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A CurtainUp London London Review
Let It Be

I'd love to turn you on. — John Lennon’s lyrics for “A Day in the Life”
Let It Be
So what is it that a West End audience expects when they hear that a new Beatles’ musical is to be launched? A fantastic sound? People who look like the Fab Four? The real life story of their rise to fame? I think that this is the third Beatles based musical I have reviewed. Love, Love, Love was an over orchestrated tribute to the melodies of the Liverpudlian band but Backbeat did well telling the story of the Beatles before they were famous. Celebrating 50 years since their launch, the tag line on the theatre poster is probably actionable, “The Fab Four Are Back Live in London’s West End.”

I am one of those who saw the Beatles playing live in a cinema in Cambridge. I didn’t hear them because the noise of girls screaming drowned out the music. The producers of Let It Be have not bothered with a storyline but the music is there, sung and played by live musicians, albeit that they still have not found a left handed guitarist to stand in for Paul McCartney so the line up of the three Beatles playing guitar never looks like the original.

There is some black and white footage on screens alongside the act filming the four onstage, and a voice over from DJ Tony Blackburn, so that we are reminded of the television programmes of the early 1960s before colour TV was launched. The four I saw sound pretty good, Michael Gagliano as John Lennon has some of the great Lennon’s raw sound, John Brosnan has a shy way with George’s magnificent lead guitar solos and Chilean born Ian B Garcia may not be left handed, neither has he Paul’s distinctive eyebrows, but he sings the melodies very well. The early act sees “She Loves You”, “A Hard Day’s Night” and George’s first solo in a composition attributed to John Lennon, “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You”.

We switch to footage of New York’s Shea Stadium with scenes of fans throwing themselves at the netting, police intercepting them and from the Beatles’ second film, “Help”, “Day Tripper” and the audience are encouraged to stand for “Twist and Shout”. When they speak they have Liverpudlian accents but John Lennon would never have exhorted the crown to stand up and clap. He was too cool! Then to 1967 and psychedelia and for the album “ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which sees a stage full of flowers, rotating lighting and everyone dressed in faux military colourful satin with gold braid and epaulettes and moustaches and Ringo the drummer (Phil Martin) sings “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

Back to the UK for shots of Tower Bridge and Liverpool on the slides for the song of loss and longing “Eleanor Rigby” and back to the kaleidoscopic special lighting effects for “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, the song which the Beatles tried to explain wasn’t about hallucinogenics and LSD but inspired by a drawing John’s son Julian brought home from school of a classmate called Lucy. “A Day in the Life” once banned by the BBC along with “Lucy” for the drugs message closes the first act.

Act Two sees better wigs and hairdressing for classics “All You Need is Love”, and “Strawberry Fields”. Footage of Viet Nam and the iconic photograph of the Abbey Road pedestrian crossing sees John in his white suit for “Come Together”, “Get Back”, “Revolution” and “Give Peace A Chance”. The show closes on “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude”.

Let It Be is an expensive tribute concert but it will thrill its audience in the same way as The Rat Pack pleased an older generation. You won’t learn anything you didn’t know about the boys from Liverpool who took the pop music world by storm but you will be singing Beatles’ tunes on your way home. The producers have promised to include different numbers in each show and there are alternate musicians taking on the roles.

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Let It Be
Created and conceived by RAIN, Mark Lewis, Joey Curatolo, Ralph Castelli, Joe Bithorn, Steve Landes
Director and Musical Supervisor: Joey Curatolo

Starring: Emanuele Angeletti, John Brosnan, Gordon Elsmore, James Fox, Michael Gagliano, Ian B Garcia, Reuven Gershon, Stephen Hill, Phil Martin, Ryan Alex Farmery, Michael Bramwell
Scenic Designer: Tim McQuillen-Wright
Global Lighting: Stephen Gotschel
UK Lighting: Humphrey McDermott.
Sound: Gareth Owen
Video Design: Darren McCaulley and Mathieu St-Arnaud
UK Musical Supervisor and Resident Director
Running time: Two hours 15 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 482 5110
Booking to 19th January 2013
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 17th September 2012 performance at the Prince of Wales, Coventry Street, London W1D 6AS (Tube: Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square)

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