Let It Be (Theatre Royal, Brighton)

Let It Be (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, July 23rd)

The Fab Four and their fantastic, unforgettable music, is given fresh life in Let It Be, a classy celebration of The Beatles that picks up their career highlights.

The show has been packing in the crowds in the West End on and off for four years and it’s really no surprise: more than 40 songs are covered by a strong tribute band from the early days in the dingy Cavern Club, to the films, the Royal Variety Performance, the conquering of America, flower power, and the thoughtfully creative and often adventurous latter years.

Audiences expecting an in-depth study of Beatlemania or the true story of John, Paul, George and Ringo’s rise and fall during the Sixties need to go elsewhere – this is a loud and lively crowd-pleasing concert, featuring many of the group’s biggest hit singles (and some album tracks) and performed very well indeed, never pretending to be anything deeper. More than that is unnecessary anyway, when you can let the great music speak for itself.

Creative supervisor Keith Strachan doesn’t just take the songs and hurl them at the receptive crowd. Instead, there are plenty of changes of costume to represent the passing of the years and fashions, set pieces give an idea of just what a reunion concert might have been like, while large TV screens display scenes from live shows, news headlines from the decade, famous people and places, hilarious adverts, and imaginative videos reflect the spirit of the music.

Musical director John Maher avoids absolute carbon copies of even the most familiar songs, which means the musicians have the chance to show off their own real talents and abilities. This is no cruise ship production either, so we are spared needless dancers and backing singers.

The first half captures the raw energy of the live performances and those early hits come thick and fast, including She Loves You, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, A Hard Day’s Night, and Day Tripper, ending with a triumphant selection from the Sgt Pepper album. The second half imagines what those great studio years post-1966 might have sounded like in concert, from Magical Mystery Tour to Abbey Road.

The performers vary in resemblance to the originals, both in looks and vocally, but all are talented musicians who work tirelessly throughout. Emanuele Angeletti’s Paul McCartney is possibly the closest match, largely through some well-observed mannerisms, and he more than does justice to Yesterday, Blackbird and Let It Be.

Paul Canning never quite has the wicked glint in his eye as John Lennon to suggest the band’s cheeky joker or revolutionary spirit, but he comes into his own with haunting performances of A Day in the Life, In My Life, and Come Together.

There are also opportunities for the others to have their moment in the spotlight in such numbers as Yellow Submarine, Here Comes the Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

The cast and set lists may change during the tour, but the unmistakable sound and influence of the Liverpool legends makes for a nostalgic evening of great music, strong performances, and the definitive soundtrack to an era that can be appreciated whether you lived through it or not.

David Guest   

Picture: David Munn