A Tribute to the Beatles

Starring Steve Landes, Joey Curatolo,
Joe Bithorn and Ralph Castelli
Neil Simon Theatre on 52nd Street
Moves to Brooks Atkinson on 47th starting Feb 8th
Official Website

Reviewed by David Spencer

Who knows exactly why the band is called Rain, but for decades its mandate has been to recreate performances and recordings of The Beatles. Strictly speaking, Rain may be less a band than a franchise, a concert experience in which the actual performers can change (there are, for example, understudies listed in the program) but the mimicry is the same. That said, perhaps “mimicry” is a misleading word, because it carries with it an implication of the pejorative, whereas the replication Rain delivers is of a very high order. Why Rain took so long to get to Broadway (after countless tours and engagements) may have to do with the producers’ desire not to bring it in before the memory and impact of Beatlemania (yet another tribute experience) had faded enough not to impinge upon box office business.

               It seems not to be an issue. The audience eats it up. To the point of following directives (rise, clap, sing, dance, call-and-response prompts—all the stuff you live for if you’re into the concert scene and could live without if you’re not).

               In a curious mixture of real-time and recreation, Joey Curatolo as the “Paul” guy (for legal reasons, the program doesn’t actually identify his character by name) delivers an uncanny McCartney impersonation while periodically acknowledging the audience sharing Rain’s enthusiasm for “the wonderful music of the great Beatles.” He  does this without ever dropping the Paul accent or persona and the dichotomy seems to have no effect on verisimilitude. (Not to denigrate the concretizing which is the meat of the show, but this was the most interesting element for me: the indestructibility of the illusion.)

               Our Faux Fab Four are featured in several segments, moving forward through their career, from the mop-topper singing teeny pop songs to the psychedelic philosophers begging the world powers to “Give Peace a Chance.” There is a comprehensive set of costumes and projection-&-filmclip compilations to accompany each era as well.

               In a way, Rain defies reviewing as such because it is what it is. It promises a thing, it delivers it with exuberant panache and it leaves its audience deliriously happy. Does that make it theatre?

               Some would argue, yeah, yeah, yeah, in its purest form…

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