nytheatre.com review by Nita Congress
November 2, 2010
I love The Beatles. I am old enough to have seen them on The Ed Sullivan Show (although I don't think I actually did; it might have been past my bedtime). I owned, memorized, and wore out every album. I read dozens of books about them, saw all their movies, watched every documentary and clip-fest.
And then, like Peter Pan's Wendy, I got older. Which is not to say that I don't have all the CDs (except, for some odd reason, Sgt. Pepper) and don't listen to and enjoy them.
Rain, however? Not so much.
Rain is billed as "A Tribute to the Beatles." What it is is four musicians who look a lot like The Beatles—sometimes more or less so, depending on the Beatle period being depicted: Beatlemania, Sgt. Pepper, or Let It Be—painstakingly reproducing thirty-some best-loved Beatles songs while some rather sparse Beatle-ish psychedelia and cartoons, along with commercials evoking the era are projected on JumboTrons beside and behind the band.
I found I had a lot of time to ponder on the production, which I really shouldn't have, but it didn't engage or take me anywhere, so I spent much of the performance musing on my own and the audience's reactions—and the gap between them.
Because most of the audience really seemed to enjoy the show. They got up and swayed when the band directed them to do so, and they clapped when urged to keep the beat, and they applauded when the "applause" signs lit up from the "Ed Sullivan" set, and they sang along with pretty much everything. They laughed at all the silly period commercials—the Flintstones smoking Winston's cigarettes, a hairdo made out of stiff-lather Prell, free nylons in every box of Duz detergent—run to cover the band's long costume change into Sgt. Pepper gear. And they pointed, giggled, and guffawed when they saw themselves on the JumboTrons during the encore sing-along "Hey Jude."
I'm not really sure what they were getting out of the performance, so, during intermission, I asked some of the people near me. One young man liked experiencing the music of his parents' generation—a kind of second-hand nostalgia, if you will. Others cited the infectious happiness of the music and the joy of being taken back to their youths.
And then I kind of got it.
When I go to the theatre, I go to be taken out of myself, to go someplace new or to revisit someplace familiar from a different perspective. I don't want to go to the theatre—or anyplace for that matter—to evoke my high school memories.
But a lot of people apparently don't agree with me. And so, for them, here's a summary of Rain:
- The musicianship is more than fine; these men are lifelong, dedicated musicians, many of whom have been with Rain—which began in the '70s as a California bar band doing Beatles covers—for years. In particular, Joe Bithorn more than channeled George Harrison on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and Joey Curatolo did a slightly speeded-up "I've Just Seen a Face" that was fun and peppy.
- The production is adequate, although not inspired or inspiring. The visuals accompanying the songs are rather literal, and there is an overreliance on closeups of the band and hippie-dippie shapes and colors.
- There's no pretense that this is anything other than what it is: four men invoking and evoking John, Paul, George, and Ringo (though as portrayed by Ralph Casetelli he looked and played more like Keith Moon). They are respectful, pleasant, and sincere. The production is neither glib nor slick; it seems well meaning.
In short, if you like this sort of thing, you're going to like this.