Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles @ Neil Simon Theatre

The year, 1964. The event, The Beatles land for the first time in America. The reason, to perform for millions on the Ed Sullivan Show. The reactions, these four guys single handedly change the face of music and start what will come to be known as “Beatlemania.” Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles not only chronicles this momentous event, but also follows the Fab Four’s entire career from start to finish. This breath taking musical finally lands on Broadway after years of touring the United States and captivating fans both young and old.

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles takes a personal look at not only the successful career of The Beatles, but all so the world around them. Fused with clips of news stories, famous speeches, and commercials of the 1960s, Rain opens with a re-enactment of the famous Beatles performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The audience is then transported to a little over one year later, August 15, 1965, to see The Beatles rock out Shea Stadium. Performed to over 55,000 screaming fan, this is the first ever stadium rock concert in the history of music. Before long, the audience moves to June 1967, and watch as Sgt. Pepper takes over. When the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band record is released, the face of music is once again changed with the world’s first ever concept album. Sporting the classic neon, satin costumes, Rain band members rock out to some of The Beatles greatest hits, including “With A Little Help From My Friends” and “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Moving right along into the late 1960s, the idea of flower power takes over The Beatles music as they become more acoustic and release what has come to be known as the “White Album.” On the last and final stop of this Beatles tour, Rain band members take the audience to Abby Road. Here the final two Beatles albums are performed to a screaming crowd who simply do not want this night of pure “Beatlemania” to come to an end.

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles is performed each night by five extremely talented musicians: Steve Landes (vocals, rhythm guitar, piano, and harmonica), Joey Curatolo (vocals, bass, piano, and guitar), Joe Bithorn (vocals, lead guitar, guitar synth, and sitar), Ralph Castelli (vocals, drums, and percussion), and Mark Beyer (keyboard and percussion). Together, these five men bring The Beatles back together for one last concert. If one was to close their eyes, he or she would swear that The Beatles were standing in front of them performing together again. These amazing vocals are enhanced even further with the stunning technical work that was done for this production. Rain features scenic design by Scott Christensen and Todd Skinner. While the scenic design is simple, it helps tell the story of The Beatles in a big way. With each shift in time and record, the scene around them changes. Album covers, television studios, and baseball parks shined as the Rain band took us through history. Adding greatly to the scenic design was the breath taking video design by Darren McCaulley and Mathieu St-Arnaud. Using a mix of old time footage, original animated design, and live feed of the Rain band, this is some of the best video design to ever hit the Broadway! Starting out with a mix of live feed and actually historical clips of the Ed Sullivan Show performance and the Shea Stadium concert, the video design then moves into a mix of live feed and psychedelic original animations. Rain then ends with a bang by having a live feed of the audience being projected onto the two large television shaped screens. This unique touch took Rain to a whole new technical level; and, speaking of brilliant technical work, one must mention Stephan Gotschel’s stunning lighting design. Combining a unique blend of both concert and Broadway lighting, Gotschel gives Rain the perfect feel that it needs; flashy lighting mixed with brilliant Broadway style. Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles flourishes with high end style that gives theatre goers a one of a kind experience!

One of the best parts about Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles cannot actually be found in any summary of the show, Playbill, or program. Not one single person can be credited with this element; however, thousands of people make this element happen each and every performance. This element, of course, is the audience of Rain. Consisting of a typically older crowd, this show has the task of transporting its audience back to a time when they were young, rebellious, and in love with rock n’ roll. The astonishing Rain band has the audience on its feet, dancing, and singing along (and, in some cases, crying and jumping along). The live pans of the audience at the end of the show truly show the power of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles. Moms, dads, grandparents, and children all catch some “Beatlemania.”

For an experience like nothing else on Broadway right now, go see Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles, currently playing at the Neil Simon Theatre through January 15th (and re-opening at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on February 8th). This is the perfect feel good musical of the season!

Review By: James Russo & Ryan Oliveti

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