It’s fifty years to the day the Beatles released their eighth studio album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band– a very fitting time for the opening of The Little Red Company’s Beatles tribute cabaret Lady Beatle.
Like all good cabaret, Lady Beatle intertwines music with an underlying simple but effective narrative story with really interesting conceptual elements. This is a one-woman powerhouse show, written by its performer Naomi Price and her longtime collaborator Adam Brunes. Price is joined on stage by a four-piece band- Mik Easterman on drums, Andrew Johnson on bass guitar, Michael Manikus on piano, and Jason McGregor on guitar. The band seriously rocked and the musical arrangements in the show gave the chance for each musician to shine.
Price plays a somewhat mysterious character who takes the audience from the beginning of the Beatles in pubs in Liverpool through their rise to incredible fame, imparting intimate details of the band. Is she a mega-fan? A hitherto unknown fifth Beatle? You’ll have to go to the show to find out, but what I will reveal is this cabaret is a showcase of the many faces of Naomi Price. Naomi channeled her inner Ella Fitzgerald in ‘Yellow Submarine’, a darker desperation in a medley of ‘Love Me Do’, ‘She Loves You’, ‘Strawberry Fields’, ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Hey Jude’. There are also moments of great vulnerability in ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and strength in ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’.
The theatre is set up with cabaret seating which makes the venue feel both intimate and full, and offers a great space for audience interaction. Price engages with the audience in a very open and fun-loving way, putting people quickly at ease. For example, during a particularly beautiful, almost lullaby-like, rendition of ‘Penny Lane’, strategic overhead spot lighting focuses on various audience members to symbolise characters in the song.
Jason Glenwright’s lighting design is worth of mention here. Central to his design are lights suspended onstage above Price and the band. I thought of them as icicle lights, but it’s probably more accurate to call them tubular LED lights. They change to all sorts of colours and have many different patterns- in ‘Yellow Submarine’ they are rainbow, in ‘Lucy in The Sky’ they twinkle like diamonds or stars, and during ‘Eleanor Rigby’ there is one single, rather haunting blue light illuminating only Price. Glenwright’s lighting is not only purely beautiful but at times delightfully unexpected (for example, there is a moment when Price is lit by two angled spotlights so that she is effectively put in crosshairs or another moment where there is subtle rainbow side-lighting) but it’s so entwined with the music rhythmically and emotionally that it seems to dance.
It was refreshing to see Price pull out new emotional elements of classics and highlight Beatles songs that get less attention while skipping quickly over hits like ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Let It Be’ with a few bars in a medley. I also want to personally thank Price for not ending the show with ‘Hey Jude’ or ‘Imagine’ as almost every Beatles concert I’ve been to has done before. What is really striking about this show is its warmth and vibrant energy. It packs an emotional punch to the gut at the end, which is healed by a following mini-yet-exuberant Beatles dance party. The magic of theatre, is that for a brief slice of time a group of people come together in the same space and share an experience unique to them. Lady Beatle creates this shared experience really strongly in a cocoon of fun, security, kindness, and hope in this chaotic, Trumpian world. Ultimately this is a show about everything the Beatles stood for – equality, love and peace. All you need is love, and maybe a night out at Lady Beatle.
Lady Beatle is playing at the La Boite Theatre until June 3.