RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles will be playing at the Palace Theater on March 18th. I recently spoke with Ralph Castelli, who has played Ringo Starr for nearly 30 years in the Broadway production. Tickets are available at The Palace box office.
Ralph Castelli: Sure. The show is obviously a show about the Beatles. It’s a live concert with a theatrical element to it. What I mean by that is it’s a multimedia extravaganza which is a time capsule that takes the viewer all the way back to the early 60’s. As the curtain opens, the viewer will see the complete set of the Ed Sullivan stage where the Beatles performed on that famous evening in February 1964. Then we move forward chronologically, showing more videos of events going on at the time, many costume changes, different stage sets which resemble Beatles album covers, and of course more Beatles music. We continue forward through the Sgt Pepper’s era, which of course is very colorful with the whole “flower power” movement, and our hair is getting longer (laughing) and our sideburns are getting bushier. Then we get into Abbey Road which takes us to the end of the show.
TM: That really sounds amazing! Do you have a favorite era or part of the show?
RC: Well, every two years or so we re-vamp the show so this is a new show for us. There’s a lot of new videos and a lot of new songs. Nearly 40% of the songs in this show are new for us. I think my favorite part of this show is the Sgt. Pepper’s era and I actually like everything from Sgt. Pepper’s to the end of the show. I really love it all. It’s hard to pick a section of their career that I like the most.
TM: How about playing it? Is any era more difficult than another?
RC: Yeah, definitely. When we get into the Sgt. Pepper’s album and All You Need is Love, there’s a fifth band member that comes out and plays with us. The only way we could perform these songs live was to have a fifth member. There’s a lot of intricate parts and over dubs that the Beatles used. “Strawberry Fields Forever”, for example, is very tricky ’cause of all the over dubs. You know, trying to get it all in the context of the song is tricky, but at the same time, it’s really fun. But the only way we can do it live is to have a fifth member.
TM: How long have you been with the production?
RC: I’ve been with RAIN for almost 30 years.
TM: Being with RAIN for so long, you must have a ton of interesting stories and experiences. Can you share a few that stand out?
RC: Oh, yeah! There’s a lot of great stories and interesting places and a lot of great people. Nothing really stands out right now but I do meet a lot of interesting people. That’s what stands out the most. A lot of those people share their stories with us, about when they saw the Beatles or even stories about meeting them. Those are the stories I enjoy hearing. Another great thing I enjoy is, sometimes when the curtain is raised, we can see two or even three generations of Beatles fans watching the show together. You know what I mean? You see the grandparents, and then the parents and their kids. It’s really something special when you think about it. There’s always a lot of kids, both teenagers and younger kids. And they all know the words to the songs!
TM: That actually brings me to my next question. Do you guys, the band, feel an obligation or responsibility to bridge the past to the present as far as keeping the Beatles experience and Beatles music alive? Especially to the younger generations?
RC: You know Tom, it just seems to happen that way. It just transcends that way. It’s a natural progression for our show. Touring the country or being on Broadway like we are now, it’s just natural that the experience and the music is introduced to younger generations. It’s not something we have to go out of our way to do. It just happens naturally. The kids are loving it as much as their parents and grandparents!
TM: That’s great news for everyone! And that leads me to my final question. With the “Beatles Generation” getting older and ultimately fewer and fewer, where do you see the future of RAIN?
RC: Well, we just had that discussion with the production agency and management not too long ago. We see the show going on for another 10, 15, or even 20 years. Especially on Broadway. There’s tons of Broadway shows that run for decades. I still think this show has a lot of life left in it. And we do it right, you know? We’re like Kentucky Fried Chicken (laughing), “we do Beatles right!”
TM: Ralph, it’s been great talking to you. I’m really looking forward to seeing you and seeing the show. Thank you.