Last night I was dancing away with all the vigour and inhibition that must have resembled Animal from the Muppets, and was singing my heart out like I was the fifth member of the Beatles. The reason for this could only be Let it Be at The Garrick Theatre.
Writing this review I thought it would be rather a curious review as would I review Let It Be as a Concert or Musical Theatre? Surely the answer would be as a Concert but the lines were still slightly blurred, and this is actually in the show's favour, making it stand out from the crowd.
First of all I was introduced to the concept of being encouraged take photos and tweeting during a live theatre show, that was announced over the speaker before the show started. As much as I wanted to break the chains of tradition, I confess I was an absolute traditionalist and did not muster the courage to actually turn my iphone back on! This relaxed atmosphere though from even before Let It Be began was a real revelation and I had a premonition that I would be at my feet at some point..
The opening scene was set ,it was the early sixties in the legendary Cavern in Liverpool and a young rock ’n’ roll band The Beatles are performing early hits that included ‘I Saw You Standing There’ and ‘Won’t Be Long’. The excitement of being in the audience and witnessing the early stages of such an iconic career does take hold. The set design really captures an ‘underground’ venue for bands that the Cavern was back when The Beatles were up and coming. Straight away you are presented with the individual characteristics of each Beatle dressed in the black and white suits Paul (Peter John Jackson) George (Paul Mannion) John (Ryan Coath) and Ringo (Ben Cullingworth). Instantly I could see an uncanny resemblance of Paul in Jackson, not just in appearance, but in mannerisms and singing voice.
As Let It Be progressed to the next scene of The Royal Variety Show, I eased more and more in to the concert style performance, including She Loves You, which was just infectious I challenge anyone not to sing along. Playing at The Royal Variety Performance demonstrates just how popular The Beatles were becoming in the UK with the hits just rolling out. I was definitely doing the twist during 'Twist and Shout'!
‘..Next for the fab four? Conquer America of course!’ was announced over the speaker and on large 60’s style TV’s at the top corner of the stage was real footage of the hysteria that The Beatles caused in the US. These simple but effective touches highlighted The Beatles were taking the Shea Stadium and America by storm.
The evolution of The Beatles to experimenting with different genres and musical cultures was introduced just before the interval and continued throughout Act 2 with good examples being 'Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club' and 'Eleanor Rigby' being performed by the band. The lighting designer Humphrey Mcdermott brought the psychedelic phase of the sixties in to the audiences view during ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, complete with horses and objects floating around the stage.
The very competent musicianship and versatility has to be commended, as well as being great instrumentalists in particular Jackson and Coath as Paul and John showed at times very tender vocals during Let It Be. Having all cast members be on stage a large percentage of the time, has the same demands as an arena tour and they certainly kept the audiences energy up throughout, with the clapping and singing action that radiated through the theatre.
Overall I have been swept along in to the tornado that is Beatlemania with Let It Be. The audiences invitation to sing, dance, tweet (and shout) from the outset was incredibly effective. This concert style would be interesting to see again although I can’t imagine there being a band that this formula would work so well with as it has The Beatles. Although perhaps a little more dialogue to get a feel for a rapport between the members of the Beatles would have been the icing on the cake, but the endless incredible music that was produced by the stellar cast of musicians made Let It Be one of the most uplifting productions in the West End right now.
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