As the child of one of the Beatles biggest fans in the UK, I was dubious as to how ‘Let it Be’ was going to bring the Fab Four – John, Paul, George and Ringo – alive on the WMC stage and if it could live up to the music I had grown up with.
Seen by over one million people so far, ‘Let it Be’ is a ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ through All the ‘Yesterday[s]’ of Beatles music. I for one didn’t need to shout ‘Help’, ‘Because’ you could ‘Twist and Shout’ through all the best known (and some slightly less well known – though arguably with the music of the Beatles, that is not possible) music and leave the show saying ‘I Feel Fine’.
I’ll stop with the puns now… well I’ll try!
The first act features four distinct eras of Beatles music. Beginning in the early days featuring mop tops and collar-less suits of the Royal Variety Show, to the Shea Stadium concert, via Abbey Road, through the Sgt. Peppers period.
The transitions were eloquently handled through the use of four ‘television’ screens at the four corners of the proscenium. Before the show began (and at various points throughout) we were treated to period adverts, news stories and film clips which set the mood for each period which we were to visit. Mathieu St-Arnaud and Darren McCauley’s video design worked beautifully, particularly when it was integrated with the performance, such as during the Shea stadium section where film of the original audience was mixed with live video from the cast of the show.
The second half of the performance featured a special reunion concert, asking us to ‘Imagine’ (sorry I couldn’t ‘Help’ it!) what it would have been like had the group reformed for a spacial show on John Lennon’s 40th Birthday in 1980, featuring music from each of the band members respective solo careers and more music as a group.
The set is simple, with costume, lighting and video projection being the largest changes. That being said there are flower garlands strung around the stage for the Sgt. Pepper era, and a few police barriers when we are in Shea stadium (main image). These set elements somewhat let the show down as they appeared rather low budget, however the lighting and projection compensated for these minor defects.
The costume seemed remarkably accurate, down to the little details, including Paul’s lack of shoes during the Abbey Road era!
This is not a ‘musical’ in the strictest sense of the word. There is no ‘story’ apart from that of the music. It doesn’t aim to explain or explore the Beatles and in fact that of the strengths of the piece. It is clear from the get go, with the very minimal dialogue, that this is purely about the music, trying to get the sound as close to the iconic sound of John, Paul, George and Ringo as possible. Thankfully this they do with great finesse!
The cast give the impression of their character, though I doubt if you passed any of the members of the group in the street you’d think you’d seen a Beatle. The characterisations are there, though I did have to remind myself a few times that it didn’t matter that it wasn’t right that George seemed to tower of Paul throughout the show. It isn’t about that. They are creating the sound and the atmosphere of a Beatles concert.
The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy the evening’s entertainment, many of whom appeared to be long time fans of the group who could sing along in full (and remarkably tuneful) voice throughout the evening, relishing the opportunity to stand and ‘Twist and Shout’ whenever they were called upon to do so.
‘Let is Be’ is as close as you are going to get to seeing the Beatles live in 2018. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, the sound of the band was very nearly 100%, the passion with which they played, the musical ability of the band and the vocals of every member were as close as you are going to get to the real thing.
If you are a fan of the Beatles, or even have a passing interest, this is a show that you should see, I’m glad I did, so I don’t regret it ‘When I’m 64’ (sorry had to slip in one last one)!!
Wales Millennium Centre until August 25