The performance of ‘Let it Be’ at the Royal Opera House was a joyful celebration of The Beatles. The production was light-hearted and entertaining but arguably lacked much theatrical depth. The performance, which included over 40 Beatles songs, including ones from the members’ solo careers, was essentially a glorified tribute band accompanied by lavish sets and incredible costumes.
Each set in the first act represented a different venue in The Beatles’ journey such as the Royal Variety Show and the Shea Stadium in the USA. This was accompanied by retro television screens showing documentary-style clips between scene changes. These offered an interesting insight into the socio-political context of the times. My personal favourite was the footage of the crowd at Shea Stadium which highlighted the pure unadulterated power of teenage fangirls.
Perhaps there was an over-reliance on these video clips as they frequently played over a black stage. This led to an awkward moment where half the audience left the theatre during one of these scene changes, as they thought it was the interval. The costume design was highly commendable – each costume mapped out The Beatles’ journey, from the matching black suits to the iconic Sergeant Pepper outfits.
There is nothing to criticise about the actors’ musical ability. The four performers, Emanuele Angeletti, Michael Gagliano, John Brosnan, and Ben Cullingworth played each song to perfection with every note matching The Beatles’ original recordings.
However, their lack of stage presence made it abundantly clear we were not watching the original band or even a convincing impersonation. In the first act, the four men lacked energy, rarely even moving away from their microphones and therefore appeared dwarfed by the large stage and impressive set designs. What little dialogue there was between the songs felt awkward and forced.
This was apart from Gagliano’s shout of the famous Lennon quote “For those of you in the cheap seats I’d like ya’ to clap your hands to this one, the rest of you can just rattle your jewellery!”, receiving a rousing cheer of recognition from the audience.
The second act was a great improvement — it was an imaginary reunion gig for John Lennon’s birthday. Without the distraction of several scene changes, the performers were able to relax. They began to improvise and interact with each other with the charming boyish charisma quintessential of The Beatles.
Angeletti (as Paul McCartney) was a star performer, his solo performances of both ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Blackbird’ were definite highlights of the show. Gagliano performed a convincing Lennon caricature, however I would’ve enjoyed a more in-depth, detailed characterisation from him as well as Brosnan (George Harrison) and Cullingworth (Ringo Star).
This production was highly enjoyable. Did I feel I was at a Beatles concert? No. However, the music spoke for itself and ‘Let It Be’ was ultimately a fantastic tribute to The Beatle’s legacy and I’m sure the all singing all dancing audience at The Opera House would agree.