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

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Can’t buy me love? Then a ticket to Let It Be will do nicely

sign

Well, it seems ages since I have written a show review on here, but let’s start 2014 like I mean to go on – a new review blog, this time from Let It Be at the Savoy Theatre. As a massive Beatles fan, I had heard about this show when it was still in its creation stage. I dare say that I was somewhat sceptical to go to see a show containing people posing as my four favourite boys. I have seen countless ‘tribute acts’ and although I have always found them enjoyable (due in the most part to the music), I don’t think the originals can be matched. The only exception to this being the Bootleg Beatles, who’s performances, mannerisms and stage presence are like watching the ‘Fab Four’.

So, bearing the above in mind, I was unsure about seeing Let It Be. I have been tempted, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t until I saw a few numbers performed by the cast at West End Live that I actually seriously considered going. I was able to witness the show for myself, however, when a friend of mine won a competition of two tickets and a meet and greet with the cast after the performance. Perfect! I am SO glad we went, my only disappointment is that I did not go sooner.

The show itself is rather a condensed history of the Beatles and although the settings (such as the Cavern Club, Strawberry Fields etc) are in chronological order, the songs are not necessarily. I actually rather liked this fact as many of my favourites are from the mid-sixties, so chances are they would have been performed by the interval if this had been the case. It is clear that a lot of research has been done when bringing Let It Be to life. Everything, from the costumes, the instruments, the orchestral arrangements and the mannerisms of each of the cast according to which of the Beatles they playing, all are accurate, realistic and believable. Vocally, you can see why the individuals have been chosen for John, Paul, George and Ringo as they sound more than look like them – of course they are dressed appropriately, so from the minute they begin to play – in the day of Liverpool’s Cavern Club gigs- there can be no debating who’s who.

The selection of Beatles hits is an interesting one. They play many number ones and those which are expected (Let It Be, the show title, of course being the main one) but they also play a variety of songs which were only released as album tracks rather than singles. This was a pleasant surprise as very often only the most famous songs are played which is great as they are always crowd-pleasers, but not overly creative. I therefore thoroughly enjoyed the additions of It Won’t Be Long, Girl, Blackbird and Two of Us as just a few of the many chosen for the performance. All of the cast were talented musicians but John Brosnan who plays George Harrison was an extremely accomplished lead guitarist, I thoroughly enjoyed his version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps and couldn’t fault his playing.

abbey

What was very clear was from the beginning to the end the cast ‘were’ The Beatles. The theatre was rocking, people were on their feet, they were singing and dancing and clapping. At the end they were bombarded with noise and it was obvious that not a single person sitting in that auditorium, myself included, wanted that gig to be over. My friend, who knew nothing about The Beatles is now a total convert. She had been slightly concerned that it wouldn’t be engaging enough but in actual fact the music grabbed her and she was absolutely into it from the start. I think this proves that Let It Be is suitable for anyone – certainly the age range in the audience was hugely varied. There is minimal story, but there is humour and for me, nothing is needed other than the music as that, after all, is what it is about. I would be amazed if people hadn’t heard at least one of the songs, even if they didn’t realise it, for example All You Need is Love, Help! or Hey Jude.

I truly wish that I had taken the plunge and gone before so I could return time and time again. Sadly, I have limited time as the show is closing in February. For those who will be unable to catch it in that time, the production is going on tour so it may be visiting a venue near you. I strongly recommend that you look out for it and book your tickets as soon as you can. You truly do not want to miss this. I have already booked to go again. I would like to say so much more about this production, but as some of you may know I recently broke both of my wrists, so typing is rather painful hence the short post.

The icing on the rather marvellous cake was getting to chat to the four ‘Beatles’ after the performance. A thoroughly delightful bunch of people, they are naturally warm and funny and made us feel very welcome. Indeed, all the staff at the Savoy involved with our day were extremely helpful and pleasant and on behalf of myself and Jessica, we would very much like to thank everyone. I will leave you with a few tasters from the show (apologies for the filming- arms again made it awkward) which I hope you will enjoy. I only filmed in the second act as having my phone/any recording equipment in a theatre goes against everything I believe, but in this case it was allowed! A final shout out must go to Michael Bramwell who was effectively the ‘George Martin’ of the show and he really helped to crate some magic up on that stage.

Meeting 'The Beatles'

Meeting ‘The Beatles’

An extract from ‘Girl’ (sorry for blurry beginning): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tyb1Z18mdLg&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

A snippet from ‘All You Need is Love’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWV6YmH4B98&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

A portion of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jx4c1gJbyQ0&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

Two short clips from Let It Be at West End Live (a different cast, but for any performance you may get an assortment from all cast members. This is a good thing as all are really talented)

‘HELP!’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUUGjR2M80o&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

‘I saw Her Standing There’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m2bM13xadY&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

Take your Mum, Dad, Granny, Baby nephew, get your dancing shoes on and have a brilliant time.

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

West End Live

The weekend of June 22nd 2013 dawned somewhat overcast but this did not seem to deter the crowds of people queueing around Trafalgar Square, some of whom had arrived at around 6am for a prime position. The Square was fenced off and behind the barriers were the huge stage, nice and high so that everyone could see the performances, a couple of big screens for those further back and around the edges some tents with various uses – some for promotions, some for shows and the one for TKTS near the stage for people to buy tickets to whichever shows took their fancy from those showcasing. I have to say, the TKTS booth definitely seemed to be doing a roaring trade, it was jam-packed every time I went past it.

The buzz was noticeable and it took no time for the Square to fill up once the crowds were allowed in. It was clear that everyone was really excited to see a preview of what the West End has to offer. The nicest thing, for me, is that the performers were all those who actually put on the performances night after night, so it gave everyone the chance to see the actual casts and the shows almost as they would be if they were in their respective theatres. There was a huge turnout once again, both of West Enders and of the general public. It’s fantastic to see how popular musical theatre is – it is certainly showing no signs of dying a death.

Compered by Matt Wilkinson and Lisa Vickery onstage, with Katy Federman in amongst the crowd, they kept the event running smoothly with a few facts about each show beforehand and helping to keep the crowd geed up using techniques such as Mexican waves (not that they needed any encouragement). Kicking the event off were ‘The Beatles’ – that is to say, the stars from ‘Let It Be’, the musical history of one of the biggest and most influential bands to date.  Rocking the audience with hits such as ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Help!’ West End Live could not have had a more lively start. I adore the Beatles, I have been a fan for many years as I grew up listening to them. I am, therefore, slightly skeptical of any ‘tribute’ acts or similar. I have been stalling on seeing this show for that reason, However, I was really surprised at how much they impressed me. They have all clearly been studying The Beatles and their actions and movements and despite the fact that ‘Paul’ was right handed rather than left handed, it was obvious who was who. In fact, I enjoyed their performance so much that a trip to see ‘Let It Be’ is now on the cards.

See ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m2bM13xadY

The productions followed thick and fast, with performers from ‘Once’, ‘Wicked’ and ‘Billy Elliot The Musical’ all taking the limelight. I was thrilled to see all of these, as I love every one of those shows. ‘Once’ showed what they were all about with a medley of numbers and they were very well received. Gina Beck and Louise Dearman delivered a stunning rendition of ‘For Good’, then Dearman took the stage on her own to perform Defying Gravity. A real treat followed when the cast of Billy Elliot decided to drop the usual ‘Electricity’ number (which is amazing but always brought out) and instead performed a medley which included the entire cast. This was a true representation of what the show is about and I just loved it.

View ‘For Good’ here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eLhp0n2qlg

And the ‘Billy Elliot’ performance here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fQQd1xZ3ZM

Every show and every performer was given a fantastic reception by the crowd, who screamed, shouted and clapped along and of course, where they could, they sang along. The cast (many of whom only started in the show a week ago) of ‘Les Miserables’ came out to the most tremendous roar, showing that it will continue running way beyond it’s current 27 years. Again, it is a show that I love very much and there was absolutely no give away that this cast had been in the show for less than a week. I forgot the shivers I get from watching it and again, I succumbed and bought myself some tickets to see it again in September. The sound those guys made was simply incredible.

Les Miserables cast – One Day More: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNWd5peCzyk

This was followed by the current cast of other West End veteran show ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. Despite the fact that ‘Phantom’ is probably my favourite show, I have never seen either Marcus Lovett nor Sofia Escobar in the roles of Christine and Phantom respectively. Sadly the person in charge of the smoke machine got a little carried away and there was some sort of problem with the microphones as they did not sound as good as I have heard them previously but it was definitely a technical fault not the guys themselves.

The performance can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xit5Cf4fA64 (please note, it is not me that goes “there he is” on Lovett’s appearance!)

‘Top Hat’, ‘Matilda’, ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘The Bodyguard’ were also very popular. It was wonderful to see the support given to every single artist, performer and show. Although several of the productions came out and sang through the best known songs, a majority performed medleys or chose an alternative to the norm – ‘The Bodyguard’ for example. Probably best known for ‘I Will Always Love You’, this was avoided here and instead three upbeat numbers replaced it including ‘So Emotional’ and ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ – Heather Headley and crew were in fine voice. Matilda just did the one number – ‘A Little Bit Naughty’ as did ‘Top Hat’ but I really enjoyed both and found myself grinning from beginning to end of the ‘Top Hat’ routine.

The very slick Top Hat performance can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qGrmMIoF2k

The day continued with ‘Jersey Boys’, Jon Lee’s Frankie Valli reaching some notes that had me wondering just exactly how tight his trousers were. Their set consisted of about five songs, each one a well known hit (albeit sometimes better known by alternative performers). It is easy to see why people return to this show again and again.  ‘Mamma Mia!’ entertained the crowd, followed by ‘Thriller Live’ and dance show with the stars of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’; ‘Burn The Floor’. A couple of new shows – ‘The Sound Of Music’, ‘The Colour Purple’ and the next production from Sir Tim Rice –  ‘From Here To Eternity’ were then interspersed with those aimed at children – ‘Dora The Explorer’, ‘Peter Pan: Never Ending Story’, ‘Braniac Live’ and ‘Zoonation’s Groove On Down The Road’ as well as the West End Gospel Choir, Showstoppers and West End Kids. Joey from War Horse (one of the fully moving horse ‘puppets’) also made an appearance during the day so that people had the chance to experience him first hand. I still cannot get over how utterly realistic these horses are.

The day drew to a close but this was definitely not an anti-climax with ‘Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage’, Monty Python’s ‘Spamalot’ – another show which I love – it is in an altogether different league from Les Mis and Phantom but it is supposed to be and it is brilliantly funny, ‘A Chorus Line’ (whose cast had hotfooted it fresh from their matinee performance to join in), ‘Stomp’ and finally ‘Rock of Ages’. It is sad that ‘A Chorus Line’ is closing at the end of August but I am just relieved to say that I have my tickets booked to see it on August 10th.

 I was lucky enough during the day to speak to the four guys from ‘Let It Be’ to ask what they thought about the event. Playing The Beatles were Michael Galliano – John, Luke Roberts – Ringo, Stephen Hill – George and James Fox – Paul.

The cast of Let It Be

The cast of Let It Be

The Let It Be Beatles, L-R: John, George, Paul, Ringo. Picture my own.

Here’s what they said: “It is such an important event. There is so much talent in the West End and it’s important that we get bums on seats and keep the money coming in so we can keep the theatres running and keep producing the good shows.

It’s lovely to come to an event like this and show people just what we are about. The crowd are really responsive.”

I also managed to catch the ‘Jersey Boys’ for a chat.  Jon Lee – Frankie Valli, Jon Boydon – Tommy De Vito, Chris Gardner – Bob Gaudio, David McGranaghan – Nick Massi

“WEL is great fun and it’s lovely to be back. The crowd are responding massively, this is such a nice event which brings everybody together. It’s like a big shop window and it means people get to see all sorts.  We are lucky that we are in a show where people leave talking about it and then bring their friends back to see it too and where people who don’t necessarily like musicals will come and enjoy it. We normally bring all four seasons with us (!) but it hasn’t rained this year, we are back again tomorrow to sing to more thousands”.

Three of the 'Four Seasons'

Three of the ‘Four Seasons’

L-R Chris Gardner, Jon Boydon, David McGranaghan. Picture my own.

The variety that the West End has to offer is plain to see. West End Live is a fantastic opportunity for people to see the talent and actual casts that perform in these shows. For those who are unsure, it is a chance to have a taster, see what they think – perhaps tempt them to try something out. For the diehard musicals fans it is the perfect way to spend the day and means they do not have to choose which ONE to see. It is also ideal for new productions to show what they are about and for people to hear the scores, to encourage people to buy tickets. Theatre can often seem inaccessible to people for a number of reasons but WEL proves that there is something for everyone and regular ticket offers mean it is also affordable for all. All the participants seem to be in agreement that this WEL is an excellent promotional tool as well as good fun and the fact that this event grows each year is a testament to our fabulous West End. I am so glad I have finally got to witness this event first hand as I’ve not been able to make it in previous years. It makes me want to be up there performing with them all, as it always does when I go to the theatre and it certainly put a huge smile on my face.

Next year is the 10th anniversary and so I very much hope I will be a part of it once again.

Tickets for all of the above shows can be bought from a variety of websites and of course the TKTS official London theatre ticket booth which resides in Leicester Square. It is also worth keeping an eye out for offers. Some shows do not really do offers but many day ticket and some just have monthly offers but there are some fantastic deals to be had – if you are anything like me and want to see absolutely everything, then believe me, it is worth shopping around!

I would like to say a huge thank you to Livetheatre.co who gave me the opportunity to report for them – you can see my original post here –  http://www.livetheatre.co/west-end-live-round-up/

Keep dreaming,
Naomi xx