After a successful run in London’s West End, Let It Be is one of the most exciting tribute musicals to grace stages countrywide. Despite concerns of a cheesy plot and poor Liverpudlian accents, I could not have been more wrong in my prior assumptions of what to expect from the performance.
The Beatles musical wisely concentrates on showcasing the fab four’s music alone and is rammed full of The Beatles’ greatest hits, from the driven "Eleanor Rigby" to the cheerful "Here Comes the Sun", right through to the likes of "Norwegian Wood" and "Sgt. Pepper’s Loney Hearts Club Band".
The showcase follows very little in the way of a plot, the cast performing as if they were The Beatles themselves. The little storytelling that there is comprises of old fan footage and classic 1960’s adverts, which causes great hilarity. The footage is displayed as a VT inside a set of old fashioned cut-out television screens, surrounding the stage. This film sits amidst an array of magnificent graphics, from pop art to surrealism, which add to the cast’s already dynamic performances.
What little chronology there is documents the band’s fast and furious climb from Liverpool’s Cavern Club, charting their appearance on the Royal Variety Show and full power into "Beatlemania", playing in America. Finally, the performance moves on to their later more worldly compositions.
Opening with one of my favourite Beatles tracks, "Saw Her Standing There", I can’t help but feel that the first few numbers are a little underwhelming. The theatre surroundings mean that the audience remains seated during routines that should always have people up on their feet. However, as the show rockets through the decades and the cast perform songs from each of the band’s albums, from "Please, Please, Me", through "A Hard Day’s Night" and onto the likes of "Rubber Soul", the show becomes ever more exciting. The costumes become more flamboyant, the singing becomes tighter and the staging becomes brighter.
As the narrative makes its way into the Sgt. Peppers era, the show really kicks off. As expected, this section boasts the most colourful costumes of the showcase and the use of a projector on a translucent screen in front of the stage during the group’s performance of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" is the most trippy thing I have ever seen in a theatre – naturally!
The rendition of "Twist & Shout" finally gets the audience on their feet and from then on in the show is a right old hootenanny. There are occasional breaks in the rip-roaring tunes where the cast perform more delicate numbers such as the beautiful "Blackbird" and a sweet sing-a-long rendition of "When I’m 64". And looking around, the song is probably reflective of the average age of the audience.
The highlight of the show comes for me in Stephen Hill‘s stunning rendition of George’s "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Yet, unfortunately, the words to "Yesterday" became muddled during the otherwise moving enactment, but talented performer and astoundingly sound lookalike Emanuele Angeletti pulled it back with his detailed and truthful impression of Sir Paul McCartney.
Each of the cast did a fantastic job of impersonating Paul, John, George and Ringo. This, combined with their unquestionable musical talent, both in singing and multi-instrumental skills, plus an impeccable set list, makes for a sensational night at the theatre.
The show ends with an explosion of streamers and an encore of "Back in the USSR", "Let It Be’"and, of course, the long-awaited "Hey Jude". Real lighters in the air material, the audience sway and sing along right up to the very last "na na na na". This is the first, and I expect the last, performance I will see where every audience member is still singing at the top of their lungs as they exit the building and this is reflective of the tremendous high that Let It Be leaves you on.
– Hannah Sweetnam