Move over Ringo, George, John and Paul, there’s a new fab four in town and while during the day they may go by the names of Emanuele Angeletti, Gordon Elsmore, Reuven Gershon and Stephen Hill, for the next few months they’ll be moonlighting as that most famous of foursomes in Let It Be, the new West End spectacular celebrating 50 years since musical phenomenon The Beatles released their first single.
The production marks the first time the rights to The Beatles’ extensive and legendary catalogue have been granted for a West End show, putting more than a little bit of pressure on the newcomers as they get ready to perform songs including Twist And Shout, Yesterday and Hey Jude to fans at the Prince of Wales theatre.
We spoke to them to find out how their nerves are holding up, what it’s like to go on stage as icons and what The Beatles mean to them.
What is your first memory of The Beatles and when did they become an important part of your life?
Angeletti: In the 70’s my father did a job for an English man at EMI who was very happy with the result. He gave my Dad the complete Beatles LP’s collection and I grew up with all their songs at home.
Elsmore: I think the first time was when I was around six. I discovered my parents’ copy of Please Please Me and played it to death. Then I collected as many Beatles records as I could. It was an obsession from an early age.
Gershon: Earliest memory of The Beatles was dancing round the living room to Yellow Submarine as a small child, but I didn’t really discover them until about aged nine when I stumbled across the Red album, then drove everyone nuts for the next few years as I uncovered their treasures. Did I mention that I love The Beatles?
Hill: I first discovered The Beatles as a kid. You couldn't escape them in those days (the early 80's), you heard them on the radio, you sang their songs at school and everybody had a Beatles record, they were everywhere, and it was great! The first song I heard was Strawberry Fields Forever, and the more you heard them, the more you wanted to know about them. Eventually I got a guitar and never looked back.
What is the hardest thing about playing someone from musical history?
Angeletti: I think it’s trying to successfully embody the heart and soul of the original guy.
Elsmore: The most important thing is to be believable without becoming a stereotype. Everybody knows how Ringo played the drums, but it wasn’t as simple as just shaking your head and having a big nose. That’s a stereotype. To be believable takes a lot more work.
Gershon: In John Lennon’s case, representing his chainsaw-like vocals two hours a night several shows a week. Also portraying his general insouciance while trying to whip the crowd up to a frenzy.
Hill: It’s making sure that's done absolutely right! Every move, every note, every little detail and I hope we've achieved that with this show.
What musicians (past or present) inspire you?
Angeletti: Paul McCartney of course, because for me he is the best songwriter in history. When I write my own stuff, other great musicians inspire me: John Lennon, George Harrison.... too much?
Elsmore: [Jazz drummer and band leader] Buddy Rich, despite having an infamous temper and attitude he was simply an amazing drummer from the day he picked up the sticks until the day he died. He was consistent to the end. Not many drummers can continue at that pace.
Gershon: It’s a very, very long list. Basically all the greats from most genres and decades, and anything I come into contact with. Duke Ellington once said there’s only two kinds of music, good and bad. I like the good kind.
Hill: As a teenager in the mid 90s, music was as good as it got for me. Some fantastic groups were knocking about, Oasis of course, but Steve Cradock of Ocean Colour Scene was and still is a massive influence on me, their songs and sound speak for itself! Paul Weller and Supergrass also had a big influence on my playing. These were groups who looked and sounded the part and made you want to form groups and be better players.
If you had to impersonate another musician, who would you pick?
Angeletti: David Gilmour I think, because his guitar sound is incredible. But I’m not a lead guitarist.
Elsmore: Keith Moon. I think I could get away with an awful lot of bad behaviour.
Gershon: Ray Charles or Jimi Hendrix. I love their voices and their virtuosi, but clearly I’m not black so I guess that’s not possible in this universe, maybe in the next one!
Hill: If you’re talking about the good old days then Brian Jones of the [Rolling] Stones came up with some great stuff! The riff from The Last Time, the piano on Let's Spend The Night Together, the sitar on Paint It Black, the dulcimer he plays on Lady Jane, beautiful! He looked like a star and he played like one too!
What is your favourite Beatles song?
Angeletti: My favourite song to listen to is The Long And Winding Road and my favourite one to play is Helter Skelter, I don’t know why, it’s magic, as is all The Beatles’ music!!
Elsmore: Hey Bulldog. I remember hearing it in the Yellow Submarine film when I was a kid. I had trouble finding it on a record for a while. But it’s my favourite even now.
Gershon: How can one choose?! Depends on my mood or what I’m doing, but I guess if I had to pick one it would be I Feel Fine. I love its groove, the riff, the sound of the guitars, the tune, the harmonies and Lennon’s voice. Do you know that when he first wrote it he thought it was ‘‘lousy’’ until he came up with the riff, which is based on a song called Watch Your Step by Bobby Parker, also a very cool track.
Hill: My favourite Beatles song has to be Help!. The opening to that is like being punched in the face... with music! What a sound! Fantastic vocals by all and what a riff! Love it.
What were you doing before being part of the show?
Angeletti: I’m from The Apple Pies, a Beatles tribute band.
Elsmore: I was playing in The Compleat Beatles and had a small business making and restoring vintage drums.
Gershon: Working for Yodel.
Hill: Before Let It Be I played George in various groups and got to travel the world which was fantastic, I even had the pleasure of playing alongside the likes of Gerry And The Pacemakers, The Mersey Beats and The Swinging Blue Jeans! In between that I played guitar for a number of tributes like Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Elvis and Buddy Holly before landing the role of Harrison in Let It Be.
What do you do in your spare time?
Angeletti: I like watching movies, drinking red beer and doing a lot of sports (last one is false).
Elsmore: I spend as much time as I can with my wife and children.
Gershon: Watch a lot of movies, read, I write the occasional song.
Hill: I spend my time with my beautiful family; having just had a baby girl time is precious! And if I can play a bit of guitar in between then all is well! But that's just being ridiculous.
How do you feel about making your West End debut?
Angeletti: I’m really excited!
Elsmore: Completely and utterly terrified!
Gershon: I actually made my West End debut as Buddy Holly in a show called Four Steps To Heaven, but this is the most exciting job I’ve had to date and is the culmination of my ambitions. It doesn’t get much better than being a Beatle! My thanks go out to the powers that be.
Hill: To be part of this show is an absolute pleasure and I hope we do them all justice!
"My favourite Beatles song has to be Help!. The opening to that is like being punched in the face... with music!"