating company, the team I saw was impressive…But I go to the theatre hoping to be surprised, challenged or given a new perspective on reality. What I don't want is to see the musical, of all forms, turned into a gaudy museum.
…Just songs, more or less in order, each period staged in the familiar costumes, every move scrupulous…The imitation is artful: as the seven years roll by, hair and ’taches grow, lava-lamps play, Sgt. Pepper epaulettes sprout then become peacenik safari jackets and John’s white suit…Two bands will alternate, but the ones I saw were remarkable lookalikes (John Brosnan a particularly striking George) and stylistically scrupulous. But we know the recordings too well not to miss the open plaintive voice of young McCartney or the brown depths of Harrison…Is it theatre, though? Oddly, yes. The very lack of “story”, accompanied by the brilliance of the songbook, creates a mental space…When the whole house at last sang "Let it Be", cynicism was not an option.