Friday, July 16, 2010

Beatles Memories Rain Down At Canon Theatre
I can't recall whether I saw Beatlemania or Rain approximately 30 years ago in Toronto at what was then called the O'Keefe Centre, but witnessing Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles this week at the city's Canon Theatre brought back a lot of memories.
I was barely in my teens back then and hadn't yet seen the hundreds of concerts that are now in my past, but I remember leaving the theatre thinking that I'd just come the closest I'd ever be to seeing John, Paul, George and Ringo on stage together. While I'm more jaded now and Rain didn't seem quite as magical as the show I saw in my youth, it's still a lot of fun for folks of all ages.
There were kids, senior citizens and lots of people in between in the audience on Wednesday night, and all of them were getting into the production — especially during "Twist And Shout," when everyone got up to dance. That's only logical because I can't understand how anyone can't appreciate the classic catalogue of Beatles songs.  
Steve Landes (Lennon), Joey Curatolo (McCartney), Joe Bithorn (Harrison), Ralph Castelli (Starr) and background musician Mark Lewis sound like the Fab Four musically and vocally, with Castelli standing out as the one who most reminded me of his original predecessor. And with the various wigs, fake facial hair and costumes that the men wear at different parts of the performance, it's not too hard to imagine you're in the audience of The Ed Sullivan Show or at New York City's Shea Stadium seeing the real thing some 45 years ago.
I quibble with Curatolo being right-handed while McCartney is a lefty, but that's something the average patron probably wouldn't notice or care about.
In addition to the great songs and their presentation, video screens flank the stage showing a mix of vintage Beatles-era clips and current footage of Rain. See-through projection screens where lights and special effects can be shown add to the experience, and an unexpected treat was the showing of humorous '60s television commercials on the screens during the change-over to the Sgt. Pepper's set.
It's interesting to note that, aside from the brief 1969 set on the roof of Apple Corps' London, England headquarters, The Beatles didn't play any concerts after 1966. So many of the band's most beloved songs were never performed in front of an audience. With Rain, however, they are.
Rain will be at the Canon Theatre until Aug. 1. The production will then have short runs in several U.S. cities and will hit Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York City from Oct. 19 to Jan. 2. You can find all of the dates on the Rain web site.

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