There’s a line in the movie Sliding Doors: “Everybody’s born knowing all the Beatles lyrics instinctively. They’re passed into the foetus subconsciously along with all the amniotic stuff. Fact, they should be called The Foetals.”
Well. I don’t know about all the amniotic stuff, but after watching Let It Be at the Orchard Theatre last night, it’s pretty clear that the good people of Dartford not only know all the Beatles lyrics, with a little bit of encouragement they’re also more than willing to joyfully belt them out.
Let It Be is essentially the ultimate Beatles tribute show; fresh out of the West End, it crams in over 40 classic hits spanning the Fab Four’s career. Unlike other musicals based on pop bands, like Sunny Afternoon or Jersey Boys, the show is not so much a retelling of the Beatles story as a massive celebration of their music. Basically it’s what I imagine a Beatles reunion gig would be like, if such a thing were possible – complete with friendly banter between the band members and plenty of chat to the crowd (including John Lennon’s infamous “rattle your jewellery” quote from the 1963 Royal Variety Performance).
The cast is made up of Emanuele Angeletti, Paul Canning, Paul Mannion and Stuart Wilkinson, along with Michael Bramwell, who lurks at the back of the stage playing all the additional instruments on the later hits. Each performer is a talented musician and singer, with the additional challenge of reproducing the individual mannerisms and style of the band members. I’ll leave it to the generation who remember the originals to judge their success on that score, but they looked pretty good to me.
Let It Be is more than just a tribute to the Beatles, though; it’s a celebration of a whole glorious era in British history – so each time the cast leave the stage, we’re treated to news footage, TV commercials and a compilation of other music from the intervening years. And with each costume and hairdo change, we’re reminded once again what an iconic part of our history the Beatles are.
With the concert vibe comes a much more relaxed atmosphere than we’re generally used to in the theatre; taking photos and videos is encouraged, as is the use of social media throughout the evening, and getting up for a dance every now and again is almost compulsory – not that I noticed anyone complaining about that. And of course the show ends in a big singalong (I won’t ruin it by telling you which song, although you may be able to hazard a guess).
Let It Be is big, fun, loud, and makes you feel proud to be British – which, let’s be honest, is something we all need right now. With a cast who look and sound the part, and a soundtrack of classic hits, it’s no surprise the show has become a global sensation. And it’s a great opportunity to test that Foetals theory; I certainly saw nothing to disprove it last night.
Let It Be is at the Orchard Theatre until 2nd July 2016.