Let it be…said that this reviewer does stray out of their comfort zone occasionally. Children murdered by the mother? Check. Libertarian ethics of avatar paedophilia? Check. An absurdist Bolivian redux of Hamlet? Check. An evening at the Garrick Theatre spent listening to faithful renditions of songs by the most influential band of all time? Well, there is a first time for everything.
Many people hate on jukebox musicals but this reviewer does have time for the concept; Buddy, Mamma Mia and Our House all prove that given care and attention, and a back catalogue that can sustain a two hour plundering, it doesn’t have to be an excruciatingly painful evening. Indeed in my opinion the general terribleness of We Will Rock You says more about the quality of Queen’s songbook than it does about the show itself – and in fact listening to 120 minutes of overblown bombast is more than enough for most people.
Well, no-one is going to claim that The Beatles don’t have the quality to cover the running time of a tribute concert. Indeed quite a fun little game to play on the tube ride home is to come up with a playlist that is just as strong as the one they left in – Oh Darling, I Want You, Nowhere Man, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, She’s Leaving Home, Dear Prudence & Helter Skelter are just some I would have tried to slot in somewhere.
Perhaps it is already a well-known fact but Let It Be is not a musical in any meaningful sense of the word. This is a full blown ‘evening with The Beatles’ affair (except, rather excruciatingly and presumably for copyright reasons, they seem to be called ‘Let It Be’ which does dull some of the mystique).
There is no semblance of plot excepting an intermittent narrator guiding the audience through the years and ticking off all the big non-controversial Beatles milestones. Invading America? Yes. Bigger than Jesus? No. Hippies? Yes. Any overt references to mind-splitting amounts of acid? No. Gently mocking Ringo? Yes. Any mention of Yoko Ono? No.
Really though none of this matters. The producers have drilled to the core of what people want. And that is for those who never got to hear The Beatles the first time round, it is a chance to hear entirely competent covers of classic songs. And that is what you get – a relentless tidal wave of hit-after-hit performed with verve and energy. The music is so good that you cannot help but tap your toes, clap along and join the gustily sung, surprisingly tuneful audience-led rendition of Yesterday.
There are moments when all you can do is wince but luckily this is usually when they are talking and not singing. The accents of the cast seem to be going on their own regional tour, and rarely end up very close to Liverpool. It is also hard not to become transfixed by John’s hair when still in mop-top mode; it looked so lacquered it gave an impression that was not dissimilar to a limited edition Lego John Lennon. And the less said about their attempt on A Day In The Life the better, suffice to say that my criticism would have been harsher had it not been announced that Miley Cyrus will also be taking on the challenge and I should probably leave my harshest barbs in reserve.
What I came away thinking was that if you are a person who looks at a poster of Let It Be and thinks that it sounds like a good way to spend an evening then I can pretty much guarantee you will enjoy yourself and have a great night out. If the whole concept sounds like your idea of torture then you are not going to see anything that is going to change your mind.
That may be a fence-sitting conclusion but frankly the West End is plenty big enough for everyone, and there are many worse propositions out there than listening to Beatles song for a couple of hours.
Watch the trailer:
I must thank the good people at Official Theatre for the tickets. Even without this shameless plug, please do check out their website to find out what is going on across the West End; it has links to tickets, venue contact details and bits ‘n bobs about all the theatres – the sort of thing I would do if I wasn’t so damn lazy. (www.officialtheatre.com)