On the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Little Red Company’s brand new Beatles tribute show, Lady Beatle, is performing to packed houses at La Boite’s Roundhouse theatre for it’s debut nine-show run before moving to Adelaide.
This is the second tribute show from the company’s co-creators Adam Brunes and the crazy talented Naomi Price. Their debut show, Rumour Has It, based on Adele, was a total crowd-pleaser wowing critics and audiences all over Australia.
Lady Beatle is also here to please and the largely baby-boomer audience couldn’t hide their palpable anticipation of hearing their favourites performed live again. Lucky for them the bulk of the 70-minute, interval-free cabaret was wall-to-wall Beatles hits, including a stunningly powerful 10-minute final medley to mop up any missed favourites.
The arrangements are punchy and fresh without losing the essential flavour of the originals. The few songs that were markedly different made dramatic sense in reflecting the emotional journey of the narrator, Lady Beatle.
This new work opens with a dim black stage, black curtains and a number of black cabaret-style tables in the centre. The four musician-cast, Jason McGregor on guitar, Andrew Johnson on bass, Mik Easterman on drums and Michael Manikus on piano, enter dressed in smart grey suits reminiscent of the early Beatles. The costume choice possibly reflecting that lady bugs see the world in shadows.
Lady Beatle (Price), enters also dressed in a neck to knee military-style grey jacket, thigh-high block-heeled black boots and a jet-black shoulder length bobbed wig. The only smear of colour on stage are her bright red lips and blue eyeshadow. (Props to lighting designer, Jason Glenwright who turns a few hanging LED tubes into a much needed rainbow of emotions).
Stil, any disappointment at a lack of ‘something to look at’ evaporates as soon as Ms Price begins to engage the audience in a broad Liverpudlian accent. She’s at once sassy and sweet. She’s your new naughty, fun bestie encouraging you to drain your glass ‘you fookin’ champ’ while sharing morsels of Beatles origin story. At every opportunity she busts off that stage to mingle with the audience and soon we’re all charmed by the mysterious, hilarious ‘’fifth Beatle’.
Price’s Lady Beatle is both the ringmaster of the ‘Lonely Hearts Club’ and the conspiratorial narrator of her own story as it intersects with the Beatles. From their earliest days when Paul met George at the Penny Lane bus stop, to their style transformation and meteoric rise in the UK and USA, through to the final act, as Lady Beatle realises her own outsider status and psychedelic confusion through Lucy in the Sky and a deeply soulful Blackbird.
While she teases us with the mystery of herself we don’t find out her relationship to the Fab Four until the end. Unfortunately the reveal when it comes left me mostly unmoved and also confused. No spoilers here but I’m still unsure how Lady Beatle fits into the Beatles mythology. It’s a small quibble as the answer is earnestly delivered and easily forgotten as we’re all again swept up in a (finally) colourful costume change and the foot-stomping, crowd-pleasing finale.
I only wish there’d been a screen with lyrics instead of black curtains. I think the entire room would have gladly sung along throughout the show.
Price is powerfully charismatic throughout. Channelling a young Caroline O’Connor with notes of Bonnie Tyler. There’s so much passion and zest in every articulated lyric, every clear note that you’re sure that each song must be her favourite… until the next song. She definitely loves the material and is committed to her character despite a wobbly storyline.
Still, this show isn’t about the story. It’s a tribute show that delivers 100% for fans and anyone that’s ever owned a radio. It’s painless theatre. An edge-free, delicious confection of music and myth that you and your grandma will love.
Words by Irena B
Lady Beatle is now showing for a limited season at La Boite theatre, Kelvin Grove from 25 May- 3 June. Tickets are available from their website.