Theatre Review: Let It Be, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: Down South Liverpool

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Musical
Genre: Musical
Date: September 3 2018
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Having previously performed to the Royal Court three years ago (you can read that review by clicking here), and having gone to many venues both in and out of the UK, Let It Be returns to the home of The Beatles, Liverpool, with its current run at the Empire Theatre.

As with the previous incarnation, the first half charts their rising fame and memorable performances, such as the Royal Variety Show and a famous gig at Shea Stadium (though their early days at the Cavern aren’t covered this time, interestingly), before the second half gives us solo hits from the Fab Four as well as a couple of the group’s most memorable tunes to end the night. There are several costume changes, from the no-frills suits and moptop hairstyles to the colourful outfits from the Sgt. Pepper album.

In between, we get the vast majority of The Beatles’ greatest hits. Amongst the tunes covered are I Saw Her Standing There, She Loves You, Yesterday, Help, With A Little Help From My Friends, Help, Day Tripper, Come Together and many more. In the second half, we get the likes of Band On The Run, My Sweet Lord, Imagine and Live And Let Die. Rounding the night off are Jet, Let It Be (of course) and (what else?) Hey Jude. We don’t get the entirety of the band’s back catalogue, but we certainly get the biggest hits from the Liverpool lads.

At the side of the stage are large old-school TV monitor screens showing highlights from the 1960s, from humorous TV adverts of the day (one showing a newly-wed couple smoking at the altar) to footage of iconic moments, an example being England’s World Cup win in 1966. In the first half particularly, these were used as a transition during costume changes, which may have been too effective with a large number of attendees believing that we had reached intermission, only to be directed back to their seats for more music. I liked the lighting and settings, which brought us into such environments as Shea Stadium, though the background screen looked like it could do with a refresh given the wrinkles that were visible at times!

From the 2015 cast, Emanuele Angeletti and John Brosnan return as Paul McCartney and George Harrison respectively, but this time, we have Ben Cullingworth as Ringo Starr and Michael Gagliano as John Lennon. Of the central characters, Lennon and McCartney received the most stage time, and were responsible for talking to the audience between songs, and were rather convincing in their roles, though Ben and Michael also performed very well, if a little hidden at times.

I definitely enjoyed Let It Be, though I preferred the previous production in 2015. I’m not sure of the exact reason why, whether it was because I had seen it before or because The Beatles are so familiar to Liverpool audiences, but it definitely felt like there was something missing, that intangible which elevates the show to must-see territory. The production as a whole was very strong, and everyone performed to a high standard, but I just felt there was something not quite right, though it’s hard to identify what it was. Other slight issues were the show over-running by around a quarter of an hour, highlighted by the first half being wrapped up inside an hour, and limited audience interaction outside of attendees being invited to sing and clap along on occasion.

Nevertheless, I still had a fun time watching Let It Be, and any fans of The Beatles will greatly appreciate this too. We’re decades on from their peak, and yet their music is as popular as ever, with McCartney in particular still being a source of much attention whenever he visits the city, as he did recently. If you’re a Beatles supporter and you didn’t catch Let It Be three years ago, I would definitely recommend you checking it out this time.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good