Let It Beatle!  
New Beatles Production is a Live Celebration of Group and Solo Hits

By Lee Valentine Smith

Forget Fantasy Sports leagues, the new production of Let It Be is a real fan’s dream. Divided into two acts, the show presents the familiar story of the Beatles’ music career in chronological order. From their gritty Cavern Club days through mid-‘60s Beatlemania into their final days with the Abbey Road album. The second half is an imagined reunion of the four musicians in a showcase of their extensive solo hits. The show opened to good reviews in London’s West End district in 2012 and quickly moved on to Broadway, subsequently annexed into an international road production that is currently touring the States. An able cast of talented actors portray the iconic roles of John, Paul, George and Ringo and the Atlanta stop will feature Broadway veteran Chris McBurney as Mr. Starr. INsite caught up with McBurney before a recent performance to discuss all things Fab.

The current production is a substantially reworked edition of Let It Be.

It’s a new show, definitely. Before we were doing the Cavern Club era up to Abbey Road through the whole show, but now we’ve kind of condensed all of that history into the first act. So by the time the first half ends, the audience is sort of wondering what’s next, where can it go at that point?

So it’s on to the solo years.

The second act becomes an imagining of what would have happened if the Beatles had reunited and played live. By Lennon’s birthday 1980, the Beatles had all established solo careers and had some great hit songs in their own right. So we’re looking at it as if they’d reunited to play each other’s solo tunes.

In this show, the songs and costumes tell the story with little to no narrative, correct?

It’s a real concert and it’s also a record of how the Beatles have impacted the world. The first act is like a 60-minute rock show, with all the appropriate costumes too. Then the second half is the solo work. It’s a great way to come together as the Beatles as a real fan would imagine it. And we take great pride in that it’s all performed live.

Have you’ve played in other Beatle-related productions before this one?

Yeah, I was playing in Rain which the same producers had also worked with, so when they brought Let It Be to Broadway, I was living in New York and it was a natural move for me. Once the Broadway show was going, we went on tour to Singapore, Japan, and even Liverpool for almost a month and a half back in November.

As a fan and a musician, it must have been a real treat -- and a bit daunting -- to play Beatle songs in Liverpool.

One of the biggest exports out of Liverpool is the Beatles and it’s a huge tourist industry for them. I was a little worried about the response but it was great fun with great audiences and we were really well-received. It just felt special to go to the roots of the Beatles and play their music.

How do the audiences react in different parts of the world? Can you sense a bit of culture shift from area to area?

Sometimes in Japan, they can be a bit more reserved but that’s part of their culture. They really listen and I’ve noticed in Japan and Singapore by the end of the show they’ll be excited and come down to the front of the stage to shake our hands. But the music is so well-known everywhere, people just eat it up no matter where we go.

You’re reliving the fans’ emotions and memories with each song.

Yes, sometimes we’ll play a tune and you can just see people’s eyes light up and you know there’s some sort of very distinct memory connected to that song they’re reliving. That to me is what’s amazing about the power of music in general, but Beatle music in particular.

When did you first become aware of The Beatles? Every fan has a Beatle Moment. What was yours?

Mine was probably when I was six or seven. I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and my brother had a lot of records, and he was a few years older than me. He had the White Album and I played it. I remember that it was magic to me. Even at that age, I knew there was something special about this music. It was very mysterious to me. Then as I got older, I revisited Beatles music in high school and ever since I’ve been getting more into the material and the history of the band. It’s been a hugely rewarding experience.

How do you prepare for a production like Let It Be?

We really are dedicated to authenticity. We try to play the music absolutely note for note. And we also watch a lot of video footage and listen to a lot of music, including a lot of isolated tracks, just to be sure we’re doing it as close to the originals as possible. We really go over the stuff with a fine-tooth comb, to preserve the legacy with as much respect and details as we can.

When you shift to the different eras as the show progresses and you change clothes and wigs, can you personally feel a shift in attitude and time?

Yeah, a little. There are definitely moments, like transitioning from the Ed Sullivan suits into the Shea Stadium look, it’s a brand new thing for us. With that stadium vibe and knowing the Beatles were becoming such a force at that time, so couple that with the crowd sounds, it feels like a clear difference. Then, putting on the Pepper outfits, we get a great reaction when the lights come up and we’re playing Sgt. Pepper. We can feel the force and influence of those different eras, often just from the crowd reactions.

Let It Be will play at the Fox Theatre on April 22 at 8pm. For more information, please visit LetItBeLive.com.

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