By Ian Rigg
Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles isn’t a musical. It’s a mad, mod, magnificent multimedia monument, dedicated to the music that encompassed an era.
The phenomenal, pitch-perfect performers standing in for the Fab Four transport audiences on a transformative trip through time, taking them on a magical mystery tour through the soundtrack of their lives.
They sing classic hits ranging from Meet the Beatles to Revolver, play Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in its entirety (in honor of that masterpiece’s 50th anniversary) and end the show with iconic songs from the end of an age. With an announcement guaranteeing that all the music is live, and a reminder that there’s “No smoking. ANYTHING,” the band begins daytripping into the past.
Video designers Aaron Rhyne, Darren McCaulley, Stephan Gotschel, and Christian Behm have outdone themselves, taking audiences on a psychedelic odyssey from the Ed Sullivan show, to the rooftop of Apple Corps. Lighting designer Stephan Gotschel adds additional moods to their vibrant video screens, and Susan Valadez has gotten every wig and costume exactly right.
And the utterly fantastic tribute artists have gotten it exactly right. Every note. Every nuance.
Steve Landes is nigh-indistinguishable from John Lennon. Every vocal inflection, every strum of the guitar, every piano stroke, every jitter, is right on the money.
Aaron Chiazza is every bit the great drummer Ringo Starr was. Ringo only sang lead vocals on but eleven tracks, and of them, Rain only features “With A Little Help From My Friends,” but it garners thunderous applause.
Alastar McNeil really embodies George Harrison. Theater staff will have a tough time cleaning up the aisles after his incredible, face-melting guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
And Paul Curatolo makes a particularly phenomenal Paul McCartney. He utterly nails every aspect of Sir Paul, from his gleeful grin to his left-handed style to his spirit of unabashed earnesty.
Anyone who assumes the show will be a fun and safe tribute should know that it doesn’t stay that way. True to The Beatles’ lasting legacy of political protest, Rain uses its last quarter to take a stand. Images of bombs dropping on Vietnam, mushroom clouds and civil unrest at home speak to the tumultuous times of The Beatles while imploring patrons to have the same revolutionary spirit in the not dissimilar world today. The rad and radical music reminds us that “all you need is love” and reassure “you know it’s gonna be alright.”
The Beatles are more than a band. They’ve entered the pantheon of musical greatness. Everyone has a relationship with those four Liverpudlian lads. They played in the background of childhood. Their lyrics rang out from an entire crowd on life’s most memorable nights. They picked everyone up from their lowest, and helped all soar to new heights.
So “get back to where you once belonged” and “come together, right now” in the audience of Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles.
Broadway in Chicago presents “Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles” through April 2 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago. More information and tickets are available here.