Part of my birthday gift this year was getting to see the Beatles show, Let It Be, at the Savoy Theater in London. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve listened to the Beatles – a musical love passed on to me via my father. In fact, whenever CDs came out (yeah, I’m old), two of the first ones I ever owned were Help! and A Hard Day’s Night. I’d learned every word to every song on those two albums by the time I was in middle school. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to pick a song out of the 224 Beatles’ songs I have stored on my computer that I couldn’t sing for you word for word, if not maybe a little out of tune. All of that to say, I was one excited girl when I found out I’d be getting to see this show!
This was my first time inside the Savoy Theatre, and I was pleasantly surprised by its small size. I much prefer smaller, more intimate venues for both plays and concerts. The Savoy offers three levels of seating – the lower stalls section that is level with the stage, the dress circle above the stalls, and then the upper circle at the top. From what I can tell, there are seats on every level that offer a good view of the stage, as long as the overhang from above is not blocking your view. We sat towards the back of the stalls level in the middle, and while there was an overhang, it never obstructed our view of any part of the show. In fact, because we were towards the back, no one sat in front of us, so we had a clear view with no heads bobbing in our line of sight.
As a fan, I tried to keep my expectations neutral going into this show. Save for hopping in a time machine back to 1965, I don’t expect to ever get to see the real Beatles live in concert, and I didn’t have any delusions that going to see Let It Be would make up for that, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the experience they were able to recreate. And all of that credit goes to the amazing performers playing John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I can’t even imagine the amount of work they’ve put in to look, play, sound, and act like the Beatles, but it has paid off in spades. Down to each of their unique mannerisms, these guys have got their predecessors down pat and it really makes the show. Their ability to stay in character made the entire experience believable instead of kitschy.
Let It Be is not a traditional musical. There is no plot interrupted every few minutes by a musical number. (Although I would have enjoyed seeing something like that as well.) It’s a performance concert of the Beatles’ most famous songs, arranged chronologically by period beginning with the Beatles’ pop-sound beginnings in Liverpool, and then ending with an encore performance of Let It Be and Hey Jude. It’s a treat to watch not only the sets change through every period, but also the Beatles themselves. Between each set, the actors undergo a transformation keeping their appearance true to history. No one did this better than the actor playing George Harrison. There were times I had to remind myself that he was an actor, and not the real George Harrison.
Throughout much of the show, there were antique-style television screens on each side of the stage playing footage from whichever time period the show was currently in. Everything from actual concert footage to the big events of the 60’s (the moon landing, Vietnam war, etc) was played on these screens. This was a really nice touch, particularly for those of us who weren’t around yet in the 60’s.
Choosing a favorite part of Let It Be would have been difficult had they not played my all-time favorite, Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown). With John’s vocals and George playing the sitar, one of my favorite instruments, the song gives me goosebumps every time. Given that it isn’t quite as mainstream as some of their other hits, I never expected to hear it at the show, so the second I heard the first chord, tears sprang to my eyes. I am officially that fan that cries at a fake Beatles show.
Let It Be is about two and a half hours long, with a short intermission in the middle. The sets towards the end of the show just beg for audience participation, and the performers actually encourage it. Get out of your seat and dance, sing along – it’s all allowed.
I knew the end was near when they played Give Peace A Chance, which is actually a solo track by John Lennon recorded towards the end of his time with the Beatles. Luckily, the guys came back out one last time for an encore performance, obviously planned since this was when they covered Let It Be. There were a few major hits I would have liked to have heard and didn’t, but I wouldn’t have wanted the job of deciding which songs were worthy of the show and which weren’t either.
Curious if you should bring the kids along? Babies and toddlers might be best left with a sitter, but school age children will love the bright lights, colorful sets, and the ability to get out of their seats and move to the music. Ear plugs are provided by the theater free of charge for young children who find the music too loud. Ticket prices are very reasonable, making it much easier to bring the whole family if you choose.
Overall, the show was a winner – perfect for Beatles fans, or anyone for that matter as long as they appreciate good music. To be able to see a Beatles tribute like this actually in the UK was pretty priceless for this American fan!