The leaves are almost fully out in southern Maine, and that means the summer season is upon us – even though more than three weeks of spring remain on the astronomical calendar.
Ogunquit Playhouse greets the summer season with its first production of 2016. “Let It Be” is a tribute to the music of the Beatles that has played London’s West End and Broadway.
Another harbinger of summer is Portland’s alfresco concerts. This Sunday, Lake Street Dive, a modern country-roots band, plays at Thompson’s Point.
Tricky Britches is a Maine roots group that has a new CD coming out, and the album release party is scheduled for Friday in Portland.
‘Let It Be’
Fifty-two years ago, pop culture on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean was dominated by the Beatles, an exciting new band from Liverpool, England.
Less than a year before, the “Fab Four” had emerged from the relative obscurity of small nightclubs in provincial British cities to become the most successful rock band in history – a distinction that they still hold, 46 years after breaking up.
The phenomenon was even given its own name – Beatlemania– and it swept this country in the winter, spring and summer of 1964. The Beatles sold millions of records and played to sold-out stadium crowds of 50,000-plus.
There was no escaping Beatlemania. Reports on the Beatles were carried on the front pages of newspapers, and the Fab Four garnered huge air time on network news programming.
The hysteria surrounding the Beatles has long receded, but their music remains both popular and critically admired. This summer there’s a wonderful opportunity to experience live Beatles music at Ogunquit Playhouse, where the first offering of the 2016 season is the tribute show “Let It Be.”
This wonderful show originated four years ago in London, and had a run on Broadway in 2013. Subsequently “Let It Be” has been reorganized as an international touring company, and Ogunquit Playhouse has snagged the first engagement in northern New England
“Let It Be” features four men who adopt the Beatles’ looks and faithfully recreate their music. Neil Candelora portrays Paul McCartney even to the point of playing both bass and guitar left-handed. JT Curtis is a real-life guitar god, who nails the character of Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison. Michael Gagliano evokes the spirit of John Lennon, who sang many leads and played rhythm guitar and piano. Chris McBurney pounds the drum kit like Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr.
One additional band member performs at the back of the stage on a number of songs: Daniel A. Weiss on an electronic synthesizer.
Unlike some jukebox musicals, “Let It Be” has no plot and little spoken dialogue. It can be described as a concert with many theatrical embellishments.
These embellishments include elaborate sets and costumes. The first three songs are performed in Liverpool’s Cavern Club using the Beatles’ dress and hair styles from that formative period. As the men advance chronologically through the 38 tunes on the program, they move through a progression of sets and costumes. The most elaborate are the spectacularly colorful costumes seen on the cover of the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
The whole gamut of Beatles music is included in “Let It Be,” beginning with “I Saw Her Standing There” and ending with “Hey Jude.” The most popular songs from each of the Beatles different periods are included, such as “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Yesterday,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Revolution.”
Some post-breakup songs are also performed in an “imaginary reunion concert” that wraps up the show: Lennon’s “Imagine,” McCartney’s “Band on the Run” and Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.”
Beyond the sets and costumes, the theatrical atmosphere is enhanced by vintage TV clips of Beatlemania that are played on large video screens on both sides of the stage. Some of these, depicting mass hysteria affecting teenage girls, are hysterically funny.
But they’re real. So is the experience of this show: The Beatles, recreated with painstaking accuracy in sight and sound.
Ogunquit Playhouse, a mile south of the village on Route 1, presents “Let It Be” through June 11. Call 646-5511 or visit OgunquitPlayhouse.org for performance details.
Lake Street Dive
Boston’s longstanding claim to be the Hub of the Universe gets some powerful support from Lake Street Dive, the eclectic band that opens the alfresco concert season at Thompson’s Point in Portland this Sunday. Although the four band members hail from different parts of the country, they all met while studying jazz 12 years ago at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music.
That jazz pedigree is also reflected in Lake Street Dive’s distinctive music. Following jazz tradition, lead vocals are performed by a powerhouse female singer – Rachael Price. But her instrumental backing is country: Mike “McDuck” Olson on guitar, Bridget Kearney on upright bass and Mike Calabrese on drums.
Lake Street Dive was originally conceived as a side project for each of the four musicians, but recent success – including a contract with the prestigious Nonesuch label – propelled the band to full-time touring.
The band’s name was inspired by a street of sleazy bars in Olson’s hometown of Minneapolis, suggesting a honky-tonk sound. Lake Street Dive mostly performs original numbers, with Kearney serving as the chief songwriter. Rolling Stone music critic Annie Licata describes their style: “They serve up pop with a timeless feel, incorporating heavy overtones of classic R&B and jazz.”
Catch Lake Street Dive at 6 p.m. May 29 at Thompson’s Point in Portland (near the Amtrak station). Call 956-6000.
The old-time string band sound is the stock in trade of Tricky Britches, a fine bluegrass ensemble that comprises four of greater Portland’s top roots musicians. Formed seven years ago, the foursome play clubs, concerts and festivals around this country and Europe, pleasing audiences with a mixture of old-time songs and new compositions that reflect those aesthetic values.
The four musicians are: Jed Bressette on guitar and upright bass, Seth Doyle on mandolin and guitar, Tyler Lienhardt on fiddle and Rich Bicknell on five-string banjo.
To date Tricky Britches has released two recordings and a third is coming out this week. A CD release show for their latest, “Comin’ on Hot,” with guest Putnam Smith is planned for 8 p.m. this Friday at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.
“Let it Be” is a Beatles tribute act that opens the summer season at Ogunquit Playhouse. From left are Chris McBurney as drummer Ringo Starr, Neil Candelora as bassist Paul McCartney, JT Curtis as lead guitarist George Harrison and Michael Gagliano as lead singer John Lennon.