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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES ON BROADWAY
at Brooks Atkinson Theatre

TWIST AND SHOUT
By JESSICA BRANCH


It’s 51 years since the Beatles first got together, and so far they’ve proved one of the most enduring icons in the rock pantheon, with many of their original fans securely among the senior set now. That undying devotion, and that theater-friendly demographic, seems to be what this latest tribute jukebox musical is banking on for an audience that’ll still need ‘em and still feed ‘em now that they’re 64.

The performers, of course, are not 64; they’re a group of young musicians able to impersonate the Fab Four from their early moptops and narrow ties through their psychedelic experimentations and early activism. Although the program doesn’t credit them as such, the main players are Steve Landes (John Lennon), Joey Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Joe Bithorn (George Harrison) and Ralph Castelli (Ringo Starr), with some additional help on keyboards and percussion from Mark Beyer.

Eschewing any pretense at a narrative thread, the group presents what is essentially a retrospective cover band concert of greatest hits, starting with the Beatles’ boppy pop numbers (“I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” appealing territory on which the show lingers for some time) and moving on, with appropriate costume changes, through highlights from the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and White Album era (“With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Rocky Raccoon,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”) and ending finally in all-out group-hug anthem territory (“Let It Be”). Vivid and very active screens portray contemporary moments—cheering girls, sweeping stadiums, Prell commercials—apparently to put us in mind of times gone by.

The performances are excellent. The cast members all purport to be Beatles fans (as well as vets of Beatlemania), and their adeptness not just at reproducing these classic songs, but at developing and adapting them as the Beatles themselves might have done, give real credence to that claim. Curatolo may be the standout: He can really warble a ballad like McCartney and, though born in Brooklyn, pull off a reasonable Liverpudlian accent during his blithe line of patter to the audience. But each of the four gets his moment in the spotlight, and they even include the audience, as we’re frequently exhorted to clap, sway, sing along or, in the case of “Twist and Shout,” attempt to dance in the two inches allowed by our theater seats. In fact, the enthusiastic audience needs no invitation, and clearly eats up the mildly cheeky comments from Curatolo.

The show’s been criticized for not rising above the level of mere reenactment, without the ensuing realities of breaking up, aging and assassination. That may be close to the truth, but it’s not as though anyone didn’t know that the night was an exercise in nostalgia. The show’s title comes from an early Beatles song of the same name, which includes the line, “I can show you that when it starts to rain, everything’s the same.” And maybe for Beatles-loving Boomers, for a couple of hours, it is.

 


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