sat 21/10/2017

Help! Are you a John or a Paul? | reviews, news & interviews

Help! Are you a John or a Paul?

Help! Are you a John or a Paul?

Open auditions for a show timed for the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first single

Wanted: musicians to cut familiar shapes

One day soon Beatles scholars and Professors of Fabology will emerge from their caverns and their ashrams to inform us that it was 50 years ago today. On 5 October 1962 “Love Me Do” was released and, to recycle a phrase often appended to lesser earthquakes, the world would never be the same again. There will be celebrations, doubtless, across the universe. Tribute bands will perform bootleg gigs in the likes of, probably, Indonesia and the Baltic, all booted and suited and moptopped up and harmonising like the Everlys etc etc. American Fab Fourists will, in the slightly imperialistic way that the people from the land of The Ed Sullivan Show adopt re the Beatles, gently weep as they plant fields of strawberries in Penny Lanes up and down the landmass. It is expected that large parts of Japan will come to some sort of catatonic standstill.

And what about the UK? Well, there is something happening, at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London as it happens, where back in the day John Lennon at the Royal Variety Performance once encouraged those not in the cheap seats to rattle their jewellery. A show called Let It Be will embark on a West End residency. It will feature four musicians playing an array of tunes from The Holy Songbook, while on a backdrop added bits of archive film and what have you will trowel on the Sixties atmos. From the Cavern Club to the roof of Abbey Road, the story of the Beatles and their comet-like flight across a decade will be played out in song, very very accurately.

Let It Be will be the British incarnation of a show called Rain that has been performed in various incarnations in America for years. Rain recently made it to the heart of the American theatreland with a run on Broadway. The renamed Let It Be is the first instance in 40 years that the so-called grand rights have been given to a British production to perform Beatles songs in a theatrical context.

The Ringo doesn’t need to be the best drummer in the Beatles

The thing is they need people to play the Beatles. The trawl for talent has already happened in Liverpool, but open auditions are also taking place this Tuesday in London. The producers are primarily hunting for people who can sound like the Beatles. Looking like them is secondary. Applicants need only turn up, it would seem, if they can knock out decent facsimiles of, say, “Norwegian Wood” or “Blackbird” or “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey”. (OK maybe the last one’s not on the track list.)

So the question of whether you lean towards John or Paul becomes more than just a litmus test of edginess vs cuddliness. McCartney wannabes will need to be able to play acoustic guitar, bass guitar – preferably though not necessarily left-handed - and a bit of “Lady Madonna” or Hey Jude” on keys. Aspiring Lennons will at some point have to bone up on their harmonica skills. The performer playing George Harrison needs to know his way round the guitar solos, even the one played by Eric Clapton on the record. And the Ringo doesn’t have to be the best drummer in the Beatles, but he does need to be able to do the fills in “Come Together” and sing in tune without a little help from his friends. Only once these things have been found will things like doe eyes, small round glasses, left-handedness and size of proboscis come into play.

The producers are in fact looking for a Fab Eight, as the show will be performed eight days a week, deemed too heavy a workload for four musicians in terms of quality control. So, are you a John or a Paul? Or actually a George or even a Ringo?

The Beatles perform "Love Me Do"

Follow @JasperRees on Twitter

Comments

Sorry Jasper, incorrect there slightly. "The renamed Let It Be is the first instance in 40 years that the so-called grand rights have been given to a British production to perform Beatles songs in a theatrical context." Backbeat (recently at the Duke of York's, directed by David Levaux) was the first instance of the rights being given to a theatrical production in 40 years.

"...to the roof of Abbey Road" You certainly meant to the roof of Apple Records

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