Let It Be
- Lorna Irvine
- 22 May 2014
The Beatles jukebox musical is a perfunctory jaunt into the history of the Fab Four
While the dominance of jukebox musicals shows no sign of abating, Let It Be falls into the category of a show created for the people who would enjoy Mamma Mia but wish that it had less plot. It is more a history of the Beatles, told chronologically in clusters of faux-gigs from the Cavern Club to Abbey Road, and it makes for a rather surreal experience.
The facsimile version of the Mop Tops is augmented by two large TV screens at either side of the stage, acting as providers of context in lieu of any kind of narrative, displaying the Americanisation of British pop culture, commercialism and anti-Vietnam war protests. Advertisements display a troubling attitude to women in the pre-feminist era of the early 60s, and have been specially selected as such.
There can be no denying the band perform with energy, if not passion. Paul (James Fox) has a cheeky charm and sings ‘Blackbird’ with real soul, but John, played by Michael Gagliano, is the only authentic-looking Beatle, both in terms of mannerisms (making monkey faces behind Paul, snarkily chewing gum during the latter material) and vocals. The kaleidoscopic and psychedelic animation by Duncan McLean is generally of a high standard, even if it does wander into Neil Innes/Eric Idle's Rutles territory on occasion but the poignant lyrics of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ are diluted by explosions of vibrant colour and the bubbling, trippy design for ‘When I'm Sixty Four’ is sharply incongruous.
Crowd-pleasing numbers are peppered throughout, with more obscure songs naturally eschewed for the big hits. The air at a Beatles ‘gig’ may be thick with the smell of chocolate these days rather than grass, but this perfunctory jaunt into the long and winding road needs more interesting detours.
Edinburgh Playhouse, Mon 2–Sat 7 Jun. Reviewed at King’s Theatre, Glasgow.