The West End is in no way short on jukebox musicals, but Let It Be, the new "theatrical concert" at the Prince of Wales Theatre, timed to coincide with the Beatles 50th anniversary celebrations, more closely resembles a good tribute act than a real musical. And if you're a fan of the Fab Four, as so many people clearly are, that may well be enough of a reason to go.
The show runs through the band's best-known songs from their early hits to the later psychedelic experiments. And that's all it does. There is very little in the way of content; indeed, there's no dialogue except for some amiable between-song banter, and certainly no attempt at all to tell the story of the Beatles in any way beyond charting their musical trajectory.
Luckily, the band members are all skilled musicians, and in the case of bass guitarist Emanuele Angeletti – cast as "Paul" – they look the part too. The foursome, which includes Phil Martin on drums as ‘Ringo", Reuven Gershon as "John", and Stephen Hill as "George", do a good job of recreating the group's songs and replicating their signature vocals. (The full company consists of ten performers, who will share roles from night to night).
The set is flanked on both sides by enormous retro television screens on which footage of the band is intercut with comically literal video inserts – shots of girls with tangerine eyes, rocking horses, and the like, as well as some more inventive visuals, such as a spiraling tunnel of fret-boards. It's mostly costume changes that are used to mark the key phases in the band's career.
Meanwhile, actual footage from the Beatle's Shea Stadium concert of girls weeping, wailing and fainting, overcome with Beatle fever, provides a reminder of their cultural potency, but a similar Summer of Love sequence barely skims the surface, feeling like little more than a collage of 1960s clichés which have been thrown together.
The first quarter of the show offers a taut jaunt through the band's early work, but the production wavers a little when dealing with some of the group's later material. There are several calls to get the audience on their feet, only to have them sit down soon after, and the momentum is never maintained for longer than a single song. The encore is also curiously fudged, and the final rendition of "Hey Jude," while perhaps inevitable, feels too obvious – which is emblematic of much of Let It Be.
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