Tuesday 1 October 2013

Let It Be

Savoy Theatre, London


Music and lyrics by The Beatles
Directed by John Maher

One year on, Let It Be played to a packed house as it celebrated the anniversary of its arrival in the West End. It's a simply conceived show, presenting The Beatle's greatest hits, performed live and to an exceptional standard. Where other "juke-box musicals" have sought to frame a story around a catalog of classic numbers, pure fiction in Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You, history in Jersey Boys, Let It Be makes a bold move as a production by dropping all narrative whatsoever, it's simply songs.

The programme informs us the actors on stage are selected from a group of possible performers, but it's not until the final bow that we are told who's who on the night. This leads to a sterility of connection between audience and cast as the identities of the performers are withheld until the final bow. There is no spontaneity and the occasional asides from the on-stage Fab Four are scripted from actual utterances and delivered with pinpoint synchronicity that allows the (impressive) lights and techno to seamlessly flow together. It's every inch a packaged, manufactured show that is based upon a band that was anything but manufactured. If you are seeking a story of The Beatles you'll need to look elsewhere.

But as a technical piece of performance and stagecraft, this show is excellent. Four actor-musos with an additional keyboards wizard upstage, reproduce The Beatles' sound almost perfectly. No easy feat when one considers that the entire English speaking world has the band's songs in their DNA and judging by the Japanese contingent in the audience, grinning in delight through nearly all of the show, quite possibly the rest of the world too! The vocals and music are magnificent and whilst the programme shamefully doesn't credit a Wigs Designer someone somewhere has clearly done a fantastic job, with the boys looking fantastic as they age convincingly through the songs.

Opening with I Saw Her Standing There the authentic recreation of the band's sound is astonishing. Memorable on the night were James Fox's Paul McCartney on piano giving a surprisingly moving Yesterday, along with projected video backdrops for both A Day In The Life and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Let It Be is more juke-box than juke-box musical. You don't have to wait long between numbers as they are virtually incessant. The show is undoubtedly a quality offering, but it's little more than a well crafted trip down memory lane. For foreign visitors struggling with the English language, the show makes for a safe and rather lovely visit to the theatre. It's a nod to the 60s and a celebration of a national culture that's as emphatically English as Shakespeare. If you are after an onstage performance of a CD compilation album, then shows don't get much better than this.

Now booking into 2014 at the Savoy Theatre.

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