By RITA CHARLESTON
For 21st Century Media
Direct from Broadway the internationally-acclaimed Beatles concert, “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles,” returns to the Academy of Music June 11-15.
Rain performs the full range of The Beatles’ discography live onstage, including the most complex and challenging songs that The Beatles themselves recorded in the studio but never performed for an audience.
Together longer than The Beatles, Rain has mastered every song, gesture and nuance of the legendary foursome, including their early hits to their later classics.
The production features Lansdale native Steve Landes as the legendary John Lennon. Landes says The Beatles were actually before his time, but with his parents being big Beatles fans as well as his older sisters, he soon discovered the band for himself.
“I learned a lot from the records and memorabilia I found in the attic of our home, and soon became a big Beatles fan myself,” Landes recalls. “I also started singing when I was about five, singing for anybody and everybody in the neighborhood who would listen.”
But the light bulb went off in his head in the early ‘80s when “Beatlemania,” a Broadway show about The Beatles, came to Philadelphia. “And that’s when I realized,” Landes says, “that you could pretend to be The Beatles and people pay you to see you do that. So that soon became my focus, and for some reason John was the one I was most drawn to.”
Landes taught himself guitar at age 10, and by age 13 was fronting a Top 40 cover band. And at 17 he joined “Beatlemania” and began touring the world with the show. Later, after passing an audition with the existing Rain band members in 1998, his career was set.
“This is my 16th year with Rain. That’s a long time to be with one show,” he says, “but it’s all worked out very well.”
It’s also worked out well for audiences who keep coming back year after year to see the show. “That’s because The Beatles are still very popular and their music continues to resonate with people everywhere, Landes suggests. “We’re also now into second and third generation of fans who come see the show. During our matinee performances I see kids as young as five and six who know every song and sing along with the music.”
He adds that the show’s musicians are another reason for audiences to keep coming back. “We are all accomplished musicians. This is not a novelty act. And even though some of the cast members may have changed over the years, the passion for what we do has not.”
And these “accomplished musicians” are not doing impersonations of the four band members, Landes insists. “To us, what we do is more of an acting kind of exercise. We try to embody the characters we play and recreate some of their performances. We also delve into their characters, looking at how they would have presented each song on stage, how they interacted with each other, and who they were offstage as well.”
When he’s not on stage as John Lennon, Landes writes and records his own original music, and says as the only member of his family who has moved away (he now lives in California) he always looks forward to coming home.
“My whole family is still here in Philly so when I perform here it’s like a homecoming. It means the world to me to have them in the audience. And right now I’m having the time of my life playing in this show for my family an friends, and for audiences around the world.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles”
WHERE: The Academy of Music, Broad and Spruce streets, Philadelphia.
WHEN: June 11-15. Tickets range from $20 to $85 and can be purchased by calling (215) 731-3333 or online at kimmelcenter.org/broadway.