Theatre Review: “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” @ Broadway San Jose, 10/26/10

The British invasion has hit San Jose and New York City simultaneously. As the third show in Broadway San Jose’s second season opened, the opening night party in New York City was about to start for the same show, Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles. It opened on Broadway and San Jose on the same night, October 26th 2010 – making it a very special opportunity for the Bay Area! How often can you see a show that’s opening up in New York City on the same night? Practically never. I bet, the audience on Broadway had the same amount of fun as we were having at the San Jose Performing Arts Center. And, we sure did party!

Rain opened their set using The Beatle’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show as the backdrop. When it first aired, there were over 74 million viewers (over 40% of the population). But before they started playing, the mood was set with images of the early 1960’s on big screen concert-like projections on either side of the stage. Ed Sullivan even made the introduction speech and introduced The Beatles (or Rain) to the stage. They opened playing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” And from then on, it’s history.

One of the most unique things about Rain is the fact that it can play to any age. It’s great for a teenager to be introduced to The Beatles in a live environment. They would have never had the opportunity to hear any of The Beatles’ music performed live and Rain delivers almost exact replicas of The Beatles’ music (pretty amazingly). It’s great for the 20 & 30-somethings because their parents grew up on The Beatles, so they’ve heard their music on the radio, playing at home, but again, also never had the opportunity to see them live. They know most of the music, but since they didn’t grow up in the era, they didn’t see the historical perspective behind the music. Rain’s projections were a fantastic asset to the production, providing 1960’s commercials, live footage of the Shea Stadium concert and “You’re a Yellow Submarine” type cartoons, that all synced perfectly with the music. (I wonder if The Beatles would have loved to have used projections in their concerts if they had the technology. It seemed to fit the music perfectly.) Then, you have the 40-something’s and above who grew up on The Beatles. Some of them loved the earlier style, while others rocked out to The Beatles’ more psychedelic style in their later years. I know some of the audience members even remember going to see The Beatles live in concert and Rain allowed them to re-experience those incredible moments with vivid clarity.

My point is, Rain: A Tribue to the Beatles does an incredible job of grabbing everyone’s attention and giving them a show that’s instantly likable at any age.

It plays like a concert, but you sit in the comfort of a theatre – there’s no smoke (though that was probably one of the least authentic parts about it), no unruly crowds, no screaming fan-girls (well, there were a couple fan-women). It’s the perfect mesh between the two styles. You feel like you’ve just been to a concert, but in reality you just visited the theatre. It’s a great way to get a non-theatre goer to the theatre without really “tricking” them into it.

The four performers – Tim Piper, Mac Ruffing, Tom Teeley and Joe Bologna – were fantastic. All gave solid performances that were worthy of The Beatles. Paul McCartney (Mac Ruffing) had an incredible voice and worked the crowd with his gregarious attitude. He got the entire audience on their feet to dance, and clapping throughout. George Harrison’s (Tom Teeley) guitar skills were exceptional, especially on the song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – a mash-up of the version on The White Album and Cirque’s LOVE. It was one that I wasn’t as familiar with and I fell in love with it! Ringo Starr (Joe Bologna) was a solid drummer and was having the time of his life on that stage. He also got the crowd engaged by getting us to clap over our heads and making sure we were have a great time. John Lennon (Tim Piper) had the biggest shoes to fill and he did a pretty good job filling them but it’s obvious what a legend and star John Lennon was. It’s been 30 years since Lennon was shot and murdered this December but his music and legacy still lives on. Overall, all of the guys did an exceptional job with recreating some of The Beatles’ best songs. I was completely impressed.

It was a night of peace, love and fun. Just remember to bring your lighters!

They made the audience work for an encore. We were standing and clapping (and some of us, screaming) for a good couple of minutes. It was one of the longest standing ovations I’ve ever seen at the theatre – seemed more appropriate at a concert. But when they came back, the performed three of The Beatles’ best: “Give Peace a Chance”, “Let it Be” and my favorite of the night, “Hey Jude”.  It ended on the absolutely perfect note.

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