Search is on for new Beatles
WHEN The Beatles appeared at West End theatres early in their career, they would be hurried out of taxis, grinning from ear to ear as hordes of adoring female fans screamed their names.
For the hundreds of mop-topped hopefuls arriving at the Gielgud Theatre on Tuesday to audition for a new Beatles-inspired musical, such adoration was in short supply.
Inside the theatre, however, the spirit of the Fab Four was alive and well.
The producers of Let It Be are looking for a John, a Paul, a George and a Ringo - as well as "fifth Beatle" on the keyboards - to star in the show.
It is due to open in September, 50 years after The Beatles released their first single "Love Me Do".
"I'm going for John. It would be magic," said Michael Pinnington, a 26-year-old Liverpudlian who was one of the first through the door yesterday.
"He's a hero of mine and to play his music in a place so close to where it all really happened for him would be amazing."
Warming up downstairs was a rag-tag band of latter-day Beatles - a sea of black suits and Chelsea boots.
"It's not my real hair," insists Matt Nichols, 24, who has just performed an impressive "Here Comes the Sun" in front of the judges.
Mr Nichols, like many of the hopefuls, is in a Beatles tribute act and has come decked out in full costume of the Beatlemania era.
His band, The Beatlez, play on cruise ships.
"I think George Harrison would have found this all a bit strange, but the story of The Beatles is one that people still want to hear, whether you tell it on film, on stage or with their music," he said.
"We don't just want lookalikes," the show's producer, Jamie Hendry, told The Independent.
"What we want is excellent musicians who can sing and play every note, and pick up on every nuance of the way The Beatles did it.
"We want them not just to look like but to feel like a Beatle."
Let it Be, which will take the form of a gig spanning 20 songs from different stages of The Beatles' career, is the first West End show to be granted the rights to the band's back catalogue.
The Beatles' rise to stardom will be shown with real footage from the time, but Mr Hendry promises that there will be no storyline "pushed on to the music" in the style of other stage tributes to bands, nor will the songs be altered in any way.
Two sets of four Beatles will eventually be chosen from hundreds of hopefuls.
Two keyboard players will also be cast to provide backing and effects for some of the band's later hits which were never performed live.
Another round of open auditions was held at the Cavern Club in Liverpool - where the Beatles played their early gigs - earlier this month.
"It has been great finding talented people without agents, who you just wouldn't come across through the usual casting channels," said Mr Hendry.
"Out of 60 people who auditioned in Liverpool, we've called 15 back to work with them further and expect to take a similar ratio from the London audition."
Let it Be will have a limited run at the Prince of Wales Theatre, where The Beatles played at the 1963 Royal Variety Performance in front of the Queen Mother - a performance remembered for John Lennon's famous jibe, "Could the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands, and the rest of you just rattle your jewellery".
Isaac Shalam, who at 15 was born nearly 40 years after the band finally split up, took the day off school to have a crack at playing a fittingly baby-faced Paul McCartney.
"My dad refused to play nursery rhymes to me when I was little - I was raised on The Beatles," he said.