July 25--The latest Beatles tribute to hit Broadway, "Let It Be: A Celebration of the Music of the Beatles," opened Wednesday at the St. James Theatre in New York to generally favorable reviews, with a couple of notable exceptions.
One is from the creators of the 2010-2011 Fab Four show that ran on Broadway, "Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles," who have sued the producers of "Let It Be" for copyright infringement, alleging that the new show appropriates key elements of their production, which also had an extended run at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood in 2009.
As to "Let it Be" itself, it's being described chiefly as a tribute rock concert by a talented Beatles cover band, not a musical play or even a jukebox musical concerned with dramatic storytelling.
The difference? "At a rock concert," Anita Gates writes in her review for the New York Times, "nobody has to instruct the audience to stand." Comparing it to previous efforts "Beatlemania (in 1977) and "Rain," Gates writes, "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."
Many reviews come to the no-brainer conclusion that it's hard to go wrong in a show featuring 31 songs from one of the most beloved catalogs in popular music.
"'Let It Be,' which premiered in London last year, aspires to be nothing more than a nostalgia trip, and as such it's about as engaging as you could expect," writes Elysa Gardner in USA Today, although at the outset of her review she wonders "Why do they all look like Paul?"
One key dissenting voice is that of Newsday's Linda Winer, writes that the new show "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."
A far more inspired and original use of the Beatles music in a staged production is Cirque du Soleil's "The Beatles Love" show still running at the Mirage in Las Vegas. But that's to be expected, as it was conceived and nurtured with the full cooperation and creative input of the Beatles camp.
Southern California audiences can get something similar to "Let It Be," albeit with humbler production values, from the many Beatles tribute bands that perform regularly. The Fab Four, Britain's Finest, A Hard Day's Night and other such look- and sound-alike acts also take audiences on a ride through different periods of the group's seven-year recording career using period-authentic instruments, costumes and hairstyles.
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