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Verdict on New Beatles Musical on Broadway? Speaking Words of Wisdom, ‘Let It Be’
July 24, 2013  | By David Bianculli  | 14 comments

Let It Be, a musical salute to The Beatles transferred from London, opens on Broadway July 24. I saw it in previews last Friday — until I walked out, wishing I could get even by writing my own opening-night review. So I will, using Beatles songs as my inspiration…

I was there with my kids, their respective spouses or fiancés, and a few close friends, all of us eager to enjoy this British import, subtitled A Celebration of the Music of The Beatles.

The enjoyment ended the second we entered the St. James Theatre, where the curtain was festooned with black-and-white TV screens showing the sort of trivia questions you get waiting for movies to start. (“What was John Lennon’s middle name?”)

The show started with a number, then another number, then another — with nothing in between. Early history, and the pre-Fab Four lineups with Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best, were nonexistent. On “Please Please Me,” the harmonica sound came from nowhere — certainly not from any of the four musicians on stage.

And by the way, that’s how the performers were billed in the Playbill. Not as John, Paul, George and Ringo. But as Graham Alexander (Musician), John Brosnan (Musician) and so on — 10 in all. I don’t know which ones we saw, or how many went on stage during the same show, because after a half-dozen songs, taking us through an unidentified Ed Sullivan Show mockup, we fled for the exit.

Broadway fare related somehow to television has been reviewed here at TV Worth Watching before — in our earliest days, I reviewed Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention, a fabulous play about one of the inventors of TV. And since so much of The Beatles’ history came to us through television, I’m considering an opening-night review of Let It Be to be fair game.

“The more you love the Beatles, the more you’ll hate Let It Be,” was my original reaction. Regular readers of this site, and even regular listeners to Fresh Air, are well aware of my love for those musicians and their group and individual accomplishments. But a simple cover-band karaoke compendium of songs, with nothing but costume changes to qualify as narrative? Somehow, it demanded more.

So that night, after seeing (part of) the show, my kids and their significant others and I sat around and tossed around Beatles song titles, altering them slightly for the occasion and imagining which of them would make the ultimate Let It Be review headline.

We finally decided there were enough contenders to comprise an entire review, not just the headline. Therefore, Mark and Jessica Bianculli, Kristin Bianculli and Roland Ochoa deserve some credit — or some blame — for what follows.

So here, for the record, is our communal take on the intrinsic artistic worth of Broadway’s new Let It Be — at least the less than half of it we could stand to sit through.

I hope it please, pleases you…

Ticket to Refund

Baby, You’re a Ripoff

Bad Evening Bad Evening

For You Boo

I’m Sleeping Through You

Leave Together

I Am the Walkout

While My Front Row Gently Weeps

It’s All Too Little

P.S. I Hate You

I’ll Follow the Exit

Got to Get You Out of My Head

You Never Give Me Your Money Back

Magical Mystery Bore

I’ve Just Seen a Waste

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Broadway Theatre

Got to Get You Out of My Head

Money Back (That’s What I Want)

Not a First Time

Can’t Act Naturally

You’re Gonna Lose That Lunch

Getting Worse

Happiness Is an Aisle Exit

Hey Bullcrap

She Loves You, No, No, No.

I’m Happy Just to Flee From You

Please Please Kill Me

You Won’t See Me

Let It Be. Really.


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Mark Dawidziak
With a Little Help From My Frauds?
Aug 2, 2013   |  Reply
And who can forget the classic:

"Ticket to Wretch."
Jul 27, 2013   |  Reply

"I've Just Seen a -- Big Steaming Pile of Crap"

"Happiness is a Refund"
Jul 26, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
LOVED the "Big Steaming Pile of Crap." Thanks for the out-loud laugh. Exactly how I felt.
Jul 27, 2013
"I'd like to thank you on behalf of the audience and ourselves... and you didn't pass the audition."
Jul 25, 2013   |  Reply
"'I Dig a Pygmy' by Charles Haughtry and the Deaf Aids... Phase One, in which costumed hams are oafs..."
Jul 26, 2013
David Bianculli
"And now we'd like to do, 'Why the Angels Leave'..."
Jul 26, 2013
Paul Schatz
The Times loved it. Who knew? Oh, David have you seen the Rascals Once Upon a Dream? A tribute band that is the band. Saw it in Tampa and had a blast.
Jul 25, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
I haven't seen the Rascals show -- but certainly should have, based on what I've heard from people who saw it. Nothing but raves.
Jul 26, 2013
And the most obvious one:

They F#cked You (Yeah Yeah Yeah!)

My only comment is that, by leaving at the first intermission (I don't think you're rude enough to have a group of five walk out *during* the performance) you can't know if it got better in the second act, and hence it *might* be an unfair review. I suspect it didn't, and it isn't, but fairness would dictate you stick it out till the bitter end before publishing a review based on incomplete information.

Would you have done the same with a TV show you were reviewing?
Jul 25, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Neil, Our tickets were front-row mezzanine, so completely out of the sight lines of anyone on stage. You're right that when I intend to do a TV review, I watch to the bitter end. But I wasn't planning to review "Let it Be" when I went, just enjoy it -- and since I paid handsomely to attend, and take guests, leaving was one of the privileges I had paid for. As for whether the show could conceivably have gotten more entertaining as it went on, since nothing would change but the costumes and scenery, I can only say this: If I'm holding an empty ice cream cone, and you defecate in it, I don't need three scoops to form my opinion...
Jul 26, 2013
A few years ago I was playing a Fourth of July fest with my band opening for a Beatles clone band. They had a Hammond B3 set up right next to us and "Paul" in piped suit coat costume jumped up and sat in with us. That was a hoot but later when I was trying to back the van out of a tight spot "Paul" and "George" were in my rear view mirrors giving me hand signals - "Left, left! Little more! OK back up!" LOL! The band was actually great. A lot of fun. Paul was a lefty.
Jul 25, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Are you sure they were hand signals, and not semaphore signs from the "Help" cover?
Jul 26, 2013
Knoll Coward
Beatle song responses that apply without any title manipulation:
Not a Second Time
I Should've Known Better
Tell Me Why
I'll Cry Instead
and (from Paul & John by way of Peter & Gordon)
I Don't Want to See You Again

Two more shots:
Ob-la-di, ob-la-dud
Happiness Is the Warm Gum (that I'm depositing underneath my seat in protest of this bloody fiasco)
Jul 25, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Your "Ob-La-Dud" made me laugh a lot. Your alias, even more. I recognize wit when I see it, Noel...
Jul 26, 2013
Totz the Plaid
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BLAH
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Blah
Don't Bother With This
They Should Have Known Better
And I Hate This
Can't Buy Our Love
It's a Loser
You Better Hide This Show Away
Ticket to Deride
Ticket to Sigh
You're Going to Lose That Crowd
Act Crappily
It's Only Lucre
We Won't See This
Don't Go See This
Got to Get You Off of This Stage
Got to Get You Off of Broadway
Tomorrow It'll Close
The Fools on the Stage
Your Mother Should Know (not to see this!)
The Continuing Story of Beatles Cash Grabs
Why Don't We Walk Out of This Show
Too Long, Too Long, Too Long
Everybody's Got Something to Hide and This Show Should Be Among Them
Only a Crappy Show
The Long and Boring Show
They Let Me Down
You [Should] Never Give Them Your Money

...and a few that don't need editing (including covers):

I'll Cry Instead
You Can't Do That
Cry Baby Cry
Honey Don't
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Happiness is a Warm Gun
For No One
Run for Your Life
Jul 24, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Great ones! Thanks. My favorite? The Fools on the Stage. (I wonder if the "actual" reviews tonight will steal any of these...
Jul 24, 2013
Paul's not a lefty!????!!!!!!
Jul 24, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
EXACTLY what I said when I saw him! Good catch!
Jul 24, 2013
Phillip R. Crabb
Polythene Scam
Ticket To Cry
Help! (Literally)
Baby You Can Drive My Escape Car
Here Comes The Refund
Jul 24, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Phillip -- Ticket to Cry is my favorite. Masterful!
Jul 24, 2013
paul schatz
David, thanks for the review. As a big Beatles fan I will never attend one of these staged tributes. However, for anyone who loves their music and legacy I highly recommend checking out the FabFaux. They are a group of excellent /NYC session musicians who occasionally come together to play Beatles music as they envisioned it would be played had the four continued to tour. The bass player is Will Lee of Paul Shaffer's CBS Orchestra. No costumes. No sets. Great music by great players. http://www.thefabfaux.com/wap/
Jul 24, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Paul, I couldn't agree more. I see about two Fab Faux shows a year -- and I love them as much as I was repulsed by "Let it Be" on Broadway.
Jul 24, 2013
And in the end,the dough they take is not equal to the show they make.
Jul 24, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Perfect! And great idea: If we open it up to lyrics, not just song titles, we could be here for days. And maybe we should be...
Jul 24, 2013
Most humbly suggested: All My Loathing, For the Detriment of Mr. Kite, Please Pass Me By, Here There and Anywhere But Here, I Feel Bad, Ticket To Dive, We Can't Work It Out --EG
Jul 24, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Fabulous! These are Ob-La-Delightful! Keep them coming, folks!
Jul 24, 2013
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