The Beatles, as brought to life in "Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles," make their debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964. Courtesy photo

The Beatles, as brought to life in "Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles," make their debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964. Courtesy photo


‘Rain’ aims to transport audiences to Beatles’ era

By From page A11 | December 22, 2011

Check it out

What: “Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles”

When: Dec. 27-Jan. 1, at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; and 3 p.m. Friday

Where: Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento.

Tickets:$19-$83; (916) 557-1999 or (916) 808-5181; www.tickets.com

“Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles” pulls into Sacramento next week (Dec. 27-Jan.1) for an intense one-week run, with nine performances in five days.

It’s an elaborate show, with four musicians taking the roles of John, Paul, George and Ringo (plus a fifth musician on keyboards), wearing costumes representing the various “looks” that the band made famous.

The show follows the band from cute mop-topped teen idols who were greeted by mobs of screaming girls on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, to the color-drenched retro/psychedelic look of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 1967, to the more mature, individual look that each band member adopted as the group drifted toward breakup a few years later.

The show also includes theatrical lighting, scenery and sound equipment — enough to fill up two semi trucks.

“Rain” enjoyed a 10-month run on Broadway in New York City last year, and may return to Broadway in the future. The show just paid a visit to South Africa, and will be going to Scandanavia and South America. A run in London’s West End is planned for fall 2012.

All of which is a far cry from the show’s modest beginnings in the 1970s, as recalled by Mark Lewis, who was a founder and original keyboardist — now manager — of the band Rain.

“We were a band playing night clubs in Southern California on off-nights — Mondays and Tuesdays,” Lewis recalled. “We used to mix in original material with covers of songs by The Beatles and other bands we liked. Eventually, we separated it into a Beatles set, and then a Beatles night.

“We would go to a club owner and say ‘What if we just did Beatles songs … your club is dead on Monday and Tuesday. We’ll just work for what comes through the door.

“We did that in the San Fernando Valley, and soon, the place was packed. That was our first little spark.”

Soon, Rain had an agent, who arranged bookings at county fairs up and down the state, amusement parks, and seasonal events like the Gilroy Garlic Festival and the Castroville Artichoke Festival.

“It kind of grew,” Lewis said. “And as we grew, the right people came on board, the quality of the music and the quality of the production improved, and our reputation grew.

“We got to do a movie soundtrack — the Dick Clark movie ‘The Birth of the Beatles.’ And casinos at Lake Tahoe took an interest in us. They brought us back several times a year.”

(Lewis eventually got a house in Reno, where he still lives.)

Lewis and his crew kept adding elements and improving the show, adding video clips and better costumes.

Rain enjoyed a nearly two-year run at a Lake Tahoe casino, then went to Los Angeles, where the band performed an eight-show, sold-out run at The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. At that point, they started touring American cities, with the goal of a Broadway run.

The Broadway gig finally started in October 2010, and continued through July 2011, with some 300 performances. “Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles” picked up a 2011 Drama Desk Award for Best Revue.

Lewis continues to marvel at the many changes along the way.

“When we started, there was no such thing as a tribute band — there were just some Elvis impersonators,” he said. “The show ‘Beatlemania’ (an earlier Beatles-based revue that ran on Broadway from 1977 to 1979) did not exist at that time.

“We built it brick-by-brick,” Lewis said.

And replicating the sound of the later albums by The Beatles proved challenging.

“They stopped touring after their concert at Shea Stadium (New York) in 1965. They went into the studios and recorded more albums, but they never had to duplicate it live. We play it all live, and we pretty much nail every little nuance.”

Lewis steadfastly resisted an invitation to pick out a few Beatles songs as his favorites.

“It’s really hard to say. The reason I don’t pick is that there are so many great songs,” he said. “Each Beatles album had its own personality and look. And having done this for so long, we go through periods where we put a particular song in the set every night, then we switch in something else after a few months, and that would become the new favorite.”

Lewis added that “Rain” typically plays to a multigenerational audience, as young as age 4, and as old as 80-something.

“Your average kid these days does not know who Ed Sullivan was. But for a lot of parents and grandparents, there’s a certain pride in bringing their children and teenagers to the show, to expose them to the music live,” he said. “By the time people come out of the theater, they’re singing the songs and can’t wait to pull out the albums when they get home.”

The show’s Sacramento run comes during the week between Christmas and New Year’s — a slot that the Broadway Sacramento series has found to be lucrative for ticket sales. The Mondavi Center at UC Davis and the Three Stages Performing Arts Center at Folsom Lake College, both of which present touring artists, take a break from Dec. 20 until early January, and the holiday shows at the region’s three small Equity theaters wrap up their runs after Dec. 25.

That creates a golden opportunity for Broadway Sacramento to sell tickets to audiences seeking a live performance during this holiday week, rather than a movie screening.

“Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles” plays from Dec. 27 through Jan. 1 as part of the Broadway Sacramento series, at the Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Matinee performances are at 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and at 3 p.m. Friday.

Tickets range from $19 to $83; some performances are sold out. For more information, call (916) 557-1999 or (916) 808-5181 or visit www.tickets.com.

Jeff Hudson

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