My cousin Lawrence was recently visiting Manhattan and invited me to join him to see Rain, A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway. A Beatles fan, I was intrigued. I wondered how a Broadway musical could possibly capture the beauty and vibrancy of the Beatles’ music.
I soon found out. When the four performers who impersonate the Beatles appeared on stage -- Steve Landes (John), Joey Curatolo (Paul), Joe Bithorn (George) and Ralph Castelli (Ringo) – the audience was transported to another time and place. The musical didn’t dramatize the Beatles’ history as I originally expected. It was a concert. Lawrence and I were delighted and enthralled.
Rain follows the chronology of the Beatles’ music, from the songs at their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. As the musical unfolded, the performers changed from black suits and narrow ties, to psychedelic Sgt. Pepper era uniforms, to the muted costumes of Abbey Road.
The set was simple, with only the musicians and their instruments on stage. Wigs and costumes were effective and created the illusion that we were watching the actual Beatles. Joey Curatolo (Paul) and Joe Bithorn (George) looked and sounded especially like their real life counterparts.
Two large screens shaped like televisions sat on both sides of the stage and played a stream of video montages. The videos beautifully captured earlier eras. We saw historic footage: a Duz commercial, JFK and Jackie, John John and Caroline as toddlers, Twiggy, clips from Woodstock, teenage girls swooning and fainting at a Beatles concert. Light shows and animated scenes of the Beatles appeared on the screens, too, depicting the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
The music was entertaining and often mesmerizing. The four performers and the back-up musician, Mark Beyer, are impressive, accomplished musicians. When Mr. Curatolo as Paul began to sing “Yesterday,” sounding like the real Paul, I felt the same thrill I’d experienced when I first heard the song. I listened more carefully than I ever had to the lyrics of “Rocky Raccoon,” and realized how clever they were; the song told a compelling story. I gazed at Mr. Landes (John) with the poignant knowledge that John Lennon died young.
The energy in the theater was palpable and contagious. Mr. Curatolo as Paul encouraged the audience to sing. Mr. Castelli as Ringo held up a sign which read “Applause.” It was Valentine’s Day; there was engaging banter from the stage about this. But the music was everything. The audience stood in the aisles and danced. Old and young -- three generations – clapped and sang. Toward the end of the show, a hidden camera swept over the theater. Images of the audience glowed on the screens. The faces were happy and animated, just like the footage of fans at a real Beatles concerts.
When the show ended, I was ready for more. The musicians cooperated with an encore. Mr. Curatolo sat at the piano and sang the wonderful “Hey Jude.” Afterward, Lawrence and I left the theater with the rest of the audience. He and I were still smiling and singing as we walked into the cold February night. I felt as if we’d been on a musical vacation, and all our troubles, even temporarily, seemed far away.
Learn more at http://www.raintribute.com/