Beatles tribute goes to Pepperland

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles will be performing the Beatles’ iconic 1967 album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” in its entirety at the Aronoff Center to commemorate that album’s 50th anniversary. Pictured (from left): Paul Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Alastar McNeil (George Harrison), Steve Landes (John Lennon) and Aaron Chiazza (Ringo Starr). RICHARD LOVRICH/CONTRIBUTED
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Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles will be performing the Beatles’ iconic 1967 album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” in its entirety at the Aronoff Center to commemorate that album’s 50th anniversary. Pictured (from left): Paul Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Alastar McNeil (George Harrison), Steve Landes (John Lennon) and Aaron Chiazza (Ringo Starr). RICHARD LOVRICH/CONTRIBUTED

Rain to mark landmark album’s 50th anniversary.

Besides the obvious fact that the Beatles are long defunct, there’s a good reason to come to the Aronoff Center Monday to watch “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” provide a live, theatrical, note-by-note re-creation of the Fab Four’s iconic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” to commemorate that album’s 50th anniversary.

That is, the Beatles themselves never performed any of those songs live.

“There was a ton of orchestration,” said Mark Lewis, co-creator of Rain. “They were turning tapes over and doing things backward. These were sounds that couldn’t be reproduced live. The Beatles were done with touring. They were getting threats. Nobody could hear them. People were showing up for the event rather than a concert. So they made these revolutionary album where every song is so different, like a French horn solo showing up in the middle. It’s not a bunch of hit songs.”

Lewis stressed that despite the specific commemoration of “Sgt. Pepper’s,” there will be a lot more to the show than that album.

“ ‘Sgt. Peppers’ is only 40 minutes long, and our show is two hours,” he said. “There will be songs from ‘Ed Sullivan,’ the movies, Shea Stadium, ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and ‘Abbey Road.’ ‘Sgt. Peppers’ is the second half of the show. With the Beatles, there’s been a 50th anniversary for a lot of things lately.”

Lewis was a keyboardist who co-founded Rain in the mid-1970s, although he said they weren’t a Beatles tribute band at first.

“We were writing our own material, and doing Beatles tributes was something we fell upon to make a living until the originals took off. We had some pretty lean years. There were a lot of cruise ships, clubs and fairs. We did pretty well considering how tough the music business is.”

In 2001, they landed a regular casino gig. From that stability and a renewed focus on staging, Rain evolved to the point where they appeared on Broadway and tasted mainstream success. This allowed Rain to play larger theaters and develop multiple casts (including the son of one of the original members) to play the Beatle roles. It also allowed Lewis to retire from performing.

“I’ve always handled the business, but about five years ago, we found a great programmer who was a Beatles fanatic and who knew every part, so I figured I could step down,” he said. “We’ve had several different casts. I just try to keep Rain moving forward, give people a reason to come back.”

Contact this contributing writer at aaronepple@gmail.com.


How to go

What: Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles

Where: Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnat

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 17

Cost: $35-$68

More info: 513-621-2787 or www.cincinnatiarts.org

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