The concert that never was…

Hello again,

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.

Keep dreaming,

Naomi xx

Advertisements

What A Weekend

Right then peeps, time to tell you all about the fabulous day I had on Sunday. I had been looking forward to it for quite some time but wasn’t entirely sure what the day was going to be like. After waking up at 6.30 to get the rather early bus into London, I arrived to find a text message from Fra asking if it was possible to move my singing lesson to half an hour earlier – luckily this was okay as I would have been most disappointed to have to postpone. My nerves really started to kick in when I arrived at Victoria  but they were mixed with excitement. After a brew and a little bit of shopping I found the correct train and started en route to my singing lesson.

A few texts were sent between Fra and myself during the journey, but instructions were clear and I made it to my destination and waited for Fra to collect me. We headed off and discussed various things – we talked non stop from the station to his house! Despite the fact that he was lovely and we chatted loads, I was still very nervous. I dont often sing in front of people so it is quite a big deal for me. Anyway, we got to Fra’s and discussed a little about what I wanted from the lessons and my singing history and then we began a number of exercises. To say I felt self conscious would be an understatement, but after a while it got easier and I really enjoyed the lesson. Fra was hugely supportive, explained everything really clearly and was very complimentary. I have lots to work on and I can’t wait for my next session (Sun). I just hope that he feels a bit better as the poor chap had a nasty cold. He moved my lesson because he is currently performing in A Winter’s Tale at the Landor Theatre. It is a new production and I recommend you grab your tickets quickly as it is only on for another couple of weeks and I really feel that new theatre should be supported. It has been getting some excellent reviews – promise me you will at least consider it!

My lesson was followed (after a few hours) by West End Fests. I don’t know how many of you have heard of this, but it is a charity event where all ticket sales (as well as a raffle/bar/CD sales) proceeds went to help support Cystic Fibrosis charities. The evening was held in St Pauls Church, Covent Garden and it was jam packed full of West End performers. All of them gave up their time to come and sing and it really was good fun. After a very near disaster (and by disaster I mean no MD!) a certain Mr Tom Deering stepped up and with no more than ten minutes notice backed all of the first half singers. For this everyone is extrememly grateful and I must say, had it not been pointed out, you would never have known that he was an emergency substitute.

Compere for the evening was Gary Tro and although the catchword of the evening was ‘shambolic’, the humour was made appropriate for a church and everything had rather gone to pot, he was extremely funny and made the whole evening hilarious. Somehow he managed to help everything to run (fairly) smoothly. All this said about the near crisis and apparent lack of organisation (due to unforeseen circumstances, NOT the organisers) I loved the fact that the event was spontaneous, random and ‘shambolic’. No one minded one bit and everyone got well into the spirit of things. With interval mulled wine and mince pies on top it was splendid.

Singers included the founders of West End Fests, Sabrina Aloueche and Parnell Page, both wonderful performers. Sabrina sang a couple of numbers with her powerful voice, including a fantastic version of Dina Carroll’s ‘Don’t Be A Stranger’ and Richard Parnell sang a few numbers including ‘Wicked Game’ by Chris Isaacs. This chap has the most incredible voice. You cannot help but listen and be amazed, at times he sounds more like he is playing an instrument than singing. He blew me away.

There was not one performer who disappointed and the audience was treated to the vocal talents of Hannah LeMade, Benedict, Tom Fraser, Simon Adkins, David Ribi, Tori Allen Martin, Steven Bor, David Hunter, Claudia Kariuki, Steven Webb, Ambra Caserotti, Emma Housley,  Greg Oliver,  Samantha Dorrance, Jodie Jacobs and Tim Driesen. I really hope I haven’t missed anybody and my sincerest and most massive apologies if I have because no one should be left out. But as you can all see, there was some serious talent and the night was jam packed!

I must include a note about David Hunter – he did a very *ahem* ‘moving’ rendition of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’. Yes, that one. From Jungle Book. But what a crowd pleaser it was and the audience revelled in it, clapping along while he played and sang. We were treated to some wonderfully inspiring dance to the lovely vocals of Emma Housley, choreographed by Ryan-Lee Seager. Other notable performances were from Benedict who played the piano and Sang ‘Can’t Make You Love Me’, Simon Adkins who bravely attempted ‘Til I Hear You Sing’ from Love Never Dies and nailed it, Samantha Dorrance and David Ribi who sang ‘More Than Words’ and Let It Be Me from Dreamboats and Petticoats and a totally brilliant end to the evening was provided by Jodie Jacobs and Tim Driesen from Rock Of Ages who performed ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ with a twist. I would dearly love to give a special mention to everyone, but if I was to do that this blog would take me several weeks to write!

That said though, I must mention one more person. For me, the highlight of the evening was Simon Bailey. He sang a lovely duet with Katie Hall (who also sang a song called ‘Pulled’ from the Addams Family) which will be appearing on his album (see my previous blog) as well as one of his own compositions called ‘Goodbye’. This moved me to tears. In fact I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. It was written for a lost loved one and it was the first time Simon had performed the song – a new arrangement by Tom Deering. This too will be on his album and it truly is one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I have ever heard. The emotion with which Simon performed it was also plain to see and I feel utterly honoured and privileged to have been witness to something so personal to him.

Below are some links to a few of the aforementioned performances, I hope you enjoy these.

David Hunter – I Wanna Be Like You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F6SLbmz5og&feature=youtu.be

Samantha Dorrance and David Ribi with Matthew Quinn – More Than Word: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&client=mv-google&v=sgdWrQ6egxY&feature=youtu.be&nomobile=1

– Let It Be Me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&client=mv-google&v=HY89772DdeI&feature=youtu.be&nomobile=1

Simon Adkins – Til I Hear You Sing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcC3Sj0SSQM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Benedict – Can’t Make You Love Me: http://a.yfrog.com/img841/4190/hwimpzrhbkdoyvsobcfhsq.mp4

The Finale – Jodie Jacobs and Tim Driesen, Don’t Stop Believin’ Medley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFJavIyzfTs&feature=plcp

Sabrina Aloueche – Don’t Be A Stranger: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdzkz-NsJNI&feature=youtu.be

Richard Parnell-Page – Wicked: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOqrDoClFVc

And finally (this last video is my own contribution) – Simon Bailey, ‘Goodbye’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJDZA0jfNPs

If you see this and I have used your video I hope you don’t mind and thank you so much – I wanted everyone who couldn’t be there to be able to enjoy West End Fests as well as those who were. I believe there will be another one in March (or thereabouts) so please don’t hesitate to buy tickets; snap them up as soon as they go on sale as it really is a great gig. I’ll definitely be going again. Congratulations to Sabrina and Parnell Page for putting on such a great event. Topped off, I might add, by the after show party in Roadhouse (also Covent Garden). I think finishing the night off by sharing chips with Tom Deering and Katie Hall, followed by myself and Katie dancing to Gangnam Style – we were throwing some serious shapes – was something I’m not going to forget in a hurry!!

Next weekend I am off to see Broadway to Bluegrass…Ish with Ramin Karimloo so I will be delighted to blog that afterwards. I hope you have enjoyed reading about this weekend, it’s certainly been a good one for me. It also gave me that chance to catch up with my lovely friend Holly and we had a great laugh so all in all I couldn’t have asked for more from the weekend. Remember, if you like what you have heard then follow West End Fests on facebook and/or Twitter so you get all the gossip for the next one and if you would like to hear more of Simon Bailey then go to www.facebook.com/simonbaileyinfo/ to get more details of his appearances and links to purchase tickets. His CD can be preordered at http://www.simonbaileyonline.com

Once again, thank you for reading, I’ve enjoyed reliving it all for you.

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi