Well after laptop issues a plenty I am glad to be finally bringing to you my thoughts on Let It Be when I went to see it on it’s return to the West End. As an added bonus however I was honoured to be able to ask Michael Gagliano, one of the cast members, some questions about the show.
Now being staged at the Garrick Theatre (its previous home was The Savoy Theatre), for a limited run, the change of venue has not altered the production at all. The show itself, as you may have seen in my previous blog, is less of a show and more of a concert. With musicals set around a band or an artist you can never be sure what you’re going to get. For example, Soul Sister tells the story of the life of Tina Turner. Tonight’s the Night introduces alternative characters whilst namedropping Rod Stewart and performing his songs. But Let It Be is simple, straightforward and instead of bulking it out with story, it is track after track of classic Beatles hits.
The four group members are dressed appropriately for whichever of the Beatles’ ‘eras’ they are portraying and it takes the more significant historical moments as a baseline. So the Cavern Club days, the release of their first film (A Hard Day’s Night), the Shea Stadium gig and Sergeant Pepper, among others, all come to the fore and the costumes perfectly reflect where they are – for a Beatles fan such as myself all it takes is a glimpse and immediately it is obvious.
Costumes (including a change of wigs and facial hair) are accompanied by backdrops and lighting effects to complete the scenes. The four ‘Beatles’ all played a multitude of instruments and took on all of the mannerisms of John, Paul, George or Ringo. Technically, too, this production has been researched. There are times on individual songs when Paul is on piano and John on base etc and these were absolutely correct throughout the show.
There are a few people for each ‘Beatle’ so you never know which cast you will get but they are all introduced and each of them brings a slightly different take and slight dynamic difference to the production, but this is not a negative, it is just interesting to see the different interpretations of the group. In my original blog (from January) I go into a little more detail about the overall show so please do go and check that one out too. It is hard to compare them as they are all musically gifted and have been chosen for their abilities and because they sound similar to the original group member.
Audience participation is actively encouraged, and certainly some of them took that to mean stand up through a majority of the show and wave your arms about – I don’t have a problem with this when the whole audience is doing it or at appropriate times but one or two people through the whole thing is a little irritating. That said, I wanted to sing and clap as the show totally rocks the theatre. Personally, I loved it, if you are a Beatles fan and you wish to relive those days, or if you are too young to have been there the first time (myself included) then it is an opportunity to see ‘The Beatles’ perform and it is easy to get caught up in the show.
If, however, you are after a musical in the traditional format, with some story, exquisite costumes and fantastic sets then you will be disappointed. If you are after a night of good music and somewhere you can let your hair down then you will love it. And if someone as sceptical of tribute acts and people pretending to be the Beatles as me can go and want to go back time and time again, then they must be doing something right. The packed audience which consisted of a wide age range of people all looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, for sure The Beatles will live on for many more years and I’d like to think that Let It Be will too.
And speaking of doing something right, here is my interview with someone who does it VERY right!
1. Please introduce yourself
I’m Michael Gagliano I play John Lennon in the smash hit west end musical about The Beatles called let it be. I am also the frontman of British band The Sails.
2. Can you talk us through a typical performance of Let It Be? What’s it about, what can the audience expect?
Let it be is a multi media rich extravaganza of the beatles greatest songs performed live at key moments of their illustrious career through a series of historical concerts and dreamscapes. It’s billed as the Beatles concert you never got to see.
3. The Beatles – are you a fan? Have you always been? And was John your favourite?
I’m a massive Beatles anorak and I’ve grown up with them in my life since a tiny child. Yes, John was my favourite to me he is the soul of The Beatles .
4. So when did you realise you were like Mr Lennon and how did you start out?
I never think I can be enough like John but I study him and the band in great anoraky detail every single day purely out of love for them. Hopefully this helps me to absorb him and the music more everyday in order to represent him to audiences in the most natural, honest and believable way, hopefully audiences can see my love for the man and the band he started.
5. You have been playing him for a while – how do the other bands you’ve been in compare to Let It Be?
I’ve played john for 8 years now in tribute bands and they all do their best in their own way to portray the band as they see them but Let It Be is on a different level because the show cherry picked the best Beatle performers globally.
6. Did you have to do a lot of research to be able to copy Lennon’s mannerisms? (Must’ve been a nightmare trawling through hours of Beatles footage – not!)
I’ve just absorbed John since I was small and hopefully people see that in my very being rather than being a cartoony version or overplaying him or falling into parody. I play him naturally and honestly which is who he was as a man. No other entertainer reached a level of humanism as much as John did which is why he was so loved by the masses. He and The Beatles represented the humanism in us all ,they reflected our hopes and dreams back at us.
7. When you heard they were making a Beatles musical, what were your first thoughts (I have to be honest, I was sceptical)? And now how do you feel about it?
The Beatles are the worlds greatest group – always have been and always will be. They are British and us Brits need to have a show that represents them best in the greatest entertainment city on Earth – London’s West End. I was very pleased to be given the role because it’s a dream come true in many ways.
8. What are audiences like? Do you find there are mixed ranges of people? How do they react to the show?
The Beatles appeal is universal and our audiences represent that, all ages love them and all ages come to see us do them proud (hopefully)! They go mad pretty much like the fans did for the band but our audiences are a bit quieter – Well…sometimes.
9. To play Lennon must be an honour. Do you ever feel a lot of responsibility? Are you ever nervous?
It’s a massive honour playing one of the greatest most loved musical icons in the history of our planet and I feel the weight of the responsibility every time I step on stage. The Beatles mean so much to people that it’s hard not to feel it but from the feedback I get from audiences I’m on the right track. However I never take it for granted that I’m doing a good job, I work on it everyday, but it’s hardly a chore playing /studying the greatest musical works ever made.
10. The Beatles are iconic. They set a lot of milestones. How does it feel to be able to re-enact many of those?
To perform as John Lennon at Shea Stadium or at the Royal Variety Performance is a childlike dream and I still giggle inside every night even though I’ve been doing it for years. Every night it still feels like the first time and that just shows how magical the Beatles and their music still are and will always be.
11. What have been the highlights of your career as Lennon?
I’ve stood on the West End stage playing my idol at the Royal Variety Show on the very same spot as John, at the very same theatre, 50 years to the very day and said the “rattle your jewellery” line which was surreal but how many other people can say they’ve done that?!! Recently we re-enacted the Abbey Road LP cover 45 years to the very minute that the Beatles made the crossing and that was also amazing. These are just two in a list of many.
12. Do you have a favourite Beatles song? If so, why?
‘Strawberry Fields’/’Penny Lane’ is the greatest double A side (N:for those people who remember vinyl…) ever released, but I also love ‘Hey Bulldog’, ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’, ‘I Call Your Name’,’Dear Prudence’,’She Said, She Said’,’Dr Robert’, ‘The Word’,’Nowhere Man’…..please someone stop me!!! (N: I know the feeling, I am the same!)
13. Do you have a favourite Beatles album? Again why? (Mine is Rubber Soul for the record!)
Rubber soul and Revolver are my desert island records but it changes to the White Album and Abbey Road, then A Hard Days Night and Magical Mystery Tour, then Help! and Let It Be depending on what mood I’m in. The Beatles have a song to match every single human emotion.
14. What is your favourite part of the show?
The beginning, the middle and the end and everything in between. Apart from the travelling to London, that’s the bit I get paid to do. The music and performing I do for free out of love.
15. You are in a band outside of Let It Be – what style of music do you perform? Can we listen to any of it anywhere?
I’m in a solo project called The Sails. I’ve released 3 albums all available online and in the 90’s i was in a band called Epic on the same label as the Stone Roses. All very Beatle-y and all available online.
16. Did you ever think you would be appearing on the West End?
Yes I always believed I’d make it one day somehow. You’ve got to keep believing in who you are and what you want to do with your life.
17. Why do you think the Beatles are still so popular now?
Because they represent every element of being a human being, they are the soundtrack to our lives and our dreams. They were more than muscians they were magicians and we are all still under their spell and long long long may it continue!!
18. Do you have any other musical influences? What is currently on your playlist?
I love modern bands like the Black Keys, Electric Soft Parade, The Cardigans, and influential British rocks bands like The Jam, The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces etc.
19. Apart from music, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I don’t have any spare time but if I do I like to hang out with my amazing children and my beautiful girlfriend Maria.
20. What are your plans for the future?
To release a new Sails album and carry on playing music. Also hopefully people love me playing John and will want me to continue. I’m also open to the idea of other musicals one day. But who knows what else this crazy life has in store for me… answers on a postcard please, but keep them clean!
Please see the links below for some examples of what you can expect if you go to see the show:
HELP! From West End Live 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUUGjR2M80o&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg
I Saw Her Standing There, WEL 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m2bM13xadY&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg
On both the above clips, Michael Gagliano is performing as John.
The final clip is another taster of what you can expect, taken from the recent production by myself. (Michael Gagliano was NOT performing on this occasion). Hope you enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv7_p1U0huQ&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg
Buy your tickets from here – Official Theatre (www.officialtheatre.com)
Once again, a huge thank you to Michael Gagliano for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions, and I HIGHLY recommend that you catch him in action. Also thanks to Official Theatre for arranging the bloggers trip and my sincere apologies to all concerned that this has taken me SO long to get out to you.
A fab (four) evening of entertainment.