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    LIVERPOOL EMPIRE THEATRE, MONDAY 7TH APRIL 2014

     

    It seems that no matter where you are in the world, the Beatles name evokes fond memories for audiences across the generations. I myself am no different. Paul McCartney has written many of my favourite songs (‘Pipes of Peace’ and ‘Jet’ to name a few), whilst John Lennon was the topic of my school project about a local hero. Plus I even have a friend called Jude - no guesses as to what I sing to her. Having tasted a preview of the spectacular Beatles musical ‘Let it Be’ back at the Cavern in March, I was certain that the entire production would please please me…


    Needless to say it did.


    Taking you on a journey through the Beatles musical career from The Cavern to Abbey Road, ‘Let it Be’ is non-stop, colourful and enormous fun. Featuring magical moments including their infamous ‘Clap your hands and rattle your jewellery’ Royal Variety performance, it’s no surprise that the show has been dazzling audiences across the world.


    Of course one of the first sights you’re drawn to from the moment the curtain lifts is the sensational cast. Each performance features 5 members of the company, alternating between the roles of John, Paul, George, Ringo and an exceptional ‘5th Beatle’ backing musician. Monday’s audience were treated to the talents of Emanuele Angeletti (Paul), Ben Cullingworth (Ringo), Michael Gagliano (John), Paul Mannion (George) & Michael Bramwell, who if anything were so perfect, you felt as if you were back in the 1960’s watching the actual Beatles perform. For those who didn't get to see the Beatles the first time around, this is your chance to witness a performance as equally phenomenal.


    Each member’s musical prowess on stage was evident from the chiming of the first chords, at which point I was already lost in musical bliss. Originally featuring Eric Clapton on ‘While my guitar gently weeps’, Mannion’s solo was an equally superb match for the legendary guitarist and it was lovely to see each Beatle have their moment to shine. Ben Cullingworth’s Ringo was a bundle of energy on stage, fusing high-octane drum beats with (when he wasn’t playing) memorable comedy moments. Watch out for some amusing flag waving - it gets pretty hilarious!

     


    At the forefront alongside Mannion’s George were Gagliano and Angeletti as the terrific John & Paul. It was obvious how much they must have studied footage of the duo to get their accents and physicality so right. Every inflection of the voice, shaking of the head and the way they played the guitar and bass was brilliantly rehearsed and performed, with Gagliano’s nasal tones and drawn out word-ends recreating that signature and unmistakable Lennon voice. He captured that cheeky Lennon humour through interactions with the audience about age - “Some of you are definitely lying”, whilst songs like ‘Revolution’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’ allowed his mesmerising voice to shine - Perfectly pitched and a fitting tribute to a well-loved and sadly departed musical genius.


    Then there’s Angeletti’s Paul. There is only one word fitting to describe his performance - magnificent. When the lights dimmed and he took to the stage to sing ‘Yesterday’, I was overwhelmed with how beautifully it was sung. A phenomenal pianist and an exceptional performer, the bass lines on ‘Come together’ were played with all the groove of the original record. Every moment was simply captivating, particularly the titular ‘Let it Be’, which Angeletti led the crowd into with gusto and invigorating emotion. Plus those trademark McCartney head shakes and high-pitched ‘Oos’ further served to add that extra bit of magic to the character; these noticeable characteristics memorable in many a Beatles performance.


    Together these four, with a little help from their friend Michael Bramwell who provided brilliant instrumentation for the latter half of the first act and the second, had the entire auditorium in rapturous applause. Through every smile you could see how how much they love performing these classic numbers. Their harmonies and charisma could have filled an entire arena, let alone the Liverpool Empire, which was particularly evident in their recreation of the Shea Stadium show. Urging the audience to get up onto their feet, you couldn’t help but dance to the infectious sounds of ‘Twist and shout’. Every song was greeted with screams of excitement from the audience (some from me I will admit), and there were even shouts of “We love you!” from the upper circle. Beatlemania was truly recreated.

     


    Of course the Beatles were not only musical visionaries but also visually creative. Their albums covers, most notably Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, are some of the most recognisable in the world and this attention to detail was another amazing addition to ‘Let it Be’. The backstage team behind the production should be commended on their stunning visual and lighting designs, with dreamy technicolour patterns gracing screens during numbers such as ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’. The change in light and colour from the dark black and white of the Cavern, to the bright lights of Shea Stadium and the aforementioned psychedelia took the audience on a journey through the decade that not only the Beatles lived through, but also in some part shaped their sound. Videos of classic adverts (‘Fairy liquid’ and the must have shoes of the time) were a quirky addition, with footage showing the context of an era that had a massive impact on popular music.


    With video, sound and light interspersed with musical segments, all worked together to create a multi-media experience that needed no plot, as the audience could take from it their own perceptions of what they remember from the time and their own memories of the music. From ‘All my loving’, ‘A Hard day’s night’ and ‘I saw her standing there’ to ‘When I’m 64’, ‘In my life’ and ‘The End’, the segments span an entire story that needs no introduction. That’s the beauty of ‘Let it be’ - it is there for you to interpret and not as a definitive story. It’s simply a fantastic celebration of a band whose music touched so many around the world, and the cast and company should be congratulated for their breathtaking interpretation.


    It may seem that all I have spoken about is how wonderful ‘Let it be’ is, but wonder quite simply is the feeling that you get from the show and a feeling that will stay with you long after it has finished. Each half of the cast is made up of exceptional performers who not only play the Beatles...they become the Beatles. If you have the chance to see any production this year, make it this one.  You will quite certainly be screaming for more...

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      Sarah's posts By Sarah O' Hara
      @TheLowdownMag


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