This show is a full musical tribute to the life of the Beatles, incorporating every stage of their time together from their humble beginnings to their supremacy in the music world. As the action develops in front of us, moments in time are cleverly captured through plentiful original black and white footage, shown on two giant television screens. There was a clip from The Avengers, England winning the World Cup in 1966, and – most amusing of all, viewed from a modern perspective – an advert for cigarettes where a newly married-couple lit up in church, in full bridal gear. It was clearly important to “Never be without a Capstan” in the 1960's.
The four performers resembled their characters more than well enough; it's amazing what a change of wig and a false moustache can do to create the appearance of someone famous. In the case of Reuven Gershon playing John Lennon, the uncanny resemblance and practised mannerisms were slightly unnerving at times, mirroring the iconic singer at every stage of his life. Luke Roberts as Ringo Star captured the tossing of his head perfectly whilst drumming away. Other highlights included the haunting solo Yesterday, beautifully sung by Emanuele Angeletti, and the guitar solo by Paul Canning as George Harrison in While My Guitar Gently Weeps was outstanding.
The lighting and effects are spot-on, cleverly recreating both the smoky atmosphere of their first performances in The Cavern in Liverpool, and the Shea Stadium in the United States where they played live to thousands of American fans. Later, turning to their Sergeant Pepper era, psychedelic pictures of rainbows and strawberries rained down in time with the songs. The bursts of colour in the costumes were brilliant, particularly the images of the band in their performing alter-egos of the time. The detail is so accurate, it was like looking at an animated version of the album cover.
I loved every number they sang – but just as I was tiring of hard rock numbers, the actors appeared one by one to deliver some of their quieter hits. This was without doubt my favourite part of the show, with Blackbird, Here Comes the Sun followed by In My Life all sung perfectly.
I did find, however, myself wishing that there had been a little more storytelling in the production. I appreciate that simply isn’t the premise of this particular show, but it still feels an omission, when their journey together was so eventful (and not without difficulties and tragedy at times). And while the guitars played on stage were exact models of the original instruments played by the Beatles, it’s a little jarring not to see Paul McCartney’s famous left-handed guitar. It was his trademark after all – it’s even mentioned in the programme – and that small detail made the band look slightly unfamiliar on stage.
I counted nearly thirty songs in total, all of them great renditions of the Fab Four’s original sound. There is of course a big build-up to the finale, and in the final minutes, the whole auditorium was up singing Hey Jude; the actors do a great job of encouraging the audience to sing along, and even go it alone sometimes. I was surrounded by people who clearly knew every word of every song, and had more than likely danced to the Beatles music when it first erupted onto the music scene. And their enjoyment was infectious. So as this fine production proves, the “Kings of Merseyside” are as popular as ever fifty years on.