Woking audiences had a taste of Beatlemania last night as Let It Be, the musical charting the career of the Beatles through their songs opened at the New Victoria Theatre.
The songs, played to backdrops of famous venues, newsreels and increasingly more elaborate lighting effects and costumes started with the Cavern Club; the first couple of songs though excellently executed not representing the energy of a tiny club and live music venue and the excitement that must have been built up in its walls at the time when that’s where music was to be found – a million laboratories away from digital downloads and online streaming. However this is a minor point as the band demanded the audience get up and be a live music audience right from the start and the audience obliged – nice one Woking. As venues sizes grow and their careers, the playing to the gallery and wit renowned in their history comes out on the stage ‘those in the cheap seats clap your hands, those in the balcony rattle your jewellery’ ‘John’ exhorts and the catalogue unfolds of a body of work that blends musical expertise and experimenting with a variety of styles that had never been seen before.
That this is a live music event rather than a musical or story telling vehicle for the personalities makes it even more effective as a genuine tribute to a band that have influenced so many generations and musicians. Stripped away of the myths of the men involved, their lives and status leaves the music as the legacy, as it should be. All of the musicians playing on the stage are excellent in their own right and the vocals and harmonies spot on; that they seem to have been picked for their music expertise rather than similarity in looks is a plus point, they aren’t trying to be a tribute band, at one point someone shouted out to ‘John’ to be replied to ‘I’m not him you know’. Though they do the mannerisms very well too for those who look for that, it is more of the odd nod to it to refer to context than an acting role, in fact it is easily seen in bands that have been influenced by the Beatles that this has also been the case in latter years.
The fact that the songs are so well presented and sung shows that the producers and musicians are truly involved in trying to get the artistry across rather than a shallow showbiz patina on a body of work loved by so many.
The stage is set up as for a band with vintage TV sets either side showing the action on stage on them to get a feel for what most audiences saw back in the day. An interval of messages from the sponsors was a clever touch, a bride and groom sharing a romantic Capstan as they cut the cake, an aftershave that proports to kill women ( I think in those days it meant something else) and some fake suede shoes were the type of persuasive sales techniques back then as opposed to controlling your heating back home and yoghurt that has a party in your intestines today.
The lighting reflected the songs especially well in the era of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and Strawberry Fields Forever though on occasion the lights were slightly too bright for the stage as in I felt like a rabbit caught in them. The acoustic Yesterday, Blackbird and Here Comes the Sun were beautiful and at the end the title song Let It Be with the audience joining in, too. In fact the communication between stage and audience all through was responsive. Woking loved it.
It was a moving night of music, I was mindful of the fact a young excellent, originals band I know, The Sheratones were playing down the road, a band heavily influenced by The Beatles amongst others and hope that when their generation are singing songs like the audience last night ‘When I’m 64’ there will be a long legacy of bands that will be passing on new ideas just as those like The Beatles did. It would be a shame for the music that broke ground and added layers and richness to modern life to become the music piped through our shopping centres whilst the venues that gave bands like The Beatles their start fade into being just parts of cultural history that dies with a generation who had a great time while it lasted for them. Its no secret and my declared interest that we have no music venue here but any old chance to get that in somewhere and where better than a review of a band show about a working class band who had a circuit to work on, still. Nights like last night are a good thing if they remind us of that, it was evident from the audiences enjoyment how dear the songs and the band were and are to people. There’s many more than can become that too.
It’s a great, uplifting show, including so many of the well loved songs of The Beatles and yet still only able to scratch the surface of a vast catalogue. The cast, Emanuele Angeletti, Roberto Angeletti, Michael Bramwell, Paul Canning, Ian B Garcia, Reuven Gershon, Paul Mannion, Luke Roberts and Stuart Wilkinson are all excellent musicians and looking at their own catalogue of work, I will certainly be checking out their original projects too.
Let It Be is on at the New Victoria Theatre Woking until Saturday 26 March for tickets go to http://www.atgtickets.com/woking and bring people of every generation, they were there last night and having a great time.