The Beatles are back — or at least the Beatles tribute band Rain, which has been singing the songs and donning the costumes for more than 25 years. Troupe has finally brought its act to Broadway with a concert playing 12 weeks at the Neil Simon, filling a scheduling vacuum prior to the March previews of “Catch Me If You Can.” Show should find enough diehard Beatles fans to fill the seats and sell the souvenirs, although there is little of the excitement or danger of the original foursome, or much electricity, either.
Rain’s Fab Four can be considered a reasonable facsimile of the original, although you’re not likely to see teenagers tearing down barricades to mob them as if they were Justin Bieber. At one press preview of “Rain,” the most enthusiastic patrons seemed to be those in the over-60 set — living the dream, literally, of “When I’m Sixty-Four.” The under-16 crowd, too, loved it.
These performers — who seem to be in the 45-55 age range (unlike the originals, who were just under 30 at the time of the breakup) — come across as proficient stand-ins with a good feel for the music. Show at the Simon presents the frontline members of the group, although the program lists 10 additional players slated to appear “at certain performances.”
Joey Curatolo charmingly and convincingly fronts the band as the Paul McCartney stand-in. Alongside Steve Landes as John Lennon and Ralph Castelli as Ringo Starr, Joe Bithorn remains more or less hidden centerstage as George Harrison until later in the show, when he provides a notably good perf of Harrison-penned tune “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Production centers on five distinct stages of the Beatles’ development: The “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance in 1964, the Shea Stadium concert in 1965, the “Sgt. Pepper” era of 1966, the flower power days of the Summer of Love (circa 1967-68), and the Abbey Road recordings of 1969-70. That means changes of wardrobe and makeup, covered by vintage film footage (including a humorous Winston cigarette commercial featuring Flintstones characters). The format seems to work just fine for fans, giving them 30 favorite tunes along the way.
Rain began in the late 1970s as a small-time Beatles band touring Southern California, although the troupe turned more professional in the mid-’80s with an influx of alumni from touring productions of 1977 Broadway outing “Beatlemania.” “Rain” does not generate the same excitement as “Beatlemania” for reasons that are understandable: The former Beatles were still very much alive at the time, and their first wave of teenaged fans were still mostly in their 20s.
Nonetheless, “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” has another company currently on a U.S. tour (this week San Jose, next week New Orleans); there is clearly a sizable audience in the States for re-creations of the Beatles. “Rain” provides them the nostalgic parade of the songs that made the band famous, packaged in a streamlined concert that will not disappoint the faithful.