- Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Joey Curatolo may dress like Paul McCartney and wear a mop-top, but he doesn't do it all like Paul. For example, he doesn't play the bass guitar left-handed.
"No," admits Curatolo, one of the creators and stars of Rain, the onstage musical tribute to The Beatles, "but I sing left-handed."
Yes, the Brooklyn-born (as opposed to Liverpool-born) musician has a sense of humor, and that's part of what makes him well-suited to portray one of the Fab Four in Rain, which opens a three-day engagement at Downtown's Civic Theatre on Friday, Jan. 4. The Beatles knew how to have fun. They also knew how to make music, and that's the thrust of Rain, which has played nearly 800 shows worldwide, including a 10-month Broadway engagement in 2010 and 2011.
"We're true to the music," Curatolo says. "Four minutes into the show you're not going to worry if I'm right-handed or left-handed."
Curatolo's current cohorts on this tour (there are multiple Beatles, including two other Pauls) are Steve Landes (as John Lennon), Joe Birthorn (as George Harrison) and Ralph Castelli (as Ringo Starr). The two-act show presented by Broadway San Diego features the guys performing Beatles songs from the early days, circa 1963, through the pre-breakup, 1970 period.
"We try to cram 10 years into two-and-a-half hours," Curatolo says. "Our show is a synopsis with five costume changes and a lot of video that tells the story, chronologically, of their career."
The first act includes The Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and in the films A Hard Day's Night and Help!, as well as their famous concert at Shea Stadium in New York. It culminates with Sgt. Pepper and the full throes of '60s psychedelia. Act 2 begins with the Magical Mystery Tour experience and travels through time up to and including Abbey Road.
"Basically," Curatolo says, "it's just a great re-creation of what it must have been like to see The Beatles live."
One treat for fans, he says, is to hear live renditions of songs the band never performed in concert. That would be anything after 1966, of course.
"We're not The Beatles," Curatolo says, making a monumental understatement, "but about 20 minutes into the show, people are on their feet. For the people who lived The Beatles, it's a religious experience. It's very emotional."
The Beatles' songs are performed note for note, with no embellishment or improvisation, the better to re-create the actual band. Curatolo is comfortable playing songs from either Beatles period—early or late.
"It's like saying, 'Do you like early Mozart, middle Mozart or the later years of Mozart?' When you say 'Mozart,' it's the Bible. To take a song like 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' and compare it to '(I Want You) She's So Heavy' is an awful thing to do. They're both great in their realms."
That's one of the reasons Curatolo took on and relishes the role of McCartney. "He can go from 'Michelle' to 'I've Got a Feeling' in one show and blow your mind. I speak for thousands of musicians in that he taught us how to play our instruments, but he has a certain quality. He was the charmer, with the looks and the melody and the lyric. Ever since I saw him back in the day, I gravitated toward his style and his voice."
Curatolo spends most of his time in McCartney mode. The Rain show tours 25 to 35 weeks a year. He's spent more than 20 years with the show. Now in his late 40s, he'll probably still be playing Paul when he's 64, and singing about it.
Rain runs Jan. 4 through 6 at the Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., Downtown. $19.50-$125. broadwaysd.com
An American Story: In this musical, playwright, actor, composer and producer Hershey Felder plays Charles Leale, the 23-year-old doctor who tended to Abraham Lincoln after the president was shot at Ford’s Theatre. Opens Jan. 4 at the Birch North Park Theatre. birchnorthparktheatre.net
Rain: Four dudes do their damnedest to re-create The Beatles in concert, playing iconic tunes from 1963 to 1969. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs Jan. 4 through 6 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
Rent: Yet another chance to see the musical about young folks struggling to get by in New York City. Presented by the California Youth Conservatory Theatre, it runs through Jan. 6 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lyceumevents.org
miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb’s Players Theatre, it’s on hiatus through the holidays, running again from Jan. 10 through Feb. 17 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net