'Let It Be' returns to the West End on Feb 28 2015.
Some day, somebody will surely write an absolutely stonking Beatles musical, one that will turn the astonishing journey of the most successful band of all time into a mind-frazzling odyssey of fearless sonic exploration, Jacobean grade emotional strife and general '60s grooviness.
'Let It Be' is not that musical. In fact, it's not even really a musical: it's basically a posh tribute gig, masterminded by one Joey Curatolo, mainstay of long-running US Beatles revue 'Rain'. And it is what it is: four blokes wearing wigs, playing instruments and changing costumes while bashing out proficient covers of the Fab Four's greatest hits in roughly chronological order.
With the stage flanked by kitschy big screens displaying Beatles trivia and a first section slavishly adherent to the band's clean cut early TV appearances, it gets off to an overly nostalgic start: sexless, rinky-dink takes on 'She Loves You', 'Please Please Me' et al rattled out without any of the guts or élan of a real gig.
But the Beatles ceased to play live in their later, more productive years, and 'Let It Be' moves up a gear when it stops trying to recreate archive footage and starts imagining what might have been. The 'Sgt Pepper's' section offers a ravishing wall of psychedelic sound and impressive day-glo costumes, while a delightfully loose acoustic run through late classics 'Blackbird', 'The Two of Us' and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' benefits from the odd flubbed note – the sterility of the early sections is gone, and the four musicians playing together actually sound like a real band.
In fact there are two bands, which play on different nights. The one I saw had a ropey Ringo – Phil Martin's drumming was fine, but his rendition of 'With A Little Help from My Friends' was bizarrely dolorous – and a slightly grating George – John Brosnan's singing was tolerable, but his cock rock riffing was not.
But Ian B Garcia's Paul McCartney and Michael Gagliano's John Lennon have the distinct vocals of the Beatles' twin leaders pretty much nailed and sing the later material with great force and gusto.
I could really have done without the attempts at in-character banter ('If you love peace… you'll put your hands together for this one.'), but by the time inevitable closer 'Hey Jude' comes around, you'd pretty much have to be in the wrong show not to be enjoying yourself.
You won't learn anything about the Beatles from 'Let It Be', and the production feels on the cheap side for a show of its scale – brass and strings etc all come from a bloke on a very un-'60s synth. If ambition was The Beatles' defining trait, there isn't a huge amount here. But it's likeable, with a well-chosen set list. And if you didn't already know that the songs are astonishingly good then there are far worse introductions. Andrzej Lukowski