Let it Be -- a Review

Your toes are tapping. Your fingers are snapping. Your hands are clapping. By the end of the first "act," the whole audience, mezzanine and all, is swaying and rocking such that my companion and I fled downstairs, despite great seats, afraid the balcony would crash to the ground with the syncopated movement of the St. James.

Let It Be, playing a limited engagement at Broadway's St. James Theatre from July 16 to December 29, sings its way through the extraordinary repertory of some of the greatest songs of the past three generations. We get the history of the fab four from a rock cavern in Liverpool to their world-acclaim... everywhere. Strung tightly between bouts of newsreels and TV clips, grainy video of live-audience reaction back in the 60s, four nonstop singers give us note for note what we got and never forgot from John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Graham Alexander (the only Yank among the fab Brits onstage), John Brosnan, Ryan Coath, and James Fox go from earliest mop-topped teen time in Liverpool to psychedelia, war protests, Sgt.Pepper-y to... using a boatload of amazing-looking guitars (they changed instruments almost every song), a dandified piano, duds (Jack Galloway), and hairstyles, shoes to barefoot, and mustaches to go with the change of era.

Bonus: They kind of look like their eponymous alter egos. Props to Jason Lyons and Duncan McLean for never-analgesic lighting and video design, providing drama, color and variety to suit the mood of every song.

Broadway wasn't designed for this many people rocking out in rhythm for some magical two hours. The balcony, BTW, seemed to hold the youngest theatergoers, but even the real kids in the crowd were massively enthusiastic. And everyone knew the words to everything. Downstairs, though the crowd also waved their arms and swung their booties, they were older. But everyone, even those of us who broke out into lachrymose sniffles at memories of first boyfriends, ended up cheering madly for almost every set. Plus three generous encores.

A few years ago, there was a similar Broadway production, called Rain, using much the same menu of power-pop compositions and beloved standards, similar blocking (we are told), Carnaby and updated threads and hair fittings. Some of the talent in this show were in that popular production. The ensemble, including additional musicians enhancing the sets, sing their hearts out, bopping from one terrific torch to another wrenching memory. Though we never got to see Rain, and have all been sweltering in this weeklong melt, nobody going to see this will go away disappointed. Not at 6, not at 96.

We wondered if Yoko had dropped in yet. (It's not sanctioned by Apple Corps or The Beatles.) Even the ushers were rocking, smiling and moving with the crowd. "I'm 45," one usher confided, "and I love this stuff, every night! Love it."