Jan. 17, 2008
By Toby Zinman
For The Inquirer
Is it fun? Is it cheesy? Did the audience love it? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
The faux fab four, a.k.a. the band called Rain, has the Academy of
Music in fast-rewind mode with "Rain: The Beatles Experience," the
spectacular extravaganza in which the Beatles are channeled note by
note, hairdo by hairdo, year by year. Two huge screens provide a
flyby of the past: vintage footage of hula hoops, Nixon and
Khrushchev, the Twist, JFK's inauguration. At last they appear: the
mop tops, emerging from a plane in New York in 1964, met by thousands
of shrieking, fainting girls.
Then Rain takes the stage, greeted as if it's the real thing.
The 2½-hour show progresses through five sets, from the early Ed
Sullivan days of the 1960s ("I Want to Hold Your Hand," "All My
Lovin' ") through "A Hard Day's Night," through "Yesterday," through
"A Little Help From My Friends," "Eleanor Rigby" and "Strawberry
Act 2 begins with "Hello Goodbye" and moves on to "Come Together" and
"Give Peace a Chance." The encores are predictably gratifying:
"Imagine," and the inevitable "Hey, Jude." The crowd loved it -
swaying, arms in the air, two-fingered peace signs aloft.
As musical time passes, the accompanying visuals change - Vietnam War
footage, campus protests, wild dancing in the park during the Summer
of Love, Twiggy and space launches. The band's costumes change too,
from neat black suits and ties to the bizarre getups of the Sgt.
Pepper era, to jeans; the guys acquire mustaches, then long wigs;
Lennon's wearing glasses and chewing gum.
A young woman in the row in front of me sings to the guy she's with,
"Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" and
plants a big smooch on him. Of course, a good many people in the
happy audience already have found out the answer to those questions.
The crowd is an interesting mixture of generations, and everybody
seems to know all the lyrics. For a phenomenon that lasted barely a
decade, the Beatles' legacy is astonishing.
There is, of course, something really weird and creepy about people
making their careers out of imitating the Beatles - two of the Rain
rockers have been at it for 25 years. They also cast us, the
audience, as imitators of the Beatles' audiences - "Scream" they
instruct us at the point where the audience screams in the
recordings, and we oblige. They keep asking if we're having a good
time, and milk the applause shamelessly. The show even has its own CD
- which, presumably, sounds exactly like a Beatles CD.
But, hey, let it be.
Rain: The Beatles Experience
Cast: Joey Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Joe Bithom (George Harrison),
Ralph Castelli (Ringo Starr), Steve Landes (John Lennon) and Mark
Lewis (keyboards and percussion).
Playing at Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets. Through
Sunday. Tickets $35 to $85. Information: 215-731-3333 or