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'Rain' less than a Broadway magical mystery tour

" A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway ", live on stage at Broadway�s Neil Simon Theatre in New York. Show opens October26 at 6:30 PM through Sunday, January 2, 2011. Pictured here, the group, RAIN band performing at the Canon Theatre in Toronto. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann Photo/

Lighten up, you tell me. Look at all the happy people, dancing at their seats to "Twist and Shout," swaying to "Let It Be," yelling and screaming when the pretend-Ringo holds up a sign that says "yell and scream" and singing along about how much they "believe in yesterday."

So what harm comes from "Rain," the aging Beatles cover band and paint-by-numbers multimedia show that has settled on Broadway for the holidays - at $120 a top ticket - after decades on the road? Just as some people like their history from Civil War re-enactments and others take comfort in beloved dead animals stuffed by taxidermists, the audience for pop re-creations seems to prefer live fakes in a big hall to experiencing the real thing on great documentaries and albums.

Taken on its own, "Rain" does a middling job in the lookalike requirement, a better job at the vocal soundalikes and is really quite good at duplicating the instrumentals for some of the best songs ever written. The visuals - projected behind the ersatz Fab Four and on two screens shaped like '60s television sets - recap the usual Nixon/Khrushchev, one-giant-step-for-mankind clichés of the era. Phony documentary footage has an actor pretending to be Ed Sullivan. There are whimsical quasi-Yellow Submarine and trippy animations and a few authentically funny old TV commercials.

Of course, "Rain" does not exist on its own. It is now the third artifact from the oldies-theater replication business to take up valuable space on Broadway. "Rock of Ages" imitates '80s hair bands. "Million Dollar Quartet," a session with '50s rock pioneers, has an Elvis impersonator.

While those shows string songs around slight stories, "Rain" (named after the b-side of "Paperback Writer") is unapologetically a concert - infantile mop-top wigs, bulky Sgt. Pepper uniforms and all. Steve Landes looks a bit like John, but sings with a buzzy, nasal smear. Joey Curatolo has Paul's puppy eagerness, but his voice is heavier and not as sweet. Ralph Castelli libels Ringo with that imbecilic grin, and Joe Bithorn, arguably the strongest guitarist, appears to have given up looking like George or looking interested.

A pre-show announcement says no recordings are used, that everything is live. Everything, alas, except the imagination.



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