The Fab Four have returned with a show that’s set to start Beatlemania all over again – well, that’s what could have been… Let It Be is on a brand new tour with a revamped show that sees an imagined reunion of John, Paul, George and Ringo, the band performing a one-off concert on John’s 40th birthday: 9th October 1980. For several years this show has been a way for those of us who never got the chance to see The Beatles in concert (or for others to relive those precious moments), but now it brings Beatles fans of all generations together to live out the longed-for event of them stepping out onstage to play together again.
But not before some good old nostalgia. Beginning at the Royal Variety performance of 1963, the band go through their history at a rapid pace; early hit She Loves You kicks off proceedings, before you’re invited to clap along or “rattle your jewellery”, depending on where you’re sat. Next it’s off to Shea Stadium for one of the band’s craziest gigs – and one of their most famous. We then move into the psychedelia of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Magical Mystery Tour EP, before closing act one in their rock & roll roots of Abbey Road. Act two is all reunion, seeing each member get their moment in the spotlight (by 1980 they’ve all had considerable solo success), as well as a look back at moments from their time together that haven’t been touched previously. And, of course, the obligatory encore to really finish things off.
Whilst it’s not a show that I’d see on an intensely regular basis, as there isn’t a huge amount of scope for switching things up from show to show, it is definitely one that I’ve missed over the past three years. The only thing I hadn’t missed was the insistence on trying to get people standing at random moments during the show – either get it in venues where patrons can stand the whole way through, or just save it for the end. Revamping the show is a canny move, but also a necessary one. There is a freshness to it that has definitely revitalised the whole thing – and would make a new stint on the West End most welcome. It’s not theatre per se, but if Thriller Live can occupy a space on Shaftesbury Avenue for years (despite taking pride in having no story whatsoever), then there’s definitely room for a blast from The Beatles for a few months. There’s a place for this kind of show as long as it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
As someone who saw the original show several times, the first half does feel a teeny a bit rushed – and I did desperately miss the Cavern Club section that kicked it off – but a brand new second half (with the exception of the encore) makes it all worth it. Starting with the gorgeous harmonies of Because, and including numbers such as My Sweet Lord, Band on the Run, It Don’t Come Easy, and (Just Like) Starting Over, it feels exactly like the reunion concert of your dreams. The lack of George Harrison songs in act one is redressed in fine form (a particular highlight being the White Album version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps), Macca’s Live and Let Die is bold & epic, and there’s an obligatory tear-jerker in the form of Lennon’s Imagine.
The line-up this time is unchanging from show to show, with the return of familiar faces Michael Gagliano (John), Emanuele Angeletti (Paul), John Brosnan (George) and Ben Cullingworth (Ringo). MD Michael Bramwell is also there in the background to ensure the songs sound like they should – and this makes the likes of the Sgt. Pepper era songs (originally intended to only be played back on a record player) playable in their entirety.
They look fairly like their counterparts, depending on the period & style of wig and/or facial hair, but what’s most important is the sound. Their vocals are uncannily like each Beatle (Angeletti’s little noises & asides make it seem like Macca is in the room with you), they have excellent musicianship (Brosnan’s guitar solos and Cullingworth’s drum fills are incredible), and they also have something of the band’s mannerisms & personalities coming through too (Gagliano has Lennon’s cocky & rebellious streak down to a tee). Each company member is great value and really bring this show to swinging sixties life.
My verdict? A fab way to experience the Fab Four, and without a doubt the reunion concert of your dreams – it’s about time for it to Get Back to the West End…
Let It Be ran at the Orchard Theatre from 15-20 October 2018. Full details of the tour can be found on the official website.