RAIN's Joey Curatolo On The Appeal of The Beatles and The Soundtrack of Our Lives

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"Oh yeah, I'll tell you something…I think you'll understand…When I say that something…I want to hold your hand…"

Those are probably the very first words from a Beatles song that I ever remembered on my own and sang out loud. I was six years old, in the first grade at Bethel Springs Elementary School. Anita Bowman and I were on the seesaw, singing our hearts out…and that's how the music of The Beatles became the soundtrack of my life.

It was almost imperceptible: In mid-1960s America, the music of The Beatles was all-pervasive. It was everywhere! And so there it remains, providing the scoring for all our lives-whether you're a baby boomer or not.

My other memory of The Beatles' seemingly immediate impact on pop culture (keep in mind, I was a first grader, albeit a precociously aware first grader, but still…) concerns my older sister Bobbye, who was in eighth grade at the time, constantly trying to figure out how to ditch her baby brother during a shopping trip in downtown Selmer, Tennessee. We were standing in front of the Ben Franklin Store (a five-and-dime, if you have any clue what that is) and one of her classmates approached, gleefully brandishing a Beatles-inspired guitar pin that she had just bought.

When I reminded Bobbye of that, she couldn't remember that rather inconsequential moment in her life (it's really amazing the flotsam and jetsam of life that percolates in my memory), but she said, "I loved them then, still love them today."

"I will say that my favorite was always George Harrison," she says, wistfully. "Everyone else loved Paul or John, but I liked the quiet, shy George. I also remember, vividly, sitting on the floor in front of the TV to watch them on The Ed Sullivan Show. I remember Daddy saying, 'with that long hair they look like bugs!' You know, their hair was not even long then, instead they were sort of bowl cuts."

What prompted this conversation with my sister about The Beatles was a Facebook post she'd made, asking her friends to essentially "name that tune," supplying the following lyrics as a clue: "You say you will love me…If I have to go…You'll be thinking of me…Somehow I will know…Someday when I'm lonely…Wishing you weren't so far away"

The name of the song, of course, is "Things We Said Today," something you know if you had a popular sister who loved popular music (my favorite claim to her fame is that she was a finalist on the Top Ten Dance Party on WDXI television in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1966-presaging the arrival of Tracey Turnblad's stardom via film and musical theatre some 30 to 40 years later). And I must add that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my sister Charlotte who introduced me to all sorts of other music (my encyclopedic knowledge of pop music, the quintessential American Songbook, is due my two sisters, one 17 years older than me, the other seven years older).

But Bobbye's Facebook post was particularly timely because I had just finished up a telephone interview with Joey Curatolo when I read it on my computer screen. Curatolo, who I daresay knows more about the music of The Beatles than both my sisters and I put together, will be in Nashville this week as the national touring company of Rain-A Tribute To The Beatles takes up residence at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for an eight performance run May 1-6.

And with memories every bit as vivid as my sister's or my own, Joey Curatolo remembers The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show: "Everyone was playing the tennis racquet or baseball bat on that Monday after Ed Sullivan."

Now known as the ersatz Paul McCartney in Rain, Curatolo grew up in a Brooklyn household where classical music and opera were more the norm. But a natural musician-at ten, young Joey taught himself how to play the guitar, playing the piano by ear at 16-Curatolo became infatuated with The Beatles, ultimately winning several Paul McCartney sound-alike contests, even touring with Beatlemania.

He joined the cast of Rain shortly thereafter, helping to transform the band in the multi-media production currently thrilling audiences all over North America.

"Rain is what I like to call a synopsis of what was going on in the 1960s told through the Beatles' songs," Curatolo explains. "All the happenings that were going on for the baby boomers, the show chronologically takes you through The Beatles' career and shows you how their music changed the world and became a soundtrack of the lives of people who lived through those times."

Directly and succinctly, Curatolo suggests that Rain "gives you a good history lesson with some of the best melodies ever written.

"I was of the age when I saw them on Ed Sullivan that I first listened to their music on record albums," he says. "And I took the plastic off the vinyl and felt the record in my hands…it was a powerful experience and I couldn't wait to get the next album when it came out."

Nowadays, audiences experience music differently-digitally more often than not-and Curatolo admits that "audiences don't know what albums are-their parents will recognize them, sure-but we set there for hours looking at the album cover and reading the liner notes."

But one thing that remains unchanged since the heyday of the British invasion of the mid-1960s is the "power" of the music: "The strength of the music is more powerful than ever," Curatolo offers. "I think audiences repond today to a Rain performance just as original audiences did when they saw The Beatles."

The difference, he suggests, is "that today there is no other place to go see The Beatles live, so there are a lot of young people in our audience-it really does appeal to people from eight to 80-and it's a perfect family show. At any given performance, you're going to find at least three generations of Beatles fans in the house."

What that intergenerational appeal shows most adroitly, Curatolo maintains, is that "there is a magic that these songs and these melodies bring. And with younger audiences, who are growing up with their parents, aunts and uncles who are fans, when they get it they fall in love with it."

And Curatolo credits the music created by The Beatles for capturing the pop culture zeitgeist of the times it represented: "The ability to share their emotions and hit a nerve through their art was key," he says. "And to be a spokesman for everything a generation is going through, to express emotions that everyone's had-think of songs like "Help" or "In My Life"--it's just something the likes of which I don't think we'll ever see again…The Beatles were classical musicians of the contemporary idiom."

Rain, the internationally-acclaimed Beatles concert, has been described as "the next best thing to seeing The Beatles!" The musicians of Rain perform 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 themselves, Rain has mastered every song, gesture and nuance of the legendary foursome, delivering a totally live, note-for-note performance that's as infectious as it is transporting. From the early hits to later classics ("I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Hard Day's Night," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Let It Be," "Come Together," "Hey Jude" and more), Rain takes audiences back to a time when all you needed was love and a little help from your friends!

For more details about Rain-A Tribute To The Beatles, go to www.tpac.org, and for tickets, call the box office at (615) 782-4000.

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.


 
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