Eileen Caiger Gray reviews Let It Be at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre
From start to finish, Let It Be is, purely and simply, a glorious, elaborate celebration of the joyous aspects of the phenomenon that was (and is) The Beatles. It’s music, music all the way as more than forty songs come thick and fast, superbly delivered by outstanding performers, convincingly assuming the personas of the Fab Four as they impress and delight with top quality musicianship on vocals, guitars, drums and pianos.
It’s breathtaking at times that Reuven Gershon’s voice, stance and appearance as John Lennon are so uncannily right both when singing and speaking. Throughout, he presents the playful, frivolous, impish side of Lennon, ensuring the evening maintains a happy bounce. Luke Roberts as Ringo, his accent and singing over the top at times, perhaps, provides brilliantly energised drumming, complete with mop-haired head waggle, while Stephen Hill’s guitar work as George also impresses (though he doesn’t tackle a sitar – yet?) The fact that Emanuele Angeletti learnt to play the bass guitar left-handed specifically to become Paul McCartney is hard to believe since he does it so proficiently and so effortlessly.
With no enacted scenes, no multi-faceted characters or relationships develop, the four providing minimal dialogue and narration. Meticulous costume, hair and whisker changes take the smart suited lads into lurid, hippy flamboyancy, as added interest and atmosphere come via commentaries on black and white archive film footage, screened on stylised TVs. Snippets whisk us from screaming girls, Carnaby Street, Mary Quant, Twiggy to Ed Sullivan, San Franciscans with flowers in their hair and bombs in Viet Nam, and even into a bizarre TV ad praising Capstan cigarettes, a wedding day necessity, apparently, for all brides in white veils.
Elevating this production high above regular tribute shows, elaborate sets and lighting bring creative, psychedelic extravaganzas of colour, shape and movement, repeatedly attempting to blow our minds. From the simplicity of the Cavern Club and mighty Shea Stadium we travel on into a full-scale recreation of the Sergeant Pepper album cover to end up floating off to Strawberry Fields with Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.
Just as breathtaking, perhaps, is to witness in these two hours the astounding development of the Beatles’ music, in which the innocent joie de vivre of simpler compositions like She Loves You and Please, Please Me from Cavern Club days (their tempo sometimes a bit overly enthusiastic) moves into ever expanding diversity, depth, richness and uniqueness as the beauty and genius of one song give way to the next, the next and the next (some slightly abridged.)
This depth and richness was, of course, much enhanced by the so-called fifth Beatle, George Martin. For us, it’s Steve Geere whose musical skills are indispensable in creating an orchestra of sounds to add captivating layers of sophistication and ensure numbers are done full justice. Like the rest, big favourites such as A Day In The Life, Revolution, Come Together and While My Guitar Gently Weeps do not disappoint.
It’s a show that inspires immense admiration in Beatles fans both old and young as they get up to Twist and Shout and to Let It Be. For any who never experienced the excitement of a Beatles’ live performance, maybe this is the next best thing (- and without the non-stop hysterical screaming, too.) It’s an amazing tribute to an amazing band.
Eileen Caiger Gray