Let It Be As It Might Have Been

By Steven Libowitz   |   March 29, 2018
Be there: Granada Theatre hosts Let It Be: A Celebration of the Music of the Beatles

More than 55 years since The Beatles booked their first gig at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and nearly half a century since John, Paul, George, and Ringo played their famous last concert together on the roof of Apple Records in London, Beatlemania shows no signs of disappearing. There are Beatles tribute bands all over the land, many of whom work steadily, and quite a few of which have visited Santa Barbara recently at venues ranging from Concerts in the Park to the Chumash Casino to the Granada.

The latter space is hosting a new member of the class on Saturday night, March 31, only the tribute band this time around is actually the stars of a Broadway show making its Santa Barbara debut. And there’s a twist: rather than just offering the standard showcase of the costumed lads delivering the hit music of the world’s most successful rock band from its early-1960s forming through The Ed Sullivan Show, Sgt. Peppers, and the other studio masterpieces, Let It Be: A Celebration of the Music of the Beatles, at least in its post-intermission set, posits an answer to the question that many have posed: What if The Beatles had reunited, say, 10 years after their break-up?

“The second half imagines that the Beatles had gotten back together on John Lennon’s birthday in 1980, when he would have been 40 years old (and just two months before he was murdered),” explained Chris McBurney, the actor-drummer who portrays Ringo Starr in the show. “It gives the audience the perspective to see what might have happened beyond the break-up, and a chance for us to play material from the solo years.”

Sure, the first half is a lot like the earlier Broadway show Rain – which not coincidentally also featured McBurney as Ringo for part of its run – with the foursome’s letter-perfect renditions of “Twist and Shout”, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, “Hard Day’s Night”, “Day Tripper”, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “Strawberry Fields”, “Get Back”, and many more iconic hits. But now we also get to hear Paul McCartney’s “Band on the Run” and “Live and Let Die”, John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “Watching the Wheels”, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and even Ringo’s “It Don’t Come Easy”, tunes rarely performed by Beatles tribute bands, plus later-era Beatles songs “Back in the USSR” and “Hey Jude” that the mop tops never performed live.

Following the Broadway run, producer Jeff Parry consulted with the musicians who play the four Beatles to create the revamped version that required condensing the first act and cramming three costume changes separated by short video montages to indicate each era’s setting. They also reached consensus on what songs might work for the show, McBurney said. “We had to gauge how the audience would respond to songs that maybe aren’t as famous as The Beatles’s classics. We tinkered with it a bit and now it feels like a real solid second act that adds a little spin to the typical Beatles tribute. I think people respect and appreciate that we’re doing something different.”

It also helps that the foursome portraying the Beatles have been together for four years, McBurney noted. “We really try to go full out with both high energy and heart. The level and detail and the passion we have for the music really stands out. I think we’ve nailed it by now.”

(TheaterLeague’s Broadway series presents Let It Be at the Granada at 8 pm Saturday, March 31. Tickets cost $45 to $80. Call 899-2222 or visit www.granadasb.org.)


You might also be interested in...