EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 9, 2014

Revisit the spirit of Beatles concerts through 'Rain'

By Kelly Burch
kburch@eagletribune.com

---- — No one can deny the enduring appeal of the Beatles. The band continues to captivate fans of all ages, even 50 years after their first U.S. appearance in America.

Many of those fans never had the chance to see their beloved Beatles perform, whether it be because they didn't score tickets or weren't even born yet. However, a show coming to Boston next week offers the chance to experience the next best thing. “Rain – a Tribute to the Beatles,” an authentic Beatles performance covering the entire career of the megaband, will be on stage at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22.

"The Beatles were in a class by themselves," said “Rain” founder Mark Lewis. "They changed the world."

Attempting to recreate something so powerful is no small task, Lewis said.

“Everything about it is hard,” he said. “First and foremost you have to find great musicians. They have to have a great ability to harmonize and they have to look somewhat like the characters they portray. They have to have the confidence to front a band, with an English accent.”

“This is the Beatles. If you don't do it to perfection people will not only walk out on you, they will be angry at you and you will be laughed at,” Lewis said.

No one is laughing at “Rain,” though. It has become a long-running musical act in itself, performing since the mid 1970s. Longtime members of the band immerse themselves in the lives of John, Paul, George and Ringo to transport audiences to performance during the Beatles' prime.

For a phone interview, vocalist and guitarist Jimmy Irizarry, who transforms himself into John Lennon for “Rain,” answered the line with a thick Liverpool accent.

“I come off stage and speak with my normal Chicago accent and people still say I sound European,” Irizarry said.

The man who spent years perfecting his English accent by watching the Beatles movies over and over thinks that the accent may have crept into his everyday speech a bit.

Irizarry, who said he was raised on Beatles records, began performing with “Rain” four years ago.

“It's like a fantasy come true,” he said. “They're my favorite band and now they've become my career, which is surprising.”

Although “Rain” is shown in theaters – the show was even on Broadway for nine months from 2010 to 2011 – Irizarry said that performances are more like rock concerts than plays.

“It's not just a sit back and watch show,” he said. “Fans can sing along, get into the music and take part. Most do quite a bit of sing along.”

The band has a repertoire of over 200 Beatles hits, and “Rain” covers everything from the Ed Sullivan performance to the band's breakup. Getting through all the material during a two-hour show is one of the biggest challenges of working on “Rain,” Irizarry said.

“It's difficult to go through all the different eras,” he said. “When the Beatles were performing, the longest shows they did were 35 minutes. We're on stage for a lot longer and doing pretty complicated and complex arrangements.”

Just like the members of the Beatles, most members of “Rain” play several instruments during each performance. They also strive to bring the presence of the original Beatles members to stage.

“It's essential to the show that we portray their personalities. John was a goofball on stage, so I try to capture that sense of humor,” Irizarry said.

Or course, the audience's favorite part of the show are the songs, in particular hits like “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

Those tunes are guaranteed to have the audience at the Wang on their feet next week.

“Those are the crowd-pleasers,” Irizarry said.

If You Go: What: "Rain - a Tribute to the Beatles." When: Friday, Feb. 21 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 22 at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Where: The Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre,270 Tremont St., Boston How: Tickets are $38.73 - 93.75, through www.citicenter.org, by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787), or by visiting the Citi Center box office.