Tag: auckland

Let It Be: A Celebration of the Music of The Beatles

Let It Be: A Celebration of the Music of The Beatles

Presented by Stewart & Tricia Macpherson for Annerin Productions
Musical Direction by Allan Slutsky
The Civic, Auckland | March 26-April 5

Like anyone with any sense of what’s good for them, I love The Beatles. Preparing myself for the worst, I approached Let It Be with a healthy dose of scepticism. So how does a mere facsimile of the real thing hold up?

Surprisingly well, actually.

At its core, Let It Be is a testament to the songwriting and musical talent of The Beatles themselves. For the entire two-hour running time there is not one bad song. The Beatles have left behind an oeuvre so extensive and so high in quality the show could’ve gone on for the whole night with little complaint. It took a about half a dozen songs to wear down my own apprehensions, but by the time Yesterday came on I was hooked. There’s also no denying the one-two punch of hearing Blackbird and Strawberry Fields Forever back-to-back, or the heartrending performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

While it might be The Beatles performed by a tribute band, this is certainly as good as it gets. The calibre of the musicians, Neil Candelora, Tyson Kelly, JT Curtis, Chris McBurney and Daniel A. Weiss, is nothing if not exceptional. If anything the polished sheen of the show is sometimes to its detriment, offering too crisp of a soundtrack that defeats the purpose of watching a live show. After all, we can always return to the albums themselves if we want to hear the song as we remember them. But, if the worst thing you can say about a show is that it’s too slick, then it can’t be that bad. And, for all its practiced perfection, it is never sterile.

With the assistance of wigs and makeup, there’s a passing resemblance to some of the original band members, though sometimes to the point of looking more like wax museum replicas than real life human beings. Attempts to capture personality are moderately successful though somewhat cheesy, but it’s what you’d expect from a tribute show where the essence of an artist is boiled down to a few catchphrases and an accent. Luckily the most important part of the band, the musicianship and vocals, is captured pitch perfectly. Almost eerily so.

Evaluated in theatrical terms, the show is not without some flashy lights, costume changes and fancy video projection, but it’s a stretch to call it theatre or a musical. There are efforts made to transport us back to the early days of The Beatles with old-school videos playing on appropriately outdated fake television sets, chronologically following the growth of the band itself. It’s a nice history lesson, though not particularly extensive, capturing kitsch more than conveying an era. Also, for better or for worse, it certainly makes no attempts to give us an insight into who the band members were as people, so those after a narrative backdrop for the music should look elsewhere. But it accomplishes what it sets out to achieve. It’s a crowd-pleasing tribute show that will charm old and new fans alike. And when the band you are paying tribute to is The Beatles, and you manage to do their music justice, audiences have very little to complain about.

Let It Be avoids the pitfalls of insincerity and soullessness that is sometimes unfairly attributed to tribute shows, often seen as little more than an easy cash cow. The only people who should steer clear of the show are those who don’t have much interest in The Beatles in the first place, but for those of us who do, the show sells itself. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay Let It Be, and certainly a measure of its success, is that I’ve found myself returning to The Beatles with a newfound enthusiasm.

What I’ve Been Up To

As of this year I’ve been appointed Auckland Theatre Editor over at the The Lumière Reader which means I’ve mostly been busy reviewing shows the past couple of months.

If you’re keen to check out my reviews…

Upcoming shows I’m looking forward to include: The return of last year’s musical success Daffodils, Three Beckett Shorts (Breath, That Time and Krapp’s Last Time) and ATC’s production of A Doll’s House. 

Also trying to use Twitter this year, so follow me for irregular updates:

NZIFF: Ten Films I Eagerly Anticipate

The New Zealand International Film Festival is consistently one of my annual highlights (except when I’m broke). Coming soon this July!

Here is a list of the ten films I look forward to the most (in some particular order):

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1. Boyhood
Dir. Richard Linklater
This film is the one I’ve been anticipating long before it had even finished shooting. This 164-minute film shot over the course of 12 years has the makings of what may be Linklater’s opus. It has a lot of expectations to live up to, but my fingers are optimistically crossed.

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2. Winter Sleep
Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Described as Bergman meets Chekhov, and winner of the Palme d’Or this year at Cannes. I don’t even care what the plot details are.


3. Why Don’t You Play in Hell?
Dir. Sion Sono
The film about filmmaking is a rite of passage for nearly all great directors. And Sion Sono is certainly a great filmmaker, albeit rough as guts.

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4. Beauty and the Beast
Dir. Jean Cocteau
This has been on my to-watch list since forever. Now’s the perfect opportunity for me to see it on the big screen, baby!

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5. Under the Skin
Dir. Jonathan Glazer
Birth is one of my favorite films by one of the least prolific directors I can think of. This third feature has been a long time coming but I am definitely excited for it. Scarlett Johansenn playing a sexy alien. What more do you need to know?

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6. Jodorowsky’s Dune
Dir. Frank Pavich
I’ve never read Dune, but I’ve always been interested in the legacy surrounding it and the legacy surrounding the films of it – or, more specifically, the film that never came to be. Oh, and Jodorowsky is one awesome dude too.

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7. It Follows
Dir. Robert Mitchell
Sex and death are two of my favourite topics. So, a horror film that explores sexual anxiety through a metaphysical STI seems like the perfect treat for me.

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8. Two Days, One Night
Dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
The Dardenne brothers are always welcome.

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9. Love Is Strange
Dir. Ira Sachs
What romantic pairing could be more peculiar than Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor? Why John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, of course!
I actually wasn’t the biggest fan of Ira Sachs previous film, Keep the Lights On, but it had its virtues and I think the  casting is too good to pass up.

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10. At Berkeley
Dir. Frederick Wiseman
When I first heard about this film I was intrigued. When I found out its running time (244-minutes) I was ambivalent. But, as a young person who never had a formal university education, the basic idea of capturing a year at UC Berkeley fills me with too much curiousity. Maybe I hope to live vicariously through these students – to find out what I missed.

Honourable Mentions:
52 Tuesdays, Housebound, Map to the Stars, Lilting, The Reunion, Pulp, Everything We Love, Our Sunhi, Hard to be a God, We Are the Best!

Vivienne, Student, Auckland (2013)

Sunday Roast

(based on Thomas Sainsbury’s play ‘Sunday Roast’)

A family of fools fight
Together, play together.
Working hard or
Hardly working.
This is the game they
Have practised and perfected for
When the hangman comes.

Enter the boy
Who longs for things far gone,
Doesn’t know how far gone
Those things have gone.
He is the center of this piece,
The surrogate some might say.

So the family plans
For a family feast.
A family feast for their favourite meat.
A succulent meat.
And succulent meat is
Not to waste.
Not to run away when
You want a taste.