Phony Beatles Trample Fab Four in Soggy ‘Rain’: Jeremy Gerard

From left, Ralph Castelli, Joey Curatolo Joe Bithorn and Steve Landes star in "Rain" in New York. The Beatles "tribute concert" is running on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre. Photographer: Cylla von Tiedemann/Merle Frimark via Bloomberg

Just in time for Halloween comes “Rain,” the cheesiest slice of Beatles necrophilia since George Harrison’s doctor had him autograph a guitar as he lay dying of brain cancer.

The two-hour concert, padded with froufrou, is performed by a quartet bearing no resemblance, physically or musically, to John, Paul, George and Ringo. “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway” has the blessing of Sony Corp., which licenses the Fab Four catalog inherited from Michael Jackson.

The stage is flanked by big screens framed to look like old TV sets. As a warm-up, we’re shown clips of the Kennedys and the British invasion. An Ed Sullivan impersonator introduces the boys from Liverpool (their names are never mentioned during the evening) to the TV audience as the curtain rises on their stand-ins, who launch into “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “All My Loving” and “This Boy.”

Unlike “Jersey Boys,” the Four Seasons bio-show playing across the street, “Rain” doesn’t bother with a story. The show follows the Beatles arc from touring rock band to the studios where they produced “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the psychedelia that followed, to the winding road that took them to their pre-breakup, throw-in-the-towel chart toppers “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude.”

Slick Licks

There is some intelligent musicianship on the stage (including strong support from keyboardist Mark Beyer), but it’s folded into to a grinning, puppy-doggish show with all the charm of a sculpture grouping at Mme. Tussauds.

Waxiest-looking of the four is Joey Curatolo in the Paul role of bassist/tummler, looking vaguely like Micky Dolenz of the Monkees. He urges the audience through a frozen saccharine smile to sing along on “Yesterday,” clap hands, stand up and dance and fly their graying freak flag at “When I’m 64.” (Worst of all for Beatles purists, Curatolo is right-handed.)

Steve Landes, in the John role, is almost as icky, revealing none of Lennon’s angry, sardonic flashes or even a glimmer or irony over the street-smart band’s astonishing rise to fame. Drummer Ralph Castelli has Ringo’s dopey smile but not his self-mocking style. Joe Bithorn plays guitar well enough to make you think George actually wailed out the lead on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (every Beatles fan knows it was their pal Eric Clapton on the track).

There is dumbed-down, Monty Python-style animation, trippy lighting recalling the Joshua Light Show and the inevitable wig and costume changing. There is even, occasionally, a bit of singing to remind us of the power of the Lennon/McCartney partnership. Primarily, however, “Rain” is a Vegas act for All Hallow’s Eve -- a rock horror show.

At the Neil Simon Theatre, 250 W. 52nd St. Information: +1-877-250-2929; Rating: *

What the Stars Mean:
****       Do Not Miss
***        Excellent
**         Average
*          Poor
(No stars) Worthless

(Jeremy Gerard is an editor and critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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