By Wendy Rosenfield
FOR THE INQUIRER
I’m not sure Rain, the touring Beatles revue that has also made its home on Broadway since 2010, meets the standard for theater. A knockoff of a knockoff (all four cast members are Beatlemania vets), it’s more like watching a Fab Four drag show, or a really expensive cover band. It’s a decent cover band, mind you, without lip-syncing, but the only narrative is signaled by the band’s musical development, tracked chronologically, and its members’ hair growth.
But it’s not like the boys need a jukeboxed story to hold their catalog together. Their own long and winding road, its twists deeply ingrained in the hearts of baby boomers everywhere, requires only a costume change from matching Edwardian suits to those candy-colored Sgt. Pepper jackets to evoke the era’s tastes, times, and turmoil, both internecine and international.
Rain provides those visual cues, along with archival footage of little girls passing out at Shea Stadium, old TV commercials, and hippies doing hippie things at Woodstock. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and that’s also the point. When a house as big as the Academy of Music sings along to a recorded verse of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” as enthusiastically, and with as much sincerity, as they do when joining “Paul” (Joey Curatolo) on “Yesterday,” it’s clear the audience has more invested in this evening than a few extra bucks.
Of the foursome, only Curatolo earns the fab designation, with bandmates Joe Bithorn (as George Harrison) and Ralph Castelli (as Ringo Starr) bearing merely passing vocal resemblance to the real thing — though Bithorn’s guitar solo does justice to “The End.” Lansdale native Steve Landes takes a more perfunctory approach to his replication of John Lennon, with Lennon’s signature nasal tone, but none of his fire.
Still, Curatolo knows why the people still pay good money to see Beatles impersonators, and he gives them what they want, with wide eyes, note-matching McCartneyisms (you can tell a good Paul by the strength of his “Woooo”), and nostalgia-inducing comments such as “We made a record called Rubber Soul, remember that? Remember records?” He even calls for the 18-and-under crowd to stand up and be applauded for proudly carrying their parents’ (grandparents’?) torch.
And the music? Well, I always leaned more Beatles than Stones, and with Mark Beyer’s keyboard accompaniment re-creating the band’s groovier forays, such as “Strawberry Fields Forever”'s spooky fade-in, there’s still some pleasure to be had in just listening in and letting it be.
Through Sunday at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets. Tickets: $20-$100. Information: 215-893-1999 or KimmelCenter.org/Broadway.