I DON’T think it was a coincidence that ‘When I’m 64’ received some of the most fevered applause on the opening night of Beatles jukebox musical Let It Be.
For this was very much an exercise in whole-hearted nostalgia, and those who remembered the fab four’s original rise were out in full force.
But a jukebox musical does not really deserve the second part of its moniker, and Let It Be stretched this definition to its limits.
Let It Be, however enjoyable, was really just a couple of hours at a tribute band gig. A posh tribute band, with set changes and great costumes, but a tribute band nonetheless.
Don’t get me wrong – James Fox as Paul, Michael Gagliano as John, John Brosnan as George and Ben Cullingworth as Ringo gave it a good whack as credible Beatles act.
The fact they were four actors in a rotating cast of eight and not a real band made their on-stage in-character banter feel hollow, but they whizzed through all the favourites with relish and passable accents.
With songs played in roughly chronological order, the production began with The Beatles suited and bowl-haired in The Cavern as they sung their hearts out to All My Loving, Can’t Buy Me Love and From Me To You.
Later on, While My Guitar Gently Weeps was a highlight. And of course the production finished on a high with rousing singalong (and dance-a-long) versions of Let It Be and Hey Jude.
What really is true testament to the sheer quality of the fab four’s songs is that I needed at least both hands to count my other favourite tracks which had been omitted.
And hats (or should that be wigs?) off to the costume department, who got it spot on as they charted The Beatles’ changes in musical direction via their ever-lengthening hair.
So, in terms of the music, there was rarely a duff note. As fans will attest, it’s hard to mangle something so good.
But there is a lot of missed potential. The band’s spectacular rise was shown only via snippets of black and white video footage, and any real insight into the historical context behind the music was skimmed over.
One day someone will write a spectacular Beatles musical, one which will match the scope and range of their musical output with a script which does their story justice.
But in the case of rehashing what tribute bands have done a thousand times before, maybe we should just Let It Be.
Running until March 8 at The Palace, Manchester.