Abbey Road? Actually, pictured here crossing Main Street in Auburn are cast members of the upcoming CLT production of the musical Let It Be, which will kick off the theatre’s 82nd season in January. Left to right are Glenn Atkins, Maria Groover, Julia Groover, Graci Gillen, Jude Leaver, Britny Anderson, Amelie Lourdeau, Cade Parker, Lorraine Giasson, and Jim McKinley. Submitted photo

An exciting new story, “Let It Be” by playwright e.b. lee, is as ground breaking as the music that tells the story. As performed by the large ensemble cast of very talented Maine actors and musicians at the Community Little Theatre in Auburn, it is strikingly unique, attention grabbing, as well as poignant and heartwarming.

In less than 10 years, from their inception in 1960 until their final rooftop performance in 1969, the group known as the Beatles redefined the sound and context of popular music. Their catalog of music has gone from being the soundtrack to the lives of those who lived during and came of age in that tumultuous decade, to a timeless collection of songs that has endured for the half-century since.

Directed by Jen Groover, the stirring story is a rush of rapidly changing scenes. The music score of over 30 classic Beatles’ songs is truly amazing and the center of the production. There is no dialogue and that is why the score is everything.

Nearly two dozen separate but connected vignettes thread the journey of two families through the significant years of 1968 and 1969 in American life. Part opera, part pantomime, the songs of the Beatles weave a brilliant and colorful tapestry of loss, reflection, young love, enduring love and deliverance. Whew!

The stage is set with an intricate network of stairs and platforms creating on and off ramps for the many rapid scene changes. Since the story requires the stage to be populated by as few as two performers and as many as the entire ensemble (which numbers nearly 30), the set permits the different groupings to be presented in different locales without a great deal of changing décor. Great use of lighting redirects the audience’s eye from setting to setting.

As homage to the Beatles, Jen Groover, who was also the set designer, and the stage crew created an over-the-stage ceiling reminiscent of the Beatles’ first TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and a mini-skyline at the foot of the stage representing the rooftop from which the Beatles gave their final performance. These subtleties are a nod to the group and the arc of its lasting body of work from “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to “Come Together” and “Let It Be.”

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An eye-catching and insightful montage of slides shown on screens at either side of the stage enhance the performance and reflect news footage of the times as well as local shots of iconic businesses and locales in the L-A community.

The outstanding live orchestra under the direction of Steven Barter strings the songs together seamlessly as choreography by Eileen Messina moves the action and the actors across the stage in perfect timing. This, not coincidentally, permits stage manager Paul Menezes’ busy crew to make smooth, coherent and rapid set changes from scene to scene to scene.

In fact, the scenes are so many and change so rapidly, I found the audience somewhat hesitant to applaud. And some scenes are so poignantly personal that it seems indelicate to intrude. Don’t be deterred!

With such a large ensemble cast, there is much praise to extend to all. But standout performances include Cade Parker (Jude Jones) and Maria Groover (Rita Martin) as the star-crossed young lovers. Their voices and acting strengths are immediately endearing. From “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” to “In My Life,” their relationship is traced through a call-and-response delivery of each song. Originally written as solitary expressions of love and loss, their duets are given a nuanced and shared meaning between them, further binding the relationship..

Glenn Atkins (Bill Martin) as a grieving widower and now single dad to three daughters brings gravitas to iconic songs (among them, “Help” and “The Fool on the Hill”) as he tries to hold the family together. Plot note: Follow the scarf!

As Grandma and Grandpa Jones, Lorraine Giasson and Jim McKinley movingly express the power of lasting and eternal love for family and one another. “I Will” is wonderfully reinterpreted by Giasson. Plot note: Follow the cap!

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Jude Leaver and Britny Anderson (Desmond and Molly Jones) as heads of the Jones family are just right in portraying the substance and flavor of the sandwich generation. They convey true pride and joy in being a multi-generational family. “When I’m Sixty Four” is lovingly and lightheartedly performed as a sweet duet, and Leaver’s and Anderson’s voices are central to many of the terrific ensemble numbers throughout.

And those ensemble numbers of note include the beautiful and unique acapella “Because” as prologue and cemetery scene. The title song, “Let It Be,” and “With a Little Help From My Friends” are also powerful. And there are others left for you to discover.

And when the cast members have taken their bows, don’t think it’s over. In fact, you may rightly find yourself raising your voice in the final ensemble medley, “All You Need is Love” and a reprise of the title song “Let It Be.”

Ultimately, “Let It Be” is easy to unabashedly praise as a production as well as an example of Community Little Theatre’s quality and importance. The commitment of so many to bring powerful, relevant, entertaining theater to us all is now more important than ever and, yes, even necessary. We all need each other. And we need community theater to remind us often and in vibrant live performances of the hard work required to do meaningful things.

One can always count on CLT to offer high quality, unique local theater. “Let It Be” is just the newest chapter as it heralds the beginning of CLT’s 2022 season and a reminder of its presence in the L-A community spanning more than eight decades.

 

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Remaining performances are: Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 20, 21, 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m.

All tickets for Let It Be are general admission to allow patrons to sit where they want and sales are limited to allow for social distancing. Audience members will have to show identification and proof of vaccination or a negative (within 48 hours) Covid-19 test, and will be required to wear a mask in the theater.

For more information, go to www.laclt.com. The theater is at 30 Academy St., in Auburn. Phone is (207) 783-0958.

 

 

Starting April 7, CLT will present DISASTER!, a jukebox musical comedy that delivers earthquakes, tidal waves, infernos, and unforgettable ‘70s hits like “Knock on Wood,” “Hooked on A Feeling,” “Sky High,” “I Am Woman” and “Hot Stuff.” Created by Seth Rudetsky and written by Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, the songs of the ’70s take center stage in this comedic homage to the famous disaster films of that decade.

The timeless comedy classic You Can’t Take It With You will be performed from June 16-26. Written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, this play premiered on Broadway in 1936 and played for 838 performances. It won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was adapted for the screen in 1938, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director. This madcap, idealistic play reinforces the idea that you can only live life to the fullest by doing whatever makes you happy.

CLT will close out the season starting August 7 with School of Rock, a musical with songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes. Based on the 2003 cult film and with a rocking new score from Webber, School of Rock follows slacker Dewey Finn as he turns a class of straight-A students into “an ear-popping, riff-scorching, all-conquering” rock band! As they prepare for the Battle of the Bands, can Dewey make them embrace the empowering message of rock?


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