Rain Beatles Review – Twist and Shout at the Academy of Music

Philadelphians have the opportunity to see the greatest rock band of all time, at the Academy of Music, this week. RAIN – A Tribute To The Beatles is the closest thing possible, to a 21st-century version of a “Magical Mystery Tour”. It is a remarkably faithful, two-hour rendition, of many of the beloved quartet’s most popular songs. The magnificent cast not only performs flawless versions of the Beatles’ myriad hits, but also are superb actors, at playing the Beatles themselves.

You literally feel, as if you are at an actual Beatles concert. The band “breaks the fourth wall”, and directly greets the audience, as if it is the present day – “Hello, Philadelphia!”, etc. And for us – who are too young to remember the Beatles – it was probably the closest thing to the actual Beatles experience, that any non-baby boomer could ever have. The famous “Lads from Liverpool” speak in flawless Liverpudlian accents; Paul and John speak frequently, and they sound more like the Beatles than the Beatles themselves. Having heard them speak in news clips many times, the actors are great impressionists as well as musicians.

The Academy of Music run also represents a homecoming for the performer who plays John - Steve Landes, a native of Lansdale, in suburban Montgomery County.

We encourage you to arrive early, and not solely to take in the incredible history and ambience of the Academy of Music, itself. Flanking the stage are two screens, which entertain the audience with Beatles trivia questions (often quite tricky!) with ‘60s psychedelic backgrounds and fonts. (Since we love trivia games, we wish we had arrived at our seats at the Academy of Music, a bit earlier, in order to try our luck at all of the questions!)

The questions resume at intermission, which helpfully also includes a running countdown clock for the 20-minute intermission, giving you plenty of time to tell when you need to hurry back to your seat for the second act.

Unlike the equally hugely successful (and worthwhile) Jersey Boys, Rain is not a true “jukebox musical”, in that Rain is not the “story of the Beatles”. It doesn’t describe the relationship between John and Paul and George and Ringo. It doesn’t chronicle how they met. It’s a tribute performance. There is no dialogue, and no plot. There are no characters other than the four Beatles, themselves. It’s just fun.

The band initially appears in its original moptops and dark suits, performing our favorite Beatles songs, of the “I Want to Hold Your Hand” variety. They then evolve into the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" era, with the gaudy colors and quasi-military uniforms, and finally into the 1970s.

During the show itself, the flanking screens show the context of the 1960s and 1970s, from the band’s initial 1964 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show”, through the Beatles’ notorious experiments with hallucinatory drugs, the counterculture, Vietnam, Watergate, and the maelstrom of political and social upheaval of the mid-to-late 20th century. News footage and newspaper headlines are interspersed with psychedelic animation and imagery.

Overall, Rain is more like attending a rock concert, than a Broadway show. The performers encourage the audience to stand, sway, clap, cheer, dance in the aisles, and even sing along with their favorite songs. It is a truly extraordinary experience, particularly for the Academy of Music. It is a highly enjoyable evening of entertainment.

Perhaps most importantly, you don’t need to be a hard-core devotee of the band to enjoy the show. The Beatles’ incredible accomplishments mean that you’ll inevitably enjoy listening (and in some cases, singing along with) many of the songs. (Trust us, you’ll recognize all of them!)

We could not help but note the following irony, given the grandeur of the setting;

The Academy of Music had already existed on Broad Street for over a century, when the moptopped Beatles first stepped off their British Airways flight in 1964, as part of the British Invasion. Of those Philadelphians who attended performances at the Academy of Music that same year, very few undoubtedly would ever have imagined that those “lads from Liverpool” would ever receive knighthoods, be hailed as among the greatest musicians of all time, or that actors playing them would ever bring a crowd to a euphoric frenzy at the Academy of Music, at some point in the 21st century! Rock concerts at an opera house – unthinkable!

What Is the Back Story- and Why Is the Show Called Rain?

This fact had initially puzzled us, since the name did not seem to relate to the Beatles (except, perhaps, that it rains a lot in Britain!) Here’s why, according to the press kit:

This Broadway show, naturally, did not originate as one. In the 1970s, Reign (not “Rain”!) was formed as a Beatles tribute band in Southern California, and grew popular. There was already Beatles nostalgia, as the band had broken up in 1970. Ironically, this band has lasted longer than the iconic rockers they portray!

The tribute band ultimately decided to switch from Reign to Rain – one reason being that there was a 1966 single by the Beatles called “Rain”. These musicians are also noteworthy for being the first widely successful tribute band.

In addition, the musicians in Rain take great care in accurate portrayals of the Beatles, and have a repertoire of no fewer than two hundred Beatles songs. They take the same care and interest in the artistic craft, as those who study classical musicians such as Beethoven or Bach. It’s noted at the beginning, that “all of the music is live, with no pre-recordings”.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that given their staggering and enduring popularity, relatively few people have ever had the opportunity to see the actual Beatles perform in concert. Their last concert tour was in 1966 – less than three years after they hit American shores. So by going to see Rain, you have the opportunity to experience a replication of a highly unique concert, rarely seen even at the zenith of the Beatles’ popularity.

Rain Beatles Review - If You Go to the Academy of Music

Direct from their phenomenally successful Broadway engagement, the internationally-acclaimed Beatles concert, RAIN – A Tribute To The Beatles, returns to Philadelphia at the Academy of Music for eight shows only - Jan. 31 to Feb. 5 - as part of the Broadway Season.

Tickets ranging in price from $20 to $100 are now on sale. Tickets can be purchased by calling 215-731-3333, online at kimmelcenter.org/broadway, at the Kimmel Center box office, Broad & Spruce Sts. (open daily 10 am to 6 pm) or at the Academy of Music box office, Broad & Locust Sts. (open during performances only). Groups of 10 or more will receive discounts for select performances by calling 215-790-5883 or 866-276-2947.

Performances include: Tuesday – Thursday evening at 7:30 pm; Friday & Saturday evening at 8:00 pm; a weekday matinee Thursday at 2:00 pm, and matinees Saturday at 2:00 pm and Sunday at 1:00 pm.

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