Edinburgh Playhouse – until 23 April 2016
If it’s an on-your-feet, singing all the words and leaving with joy in your heart kind of evening you expect from your Beatles jukebox musical, then Let It Be hits all the right notes.
This is no cringe worthy scrunching of the hits into a plot, either. Yet neither is it quite a Beatles tribute gig as it jumps from one portion in the Fab Four’s career to the next. Not that there is much time to stay on each one, even with nigh on 40 numbers over the two and half hours.
It opens with a crisp black and white section which covers their live years. Starting with a stint at the Cavern it nips into the Royal Variety performance via the set of A Hard Day’s Night before ending up in the 1965 gig at New York’s Shea Stadium.
If the opening few numbers noticeably lack the crisp glittering drive of their early recordings, best put that down to the sound design of the 21st century gig environment which can cope with a stronger bass line than anything the Beatles ever had in real life.
That lack of power behind the speakers, battling with the combined lungs of thousands of idolising teenage girls, is well captured in the final of the four segments. The Shea Stadium stage is dwarfed by a video backdrop showing rising tiers of seats, eventually reaching up into the sky above, which darkens as the segment progresses.
A set of Help, I Feel Fine, Day Tripper and I Wanna Hold Your Hand might not be exactly what was played but it gives an idea, aided by clips from the film of that gig. And it is at this point that the four musicians playing the Beatles begin to bring a bit of character into their performances.
Up until then it is all a bit flat – the songs work of course, but it lacks the glint of an extra element. Even John’s famous remark about people in the posh seats rattling their jewellery feels contrived.
At the Shea, however, there is the feeling that they realise the Beatles as characters are no longer in control. Of being dwarfed by the environment and the reception. It’s helped by clever use of perspective and the surrounding social documentary elements, adverts and so on, which are projected onto the side screens.
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Photo: David Munn Photography
Another costume and wig change, and the four are back with a glittering, psychedelic first half closer which delivers a solid handful of tracks off Sgt. Pepper’s.
With Michael Bramwell helping out on keyboards, they mostly manage to nail it, with the help of some nifty visuals and and lighting effects. The thrill and tingle of the title track is certainly correct, as is the reprise which goes straight into A Day in the Life. Less clever is the rather muddy sound.
The second half keeps up the psychedelic trip, kicking in with a high note and a few numbers from Magical Mystery Tour with the surrounding images remembering the summer of love.
The understanding of the way pace and structure make a musical work helps this production no end – and it soon slows down for an unplugged acoustic set.
Each of this night’s four get their time to shine – the production features a pool of nine performers who play in rep. This night’s Paul, John Brosnan, gives a sweet Blackbird from the White Album, Ian B Garcia’s George reposts with Here Comes the Sun only for Paul Canning’s John to top it with In My Life.
At this point the banter is allowed to flow more freely, with punning references about what was to happen later in their lives. So there’s no real surprise at the Fat Controller jokes when Luke Roberts steps out as Ringo, to give it laldy with Yellow Submarine.
As the numbers build up to the end, sliding from acoustic back into the electric world with While My Guitar Gently Weeps, this can’t help but get the audience up on their feet and singing along.
There’s still the nagging doubt in the back of the mind, if you know all the albums, that their crisp, studio delivery is lost and with it a layer of understanding to the lyrics. No room here for any air of melancholia.
What is gained, however, is the generous gift of witnessing the music from one of the greatest bands ever, played live and pretty much as it might have been had things been different.
Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA
Monday 18 – Saturday 23 April 2016
Daily: 7.30pm; Matinees Weds, Sat: 2.30pm.
Full details and tickets on the Playhouse website: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/let-it-be-2/edinburgh-playhouse/
Let It Be website: www.letitbelive.com
Let It Be on Twitter: @letitbeuktour
Let It Be on tour:
18 – 23 April
0844 871 3014
25 – 30 April
0844 338 5000
2 – 7 May
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
08448 717 627
9 – 14 May
1 – 4 June
6 – 11 June
The Marlowe Theatre
13 – 18 June
0844 871 3012
20 – 25 JUne
0844 871 3020
27 June – 2 July
Dartford Orchard Theatre
11 – 16 July
Leeds Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700
18 – 23 July
0844 871 7650
25 – 30 July