BWW Reviews: Beatles Bring Originality and Fun to LET IT BE CHRISTMAS
At some point while I was en route to see Let it Be Christmas, I couldn't help but laugh. Here I am, an atheist who grew up in a half-Jewish/half-Christian household, going to see an original musical based on the nativity and featuring music by the Beatles, a band featuring John Lennon who once said "We're more popular than Jesus." Oh, and the show's in a church. So to recap, I'm an atheistic half-Jew going to a church to see a show about Jesus featuring songs by a band who claimed to be more popular than the savior himself.
But once the show began, my thoughts turned from the irony to how remarkably enjoyable the show was. Sure, a Beatles nativity sounds like a crazy idea, but it's so wildly enjoyable that you frankly won't care. Strangely, the fab four and the holy trinity go together in a way that's entertaining and moving, regardless of your spiritual persuasion.
The original musical, conceived and written by Austin's own Stacy Brewer, reimagines the Biblical story of Mary, Joseph, and the birth of Christ as a modern-day love story packed with Beatles favorites. Mary and Joe live on Penny Lane with a couple of familiar neighbors. One neighbor, known as Maddie (aka Lady Madonna), has six children at her feet but dreams of being a paperback writer. Another named Jude is a fool on the hill and spends his time writing songs about eggmen and walruses. The concept, though unconventional, makes the story more accessible and, dare I say it, fun. For the majority of the first act, the show is decidedly comical and tongue in cheek as it incorporates as many Beatles tunes as possible (wonderfully played by musicians dressed as, what else, Sergeant Peppers) to elicit laughs and giggles. But after the show wins the audience over with its quirkiness, it slowly and easily transitions into the fundamental parts of the nativity and does so without becoming too traditional or preachy. If this atheistic half-Jew can be moved by this interpretation of one of the greatest stories of all time, I'd guess Let it Be Christmas could impress and entertain anyone.
It is a true treat to hear some of the greatest music of our time sung by the incredible performers in this cast. As Joe and Mary, Paul Koudouris and Kia Dawn are incredible to hear, and their chemistry is apparent from the first moment they share the stage together. Wendi Slayton, as Maddie, has a gritty, roof-blasting rock-and-roll voice, as does Gabriel Pena as Jude. Lauren Tyler and Dominique Anderson bring an airy, ethereal quality to the angels who visit Mary. When accompanied by Kia Dawn on the Act One closer, "Let it Be," the effect is goosebump inducing.
Some may think it a miracle that a musical based on religion and rock-and-roll should be as successful as this, but Let it Be Christmas needs no divine intervention. Its odd but brilliant concept and its fantastic cast makes this one of the best Holiday shows in Austin this year. Whether you're Christian or not, you will be moved and entertained by this fantastic production. It seems all you need is love to get into the Christmas spirit.
Note: Cast differs at matinee performances.
Running time: Family matinees run 2 hours including one intermission. Evening shows run 2 hours and 15 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
LET IT BE CHRISTMAS, produced by World Vision and Gateway Church, plays Gateway Church at 7104 McNeil Dr. Austin, TX 78729. Final performances are Saturday, December 21st at 4pm and 7pm. Tickets are $15-$30. For tickets and information, visit www.letitbeaustin.com.