The Beatles were officially launched with the release of Love Me Do, on October 5, 1962, and now almost exactly 50 years later, they’re back - or at least a vague facsimile version is. The illusion is being fostered with very bad wigs, though a right-handed stand-in for the left-handed Paul McCartney kills it.
Ian B Garcia (Paul McCartney), John Brosnan(George Harrison), Phil Martin (Ringo Starr) and Michael Gagliano (John Lennon) in Let It Be at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
The term ‘jukebox musical’ to describe shows built out of back pop catalogues has acquired a pejorative association, but truthfully there are good ones (Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys) as well as terrible ones (Rock of Ages, We Will Rock You). But Let It Be is something else: it’s an entirely indifferent one, a real shrug of a show.
There’s nothing to exactly dislike about a show that presents a hit parade of some of the best pop songs ever written, from A Hard Day’s Night and I Wanna Hold Your Hand to Hey Jude. But please please me it didn’t.
There’s only the barest hint of context, on TV screens that flank either side of the stage, mostly to cover costume changes between songs. Some of the visuals are mildly diverting, but mostly this is a series of static live sets. That may well be enough for some audiences, who want to remember these songs again. But you can do that at home with a set of CDs - or, for an extraordinarily visual and visceral interpretation of them, save up for a trip to Las Vegas for Cirque du Soleil’s Love, the greatest pop music tribute I’ve ever seen.
Last year’s Backbeat in the West End did something far more interesting, telling the back story to the formation of the Beatles. Here, on the same stage where they performed at the 1963 Royal Variety Show, we get nothing more than a live jukebox hit parade. It makes the West End hurtle ever closer to theme park oblivion. Let It Be? Let it not.