By Madison Fisler Lewis
Feb. 6, 2015. Tickets are now available for the internationally-acclaimed RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles, presented at Appalachian State University’s Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on March 4. Starting at 8 p.m. the show will transport Beatles fans of all ages back to the glory days of the world’s most famous rock n’ roll band.
RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles, is a Broadway celebration featuring the full range of The Beatles music, set together with scenes reminiscent of critical moments in the history of the band.
RAIN strives to tell the story of The Beatles through their music, with the use of multimedia and LED screens on stage that act as virtual sets, bringing the audience along on a trip through the most pivotal moments in Beatles history.
Attendees will get to see iconic performances like the Ed Sullivan Show, movies, TV moments, the Shay Stadium concert and more. Without dialogue, RAIN lets the music and the recreations tell the story of The Beatles.
Steve Landes, an original member of the Broadway cast, has been with RAIN since 1998. Providing vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica and piano, Steve describes himself as a “second generation Beatles fan.”
“I got into The Beatles from my parents and my two older sisters,” Landes said.
“I had two older sisters who were little kids during The Beatles’ time. They were all big fans, and as I was growing up, I was a second-generation Beatles fan. I had all of the t-shirts and posters and all of the records that I discovered in the attic. That is how I really discovered The Beatles.”
Landes received his first guitar at ten years old, and after some guitar lessons and some vocal lessons, he became determined to perform. After many years as a performer, in 1998, Landes joined RAIN and has been living the dream of every die-hard Beatles fan ever since.
“I knew some of the other guys from RAIN because we had all at one time been a part of a Broadway show called BeatleMania, which was a huge Beatles show on Broadway,” he said.
“We all met in this small, close knit world that is the world of Beatles portrayal. They booked me on a few of the gigs and we really hit it off. We are all very serious about replicating The Beatles in their music. Our goal is to sound as close as possible to The Beatles on stage.”
Landes explains why RAIN is different from all other Beatles tribute bands.
“RAIN is the top-of-the-line musicians that really have done a study of The Beatles recordings, and we want to replicate them perfectly, that is what originally set us apart. Once we got into it and we had the opportunity to put on a real production show value and turned it into essentially a Broadway show, that set us apart from everyone else.”
The whole experience, for Landes, is one that many Beatles fans dream of their whole lives. Even after all these years of performing, the performances are still humbling for him.
“It is really surreal, as a fan myself, to kind of look at the videos and watch The Beatles on stage and really enjoy what they do, and then turn it on its ear and now you are standing in the Beatle Boots as it were,” he said.
“To see the whole Beatle experience from the point of view of The Beatles is kind of surreal at first. It is an angle that the millions of Beatles Fans out there don’t get to see. It is amazing to see the experience through The Beatles’ eyes. The Pinnacle of that is when we play some of the stages that The Beatles actually played.”
RAIN has performed on many of the various stages that The Beatles performed on themselves, including Empire Theatre in Liverpool and Olympia Theatre in Paris, just to name a few.
And on March 4, RAIN will take the stage at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts and bring the feel-good emotions of an authentic Beatles performance right here to Boone.
“We really want people to kind of suspend disbelief and feel like they are seeing The Beatles play out their career right in front of their eyes for a few hours,” Landes said.
“We really want to bring back The Beatles not just as legends from the past, but we want to bring them back to life on stage. I think that an important element of The Beatles’ story is that they don’t exist anymore. The music will always exist, their movies, the TV appearances on video, it’s all still there. That one element of live performance, though, isn’t there anymore. We are doing our little part.”
The performance is family friendly, and Beatles fans of all ages are invited to come out and enjoy the experience together.
“This is a good way of giving a reason for parents and grandparents to talk about The Beatles and experience something with their kids and grandkids,” Landes said. “It is a good entrance portal for kids to get int The Beatles. It’s amazing how many little kids we see at shows that know every word to every single song. Kids are finding The Beatles because good music is always good music and we are here to help them along the way in that journey.”
The cast biographies, from a press release, are as follows:
STEVE LANDES (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica, Piano, Original Broadway Cast), a life-long, second generation Beatles fan, Steve taught himself guitar at ten by listening to Beatles records and by 13 was fronting a top 40 cover band in his native Philadelphia. At 17 he joined Beatlemania and further developed his musicianship, touring the world with the show. After “passing the audition” with the existing RAIN band members in 1998, his career was set. On one of his travels to England, he found himself at Liverpool’s Casbah Club, owned by pre-Ringo Beatles drummer Pete Best. Encouraged to get on stage, Steve belted out lead vocals to the Beatles rocker “Slow Down,” while Best sat in on drums. As a backup musician, Steve has performed alongside legendary sixties artists Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits), Joey Molland (Badfinger), Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and Tiny Tim. As an actor, he appeared in the films Wedding Bell Blues, For Which He Stands and Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! Steve writes and records his own original music. www.steve-landes.com, facebook.com/steve.landes.rain.
PAUL CURATOLO (Vocals, Bass, Piano, Guitar) The Beatles became Paul’s biggest influence as a child growing up with RAIN. At ten years old, his musical journey began when he taught himself the drums. He quickly adapted to guitar and piano, which drove him to write and record his own music. When he was 14, as a member of the pop band Wayward, he went on to record five albums. Until recently the band has toured the U.S. and was voted hometown heroes in Alternative Press magazine. Paul’s love for The Beatles has driven him to master the character of Paul McCartney down to every detail. From vocal inflections to turning the bass over to perform left-handed. Paul considers it an honor to pay tribute to his idol.
JOE BITHORN (Vocals, Lead Guitar, Guitar Synth, Sitar, Original Broadway Cast), grew up in Manhattan and Long Island, where he was exposed to a variety of music including jazz, Latin, classical and more. By age three, his musical father taught his children how to sing harmony. He was profoundly influenced by the experiences he had at Carnegie Hall through his Mom, who worked with the Festival Casals. Thanks to The Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan, Joe took a strong interest in the guitar. Early influences include the band Cream, and Joe developed the ability to learn guitar parts by ear by age 14. By age 16, he was so proficient that he was recruited for studio sessions. While in high school, Joe and his brother formed the Bithorn Brothers Band, performing the early music of the Allman Brothers Band. Joe heard about an audition for Beatlemania and was hired for the touring production as George. After touring with the show in North America, Joe joined RAIN in 1983 and has been touring the world ever since.
AARON CHIAZZA (Drums, Percussion, Vocals) began playing music at the young age of five when his parents gifted him a drum set. This drum set did not last long under the strength of a kindergartner and eventually he moved into a full size instrument by early elementary school. Early yet important musical influences stemmed from a blend of past era funk, soul, jazz, rock, and others. From there he went on to study music in an academic setting throughout high school and college participating in jazz, symphonic, and percussion ensembles. Amongst tossing up time between original projects, writing and shows, Aaron also loves being an audio engineer and artist. You can follow his work and ventures with RAIN on his website – www.AaronChiazza.com
CHRIS SMALLWOOD (Keyboard, Percussion) grew up in Kentucky. He fell in love with Beatles music as a young kid, but didn’t fall onto a piano bench until high school, when he broke his leg. Just two years later, he was invited to Kentucky’s prestigious Governor’s School for the Arts program. In 2008, Chris received a Bachelor of Music from Belmont University in Nashville, and in 2010 earned his Master of Music from the University of Louisville. Chris and his wife, Nicki, live in Nashville.
Tickets for RAIN are available now at the box office at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for students. For tickets and information, call the Schaefer Center Box Office at 800-841-ARTS (2787) or 828-262-4046, or visit pas.appstate.edu.
Photos by Cyllavon Tiedemann