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Let it Be

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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There can be no complaints about the material: 30-odd of the best pop songs ever written, performed in chronological order from "She Loves You" through to "Hey Jude" by a perfectly efficient quartet of imitation Beatles, singing and playing live, with a back-up muso on synthesizer, keyboard and tambourine.

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.

These include hysterical crowd scenes at the Shea Stadium in New York, shots of Twiggy and England winning the World Cup to usher in Sergeant Pepper, Vanessa Redgrave and Tariq Ali in Grosvenor Square and Neil Armstrong on the moon to preface the White Album.

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 wild or passionate about any of the performances, not even "Twist and Shout".

The audience dutifully stand up and wave their arms about like children at a school party, while one or two think about it before taking the plunge. Critics don't do this sort of thing, but I did at the end of Backbeat last year, a really outstanding, rough and raucous Beatles musical that concentrated on their Hamburg years and told an interesting story, very well. This is just lollipop time.

None of the musicians really look like their subjects, except perhaps for Reuven Gershon as John, who stands exactly like him and thrusts his face forward in the same way. Emanuele Angeletti isn't even left-handed as Paul, which messes up the "oohs" and "aahs" at the shared microphone, but he does the dimpled "little boy lost" act very well. And Gordon Elsmore's Ringo makes the journeyman drummer sound even more boring than he was, which is quite an achievement.

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.

Joey Curatolo's production - which has its roots in a Californian tribute act that morphed into a Broadway show two years ago - is meticulous about hairstyle and costume; so we have the Fab Four in dark suits and floppy fringes, then in Sergeant Pepper military coloured coats and finally post-Maharishi floppy gear, with John in an even longer wig, white dhoti and granny specs.

One nice touch: the show opens at the Royal Variety Show of 1963 which was staged in this very theatre, the night Lennon asked the audience to clap their hands and the royal party to rattle their jewellery. The gag is alluded to, but not worked properly, and the set-up falls flat, despite all the "authentic" black and white television pictures projected on either side of the stage.


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