Review Roundup: LET IT BE Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
The Fab Four are taking Broadway by storm with Let It Be, a spectacular concert experience at Broadway's St. James Theatre. The show opens tonight, July 24th, and will play a strictly limited engagement through Sunday, December 29th.
The Broadway cast of Let It Be features Graham Alexander, John Brosnan, Ryan Coath, James Fox, Reuven Gershon, Chris McBurney and Luke Roberts, with Ryan Alex Farmery, John Korba and Daniel A. Weiss.
Direct from London's West End, where it continues its celebrated open-ended run, Let It Be features songs from The Beatles' greatest hits. Born as a West End production to celebrate the legendary band's 50th anniversary, Let It Be uses projections and surround sound to put audiences at the heart of The Beatles' meteoric rise from their humble beginnings in Liverpool's Cavern Club, through the heights of Beatlemania, to their later studio masterpieces with live performances of songs including "Twist and Shout," "She Loves You," "Drive My Car," "Yesterday," "Hey Jude," "Come Together" and, of course, "Let It Be."
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Anita Gates, The New York Times: Yes, another Beatles tribute is on Broadway. Wasn't it just yesterday that "Rain" opened at the Neil Simon? Pretty much. It was 2010, and Charles Isherwood, reviewing it for The Times, called it "enhanced karaoke." In long-ago 1977, "Beatlemania" - "not the Beatles, but an incredible simulation" - opened at the Winter Garden and ran for two years. In his review for The Times, John Rockwell decreed it "an unobjectionable diversion." Gentle mods and rockers of a certain age, I saw them both. I cringed at the 1977 show. (I mean, all four of the real guys were still alive and in their 30s.) I let myself get carried away at the second. And I can happily report that "Let It Be" is by far the best of the bunch. The word "celebration" in the subtitle is well chosen, and the performers are outstanding, as nostalgia substitutes and as musicians in their own right.
Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press: Even fake Beatles can bring back good memories of the real thing, when they're truly talented...If you can check your nostalgia at the door, the tribute show "Let It Be" that opened Wednesday night on Broadway at the St. James Theatre stands on its own as a lively, multimedia concert and a rocking good time...Due to copyright issues, the Beatles' real names are never used either in the program or during the 2½-hour-long show, nor is the word "Beatles" heard or seen onstage. But there's no question who these enthusiastic musicians are portraying. In fact, it's a little creepy for those who were around during the originals to see the two deceased Beatles accurately reincarnated. Visually invoking Lennon, Reuven Gershon performs with appropriate cool, while John Brosnan is nicely intense as lead guitarist George Harrison.
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: Another year, another Beatles tribute show on Broadway. Less than two years after the Fab Four were last resurrected in the tribute show Rain, the similarly conceived and executed Let It Behas arrived to satisfy the nostalgic demands of aging baby boomers. Indeed, this show is so closely patterned after Rain that its creators have initiated a lawsuit arguing copyright infringement. But whatever legal complications ensue, there's no doubt that the experience is virtually the same...Devoid of narrative, it simply presents a group of Beatles imitators delivering some forty of the iconic group's classic songs, accompanied by video projections. It's essentially a concert by an excellent cover band, featuring elaborate visual trappings.
Linda Winer, Newsday: Now we have "Let It Be," which -- I lose track -- is a rip-off of an imitation of a cover band of a sound-alike replica for people who may also take comfort in beloved dead animals stuffed by taxidermists...But "Let It Be," still running in London, strikes me as the cheesiest yet of the Beatles so-called celebrations, intended for audiences who prefer live fakes to experiencing the real thing on great documentaries and albums...I hasten to report that many in the audience happily rose from their seats, clapped and danced when encouraged to do so. But when projections of strawberries streamed across the proscenium during "Strawberry Fields Forever," the lyric "nothing is real" felt really sad.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Watching the new Beatles homage Let It Be (* * ½ out of four), certain audience members are bound to feel a sense of déjà vu - not for the Fab Four themselves, but for the last Broadway salute to them...Luckily, Let It Be's company, which includes supporting musicians, is competent enough as singers and instrumentalists to make the numbers compelling. A few of Fox's high notes were shaky at the preview, and the energy sagged a bit during an Unplugged-style acoustic segment that included such haunting classics as Blackbirdand Norwegian Wood. But more driving, muscular favorites, from Ticket to Ride to Come Together, were executed with enough panache to make you appreciate their magic, even without fully recapturing it. Which pretty much sums up both the appeal and the limitations of Let It Be - and other shows like it.
David Cote, Time Out NY: This robotically bland megacover of Fab Four hits continues the long and sorry tradition of Beatles impersonation, going back to Beatlemania on Broadway in 1977 continuing through 2010's equally dreadful Rain. The current manifestation uses archival video and '60s TV ads between sets in which we see musicians dressed and coiffed as Paul, John, George and Ringo on The Ed Sullivan Show, at Shea Stadium, in their Sgt. Pepper's phase and in their final hippie apotheosis. The performers play their instruments and sing the songs convincingly enough, with George Martin studio effects piped in by an onstage keyboardist. But you could get more authenticity and insight from iTunes and surfing the Web-or playing The Beatles: Rock Band. Let It Be is not bad so much as dead, and symptomatic of a broader cultural deadness.
Matt Windman, AM New York: "Let It Be" is the latest in the never-ending parade of cheap, cheesy Beatles tribute concerts on Broadway that has previously included such titles as "Beatlemania" in the late 1970s and "Rain" just three seasons ago...Last week, it was revealed that the producers of "Rain" are suing "Let It Be" for copyright infringement. Personally, I can hardly tell the difference between them...In just a few months, a lot of very exciting things will be happening on Broadway. "Let It Be" is just an unambitious, summertime space filler. Just Let It Be. Soon enough it'll go away - and another Beatles tribute show is sure to come along eventually.
Nick Catucci, Entertainment Weekly: Let It Be - a new musical revue in which, to describe it as drily as it was conceived, four men perform 40 Beatles classics, chronologically - has an authenticity problem. It's not that the production...isn't authentic enough (although that's the simplest argument one could make). It's that it doesn't know whether it wants to be authentic or not...Let It Be does have some fun with the cultural monolith of the Beatles: Once we escape dour Liverpool, get past black-and-white Ed Sullivan, cruise through A Hard Day's Night and Shea Stadium, we land on the more wondrous shores of Sgt. Pepper, with the perfectly ridiculous costumes and plenty of psychedelic lightning and projections. Here the musical gorging becomes a visual feast, and the band-as-simulacrum suddenly feels appropriate. Still, they have got to get some better mustaches. B-
Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: Watching Let It Be, a perfunctory yet enjoyable Broadway tribute musical that follows in the footsteps of another recent tribute musical, Rain (their similarities have sparked a lawsuit), is an exercise in evasion. For reasons of legality, the four mop-topped performers onstage at Broadway's St James Theatre cannot call each other John or Paul or Ringo or George. We must instead watch this two-hour-and-20-minute concert as it makes scant attempt to tell a story but relies on our collective memory to fill in the details...My main objection to the song selection is the slighting of the Revolver LP, which regularly tops lists of the Greatest Rock Records of All Time. Of the 40 or so tunes here, I confess that I knew every word.
Philip Boroff, Bloomberg: The title "Let It Be" suggests a departure from the formulaic Beatles tribute. Maybe a drama about the recording of the final album that the band released and the tensions that drove the four apart? No such luck. The show at the St. James Theatre breaks no new ground...The show proceeds chronologically from the early innocent rock influenced by Chuck Berry and others to the more experimental songs that changed pop music. The patter is kept to a minimum and these Fab Four get along from beginning to end. Although the musicianship is proficient and vocal range is impressive, seldom does the show rise above what London critic Michael Billington called "faintly necrophiliac nostalgia."
Photo Credit: Chad Batka