The Times West Virginian


March 13, 2014

‘Rain — A Tribute to Beatles’ set Monday

FAIRMONT — Who hasn’t dreamed of seeing The Beatles in concert?

Tragically, that’s impossible, but the next best thing is coming to Morgantown at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 17, at the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre in West Virginia University’s Creative Arts Center.

Just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964, comes “Rain — A Tribute to The Beatles.”

This live multimedia spectacular takes audience members on a note-for-note musical journey through the life and times of the world’s most celebrated rock band.

“Rain” is acknowledged to be the first, longest-running and most-successful Beatles tribute show in the world, predating the popular Broadway show “Beatlemania” by several years.

It all started with a group of musicians, a band named “Reign” and a love of Beatles music.

“Our goal was to write and record our own music, and to hopefully become a hit band doing our own songs,” said Mark Lewis, manager, original keyboardist and founding member. “We happened to be huge Beatles fans, and because we needed to work and didn’t want to play top 40 hits, we decided to put together a few sets of music that we really enjoyed playing.

“But rather than just including Beatles songs in the set, we decided to separate it and do some exclusively Beatles ‘sets,’” he said, such as early Beatles, Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road.

A local Los Angeles club owner agreed to let them play a Beatles night. They invited some friends just to make sure they had an audience.

No worries.

The club was packed and Reign returned, this time marketed as Rain, a Beatles tribute band.

“It was assumed that the name was taken from the Beatles song,” Lewis said. “It was so common to see our name misspelled in ads and on marquees as ‘Rain’ instead of ‘Reign’ that we eventually just gave in and left it as ‘Rain.’”

From the beginning, he knew Rain was “something very unique. It brought a lot of joy to a lot of people.”

But he still doubted where it would go.

A big break came when Dick Clark hired the band to record the music for the 1979 made-for-TV movie “Birth of The Beatles.” Then the act started packing “major Broadway-type theaters,” he said. And all the hard work and dedication — and love for The Beatles —  began to pay off.

“Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles on Broadway” ran for 300 shows at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York City from October 2010 to July 2011. In addition to the Broadway engagement, “Rain” has been a hugely successful national tour for years.

Just loving The Beatles and their music isn’t enough, Lewis said.

“First and foremost, you have to find great musicians,” he explained. “They have to play great and have the ability (in the case of John Lennon and Paul McCartney) to play multiple instruments, such as bass, guitar and piano, and to play these instruments at a very high level of perfection.

“They have to have great ears to figure out the parts correctly, and they have to be great singers who can sound like the voices of The Beatles rather than just sounding good or unique. This in itself is a very specialized talent. They have to have a great ability to harmonize and blend well with other singers. And they have to look somewhat like the characters they portray.”

In other words, a 6-foot-tall, blond Ringo just won’t cut it.

“They have to have the confidence to front a band, and with an English accent,” Lewis continued.

This can be about as hard as figuring out the opening chord to “A Hard Day’s Night.”

“It’s an extremely difficult job for a musician,” Lewis said, “and to find people that can do this at the level of the guys in ‘Rain’ was extremely demanding. If you don’t do it to perfection, people will not only walk out on you, they will be angry at you. You will be laughed at.

“You don’t just want a great bass player, and you don’t just want a great bass player that can sing. You want a great bass player who can sing and sound like Paul McCartney, and play piano, and have his persona.”

The same goes for John, George and Ringo. Remember, the audience is comprised of people for whom knowing every word, every nuance, every pause in every Beatles song is as natural as breathing.

“This was not easy,” Lewis said.

Whether they saw The Beatles on television that unforgettable Sunday night in February 1964, or if they just turned on to the Fabs through the remastered CDs or “The Beatles: Rock Band,” the audience is there for one reason: to hear The Beatles.

“We get parents who love to bring their kids,” Lewis said. “I think they take a certain pride in turning their children on to The Beatles. They want their kids to ‘get’ The Beatles. And the kids do. They leave our show wanting to listen to more Beatles records, watch Beatles movies, play Beatles ‘Rock Band,’ etc.”

Rain keeps changing and improving. They’ve become better musicians, and technology has helped them become “better Beatles.” Video, lighting, props and costumes all bring The Beatles to life — from the early years to Sgt. Pepper to Abbey Road.

The show has entirely brand new LED, high-definition screens that make up the set. The video content has been streamlined to fit the new screens and a custom scrim has been added to the show. New songs have been added in addition to fan favorites.

“We’re not just a concert. We’re more of an event,” Lewis said.

A typical performance may start out like a Broadway show but ends like a rock concert “with people standing, singing and swaying with the music,” he said.

“The Beatles were in a class by themselves. They changed the world,” Lewis said. “I don’t really know if I chose The Beatles or just followed my passion. When Rain started in the mid-’70s, I was just a musician who was playing music I loved playing. It was fun. I really didn’t know where it was going.

“If you’re doing something that you love doing, and you’re fortunate enough to be able to make a living at it, and you happen to be good at it, what would be the reason to stop? Although I’ve been doing this for decades, it seems as if just yesterday I was playing in bars in L.A., and then the next thing I know we’re starring on Broadway.

“The appeal of Rain is the appeal of, in my opinion, the greatest music ever written and recorded, the greatest band in history: The Beatles,” he continued. “I want to say thank you to John, Paul, George and Ringo for giving the world some of the greatest music ever written and recorded, for the joy that this music has brought to all of us, and for the wonderful career and life that it has personally brought to myself, my family and the other members of Rain.

“Our goal has always been to present this music in a live environment to audiences throughout the world, and most importantly, to maintain the integrity of The Beatles and their music. After all, it is their music. We are just a few very fortunate guys that get to perform this music night after night. What’s better than that?”

Longtime band members Joey “Paul” Curatolo (vocals, bass, guitar, piano), Joe “George” Bithorn (vocals, lead guitar, guitar synthesizer), Ralph “Ringo” Castelli (vocals, drums, percussion) and Steve “John” Landes (vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica) all performed in the hit Broadway and touring productions of “Beatlemania.”

But for them, and Rain founding member Mark Lewis, The Beatles’ music “is first and foremost.”

Email Debra Minor Wilson at

Text Only
  • Morgantown revving up for MountainFest

    Around 60,000 guests will flood into the Morgantown area July 23-27 for the 10th anniversary of MountainFest.
    The motorcycle-themed event will offer live music from two stages, two stunt team demonstrations, a vintage car show, custom bike builders, and around 80 vendors that offer motorcycle memorabilia, clothing, crafts and 14 different food options.

    July 24, 2014

  • Keaton clicks with Douglas, ‘And So It Goes’

    Two old pros show the kids how chemistry works in a romantic comedy in “And So It Goes,” a love-the-last-time-around romp that’ll give its target audience the warm fuzzies.
    Diane Keaton dons one stylishly kicky outfit after another — hats included — trills “La di dah,” or words to that effect, and all is well in this high-rent corner of Connecticut, where the perfectly-coiffed Michael Douglas plays her permanently grumpy Realtor neighbor.

    July 24, 2014

  • Some ‘Abbey’ details to tide you over

    American viewers are still a ways off from having the upstairs-downstairs bunch of “Downton Abbey” over as guests in their homes through the telly, but we have some crumpets of information to hold you over before then.
    Executive producer Gareth Neame and cast members Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech and Joanne Froggatt appeared before reporters as part of PBS’ session at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills.

    July 24, 2014

  • Kids Day Facepainting.jpg Kids Day is Saturday in Morgantown

    On Saturday, a portion of High Street in Morgantown will be closed to traffic to make room for all the kids.
    This year’s Kids Day will feature more than 100 activities, including an interactive butterfly exhibit, bounce houses, sand art stations, a model railroad display and much more.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • ‘The Strain’ offers more gore than story

    At the same time “The Strain” was in development, a commercial in heavy rotation showed three catty middle-schoolers stalking a chubby guy on a diet. Whenever he contemplated a calorie-drenched monstrosity, they’d pipe in with a rapid-fire “Ew!” “Seriously?” “So gross ...”

    July 17, 2014

  • Brooks’ Dublin concerts off; refunds begin

    It’s crying time on the Emerald Isle: Country music superstar Garth Brooks issued a statement Monday confirming that his five planned concerts in Dublin next week are scrapped, and that ticket refunds for 400,000 ticket buyers will proceed.

    July 17, 2014

  • Helping the United Way ... the musical way

    Heston Farm Winery and the United Way of Marion County have teamed up for the third year for the Heston Arts and Music Festival.
    While the HAM Festival has little to do with meat — although there will be a few ham-themed food options, including “hog wings” — it has a lot to do with the community.

    July 10, 2014

  • Go ‘Red, White & Boom!’ July 4

    Palatine Park will be full of people and patriotism Friday during Fairmont’s “Red, White & Boom!” celebration.
    Gates open at 3:30 p.m. and festivities start at 4:15 p.m. with Mama Corn, a bluegrass band from Pennsylvania.
    The Marshall Lowry Band, a country and bluegrass trio with members from Fairmont, will take the stage at 5:30 p.m., and country rock singer Katie Ohh will follow at 7 p.m.

    July 3, 2014

  • The Father of Rock ’n’ Roll

    Next weekend, musicians will come to Fairmont to pay tribute to a man considered the father of rock ’n’ roll piano.
    The 13th annual Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Festival will be held July 5-6 at Palatine Park.
    A Fairmont native, Johnson taught himself to play piano, and his talent led him into a partnership with musician Chuck Berry — Johnson wrote the music for more than 60 Chuck Berry songs but did not receive writing credits.

    June 26, 2014

  • Petting zoo offers ‘total freedom’

    Wallabies, silky chickens and miniature ducks — oh my!
    The Great American Petting Zoo will travel to the Clarksburg Shop ’n Save on June 25 and then to the Mannington Shop ’n Save on June 26 to warm the hearts of families in Marion and Harrison counties.

    June 19, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Lifestyles
House Ads