Let It Be — a new musical revue in which, to describe it as drily as it was conceived, four men perform 40 Beatles classics, chronologically — has an authenticity problem. It’s not that the production, which just made the jump from London to Broadway (which runs through Dec. 23), isn’t authentic enough (although that’s the simplest argument one could make). It’s that it doesn’t know whether it wants to be authentic or not.
Certainly, the ”musicians,’ as they’re all anonymously billed (why not list them as the Cute One, Smart One, Shy One, and Funny One, at least?), plow through the songs with studio-ace accuracy. In a preview performance this week, James Fox and Reuven Gershon did spot-on vocal impersonations of Paul McCartney and John Lennon, respectively. But as the band’s career plays out over the course of the show, the group dynamic never shifts — perhaps because it’s never established. These blokes show so little chemistry they might as well be standing in separate beakers.
That clearly was not the authentic experience of the Beatles, or listening to the Beatles. Of course, that authentic experience came to be defined by bitter conflict, which wouldn’t do at all for a brisk, script-free Broadway musical meant to celebrate the legacy of history’s greatest rock band. In a less black-and-white world of entertainment — on the Great Gray Way — we might have seen these songs played not just faithfully, but with faith, by a real band willing to knock around the music they love to make it work for them. (It doesn’t help that a sort of fifth Beatle works in the background cuing up the strings and other bits of songs the main guys can’t play themselves.)
But that would be an entirely different sort of realness. Let It Be does have some fun with the cultural monolith of the Beatles: Once we escape dour Liverpool, get past black-and-white Ed Sullivan, cruise through A Hard Day’s Night and Shea Stadium, we land on the more wondrous shores of Sgt. Pepper, with the perfectly ridiculous costumes and plenty of psychedelic lightning and projections. Here the musical gorging becomes a visual feast, and the band-as-simulacrum suddenly feels appropriate. Still, they have got to get some better mustaches. B-
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)