Let It Be

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Direct from London’s West End Let It Be, has been on a magical mystery tour across the UK for quite some time now, the final stop off is the Manchester Opera House.

Chronicling The Beatles meteoric rise from their humble beginnings at Liverpool’s now world-famous Cavern Club through to global superstardom. We taken on a journey through a 40 song back catalogue of some John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s finest works including legendary sets from The Royal Varity Show, Shea Stadium and the Apple roof top gig.

Opening rather cheekily with four analogue television sets placed in the corners of the stage: they’re playing adverts and songs from the era. ‘The Fab Four’ arrive on stage and immediately launch into She Loves You, followed by I Wanna’ Hold Your Hand, which immediately has the crowd singing along. As demonstrated in the Shea Stadium section The Beatles famously quit touring because they couldn’t hear themselves play, based on the audience reaction tonight I can see why: most the tunes played tonight had the audience belting them out as if they on stage with the band: the more up-tempo numbers seeing them dancing in the aisles.

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The cast are on great form: Emanuele Angeletti (Paul McCartney) John Brosnan, (George Harrison) Ben Cullingworth (Ringo Starr) and Michael Gagliano (John Lennon) do a fine job in brining the boys to life. Some would argue that this would be one of the easiest gigs on the planet but if you get it wrong I’m sure you’d know about It! Luckily these talented performers manage to not only bring the music to life but also show the personalities within the band off as well. From George Harrison’s shyness, Ringo’s playfulness, to Lennon’s over-the-top show man (which can be a little grating at times,) there are subtle character traits throughout, at one point Angeletti performs minus his shoes!

One minor quibble are the accents: they are a bit all over the place and can be a little distracting, but you cannot fault them on the vocals and musicianship. The Beatles had George Martin as their 5th member and the cast of ‘Let It Be’ are no different with musical director Daniel Weiss joining them on keyboards.

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Those expecting a slice of musical theatre or a musical jukebox show may need to temper their expectation: this show is a concert only with plenty of theatrical elements including some great authentic costumes, and high-end production values.

The second half poses a what if question: that being what if the band reformed to play live on John Lennon’s birthday. We are treated to more Beatles hits as well as few from their solo offerings which included: My Sweet Lord, a haunting version of Imagine and a full throttle rendition of Live and Let Die. For me I loved this bold attempt to freshen up the act, whilst some audience members weren’t as keen, maybe it was a lack of familiarity with the material. The show soon gets back on familiar territory with a blistering encore of Back in the USSR, Let It Be, and Hey Jude, which had everyone on their feet and rattling their jewellery.

Overall this was a great show what it lacks in emotional depth it makes up for in sheer entertainment. Let It Be will have you singing and toe-tapping away all night long.

Let It Be is on at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday 27th October tickets available here.

Lennon’s Banjo

Lennon's Banjo cast in costume - credit Dave Jones

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Lennon’s Banjo aims to shed some light on one of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll mysteries of all time, where on earth is the Holy Grail of pop memorabilia which John Lennon learnt his trade on that’s been missing since 1958?

The whereabouts of the mother of pearl backed banjo have never been revealed but one thing is certain, whoever discovers this missing musical treasure which without we may never have heard the Beatles would guarantee themselves instant fortune.

Writer Rob Fennah aims to shed some light on this missing part of Beatles history in his new comedy play, aptly titled, Lennon’s Banjo. The story follows Beatles tour guide Barry, a fab four fanatic who delights in sharing his knowledge to anyone who will listen but especially tourists who roll up for his magical mystery tour. One day he stumbles upon an unopened letter sent from John Lennon to Stuart Sutcliffe detailing where the missing banjo is stashed. Ever the artist the language in John’s letter is flowery and littered with jabberwocky style riddles which will need deciphering before the precious pop memorabilia can be located. Unfortunately for Barry he’s overheard discussing the letter by a double crossing, dodgy dealing Texan who fancies finding the infamous banjo for himself. Cue comedy capers galore as the race to discover the whereabouts of Lennon’s priceless relic begins.

Eric Potts heads up a strong cast at the loveable Barry, happy in his Beatles bubble he is trusting in nature which could very easily become his undoing. Potts is a superb comedy actor, he excels in the role and portrays Barry with such heart you find yourself willing him to succeed from the off.

Mark Moraghan and Jake Abraham as Joe and Steve, Barry’s begrudging buddies and local Beatles memorabilia shop owners add depth to the piece as they team up with hapless Barry in the race to find the musical treasure. There’s mickey taking a plenty and despite their apparent irritation with Barry and his endless Beatles facts the genuine affection for their pal shines through. The scenes between the three being a real highlight of the show as the banter and the put downs flow they are likeable, relatable and enormously entertaining.

Villains of the piece Travis and Cheryl portrayed brilliantly by Danny O’Brien and Stephanie Dooley add another layer to the story as their desperate and debt driven search for the illusive banjo becomes increasingly complex while the consequences of not delivering it get higher. The two have great chemistry and despite attempting to double cross an unwitting Barry are enormously likeable.

The strong cast deliver Rob Fennah’s witty script to perfection in this laugh out loud production, with wonderfully clear storytelling littered with humorous local references. Lennon’s Banjo is a fun and fast paced comedy romp. With bucket loads of scouse charm, enough Beatles facts to keep you entertained for days and appearances from Pete Best in certain performances Lennon’s Banjo will leave you grinning from ear to ear while considering lessons in jabberwocky.

On at the Epstein Theatre until Saturday 5th May tickets available here.