No matter who you are, no matter where you came from, no matter what your lineage is, it is universally recognized that The Beatles were one of the bands that changed musical history as we know it. Hot on the heels of the dominance of Elvis, the Fab Four took America and the world by storm, paving the way for almost every band to come after them. Whether you are a superfan, a casual observer, or they are not your cup of tea, their influence can be traced to even the music of today to the point of their own celebratory Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas, “Love”. (By the way, I have seen it, and it is MIND BLOWING.) With more tribute bands than you can shake a stick at, there was a production called “Let it Be” that debuted in London in 2012, which would tour the world for about two years and now is in the Dallas/Fort Worth area through April 19th at Music Hall at Fair Park as part of the 2016-2017 season of Dallas Summer Musicals.
This appears to be a bit of a different version than its original incarnation of just a musical journey through the 8-year career of the boys from Liverpool. I can’t use the phrase “watered down,” because there is more of a second half story than its predecessors in that after the intermission, there is a “what if” scenario where The Beatles reunite for a concert on October 9th, 1980, which was also John Lennon’s 40th birthday and two months before his tragic death. This reunion show features songs from both their amazing careers as a group and also their solo material as well.
Even if you are a casual fan of The Beatles, there is truly something here for everyone. There is no real story here, but seeing hit after hit after hit rolling out through scenarios like their performances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the Shea Stadium concert, the “Sgt. Pepper” era, and all the way up to the final performance on the rooftop of the Apple Building, “Let it Be” winds up as a big concert of Springsteen-ian levels, with two one-hour “concerts” with a twenty-minute intermission. There are also two oversized old school “televisions” that accompany the performance with live feeds (attender beware here: there is about a one-half second delay from live to camera that can be distracting) as well as footage of both the audiences from the performances they represent and things going on in the world at the time, and even a commercial break.
The brilliance here for me is in the details. From beautifully crafted sets that replicate the times that even include the audio echo from Shea Stadium (as a side not here: if you have not read the book of “The Beatles Anthology,” do so. Their full story, told by the boys themselves, is FASCINATING) to a cast that constantly had me doing double takes made up of Neil Candelora as Paul, J.T. Curtis as George, Michael Gagliano as John, and Chris McBurney as Ringo along with Daniel A. Weiss providing everything in between, this is ALL top-notch. Candelora plays left-handed as well as going barefoot for the “Abby Road” era, Curtis’ guitar skills absolutely left me breathless, Gagliano shows the evolution of John’s comfort with an audience while still conveying his “have to” versus his “want to” being in the spotlight, and McBurney has Ringo down to a science to the point of even emulating Ringo’s unmistakable playing style. This is a tribute and a celebration in every sense of the word. The crowd we saw it with was clapping, standing, and singing along throughout the entire performance.
If you are looking for a quality night (or matinee) out that delivers on every penny spent on it, “Let it Be” is more than worth your time, money, and energy. And bring the kids so they too can be educated in the ways of the history that not only got us to where we are but will also be felt by our grandchildren’s grandchildren. Hey, there is a reason that “Yesterday” is the most covered song in the history of EVER and even groups like Boyz II Men (who covered that song themselves) and ‘00s pop icon Jesse McCartney (who has covered “Blackbird”) are paying tribute to them.