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A show has to be a darn impressive draw to merit an open-ended transfer to a different Broadway theater after an initial limited run on the Great White Way, but such is the case with RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles which, after two extensions at the Neil Simon Theatre, is currently retro-rocking the 1,069-seat Brooks Atkinson Theatre five blocks south. Still, audience demand is audience demand and this is one concert/musical that nails the iconic Beatles repertoire.
Let me start off by saying there is no such thing as a Beatles Renaissance: their music never slipped off rock’s mercurial radar. Generation after generation has been weaned on, stumbled upon, or absorbed into the groundbreaking songs and musical genres the Beatles dispatched during their ten years together. And while only some Boomers -- and a handful of progressive Boomer parents -- can actually lay claim to having seen the seminal group live in concert, countless Boomer offspring and off-offspring have been turned on to John, Paul, George and Ringo via vinyl, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs and downloads.
Still, aside from flashbacks, astral projections and Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine, the only hope fans have of seeing an “authentic” Beatles concert rests in recreations, with RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles proving the best of the best when it comes to getting it right, with every riff, note and vocal performed live onstage by five gifted musicians (all Beatlemania alumni): Joey Curatolo (Paul McCartney - vocals, bass, piano, guitar); Steve Landes (John Lennon - vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica, piano); Joe Bithorn (George Harrison - vocals, lead guitar, guitar synth, sitar); and Ralph Castelli (Ringo Starr - drums, percussion, vocals), plus Mark Beyer providing additional keyboard and percussion.
Chronologically, RAIN begins in February 1964 tracking the Fab Four from their first U.S. appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show to their legendary Shea Stadium concert and beyond: the Sgt. Pepper era (with meticulously conceived costumes and facial hair adding a rainbow of retro exclamation points), as well as songs from The White Album, Abbey Road, and Let It Be -- performed in the studio only, never on the concert circuit. (The group’s last commercial tour was in 1966.)
Purists inclined to nitpick are best served by suspending disbelief in favor of embracing the performers’ staggering musicianship and channeling skills. It’s these talents that so lovingly capture the Beatles’ harmonies, rhythms and individual personalities.
And even said purists can’t help but be seduced by the multimedia touches that span the Beatles’ decade. Video screens offer vintage commercials (including one for Winston cigarettes featuring the Flintstones) along with footage of JFK, Khrushchev, Twiggy, multitudes of screaming teenyboppers, and a compelling montage serving as a backdrop for “Eleanor Rigby.”
Add to this the irresistible urge to sing and clap along -- a compulsion shared equally by Boomers and youngsters and encouraged by the cast. The numbers “Day Tripper,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” were among the most interactive, with soto (and not so soto) voce singing going on throughout. And by the time the encore rolls around, the cameras have been turned and anyone in the audience is fair game for a close up.
The evolution of RAIN began during the mid-’70s in California when keyboardist Mark Lewis and four fellow musicians formed a band called Reign that gained popularity by tapping into devotee lust for the Beatles, who called it quits in 1970. According to the show’s website, the group changed its name to RAIN (the 1966 flip side of “Paperback Writer”) “following numerous misspellings in the media and advertising,” and made its official breakthrough when Dick Clark hired them to record the music for the 1979 made-for-TV movie Birth of The Beatles.
The site goes on to explain that, aside from dipping into the Beatles iconic song catalog, the intention of touring RAIN was to take the show “to a new level -- to perform songs that The Beatles had never performed live, and play them note-for-note, just like the records.” Suffice it to say, mission accomplished.
RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles is playing through at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St. For tickets, call 877-250-2929 or click here.
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