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Beatle-mania comes to Raleigh

The Fab Four has hit the stage in Raleigh. Or, at least the group as close to the Beatles as you can find in 2008 – "RAIN - A Tribute to The Beatles," a musical showing in the Progress Energy Center through Sunday.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Fab Four has hit the stage in Raleigh.
Or, at least the group as close to the Beatles as you can find in 2008 – "RAIN - A Tribute to The Beatles," a musical that's been around in various incarnations for more than 25 years.

"It's the life of the Beatles in song," said Ralph Castelli, who drums, plays and sings the role of Ringo Starr.

A band of five treats the audience to more of a rock concert than a musical, through five set changes that go from the "Ed Sullivan Show" to Shea Stadium and all the way to Abbey Road.

It's an experience Castelli calls "a time capsule of The Beatles ... the storybook of the '60s."

Adding a touch of authenticity, three video screens show vintage commercials and footage featuring the original Beatles.

"The show starts off like a time machine, takes you back through time, and you end up in the '50s. And you start to move forward through all these old commercials and footage," Castelli said.

"And we have many generations that show up, so ... you see everybody nudging each other, and they're laughing, 'Do you remember that commercial?'"

But there's one part the show where Castelli insists there's no technology at work – there's no dubbing; the musicians sing every note of the 3 1/2 show live.

"We get, 'OK, you guys are playing the tracks, right?' ... The answer is, no, everything is live," Castelli said. "You know the songs, so we have to perform them just as you know them. To re-create is very difficult."

And the audience gets a real concert experience – and they're free to act like they're at one.

"Sometimes in these beautiful theaters, the posh theaters, everybody's a little subdued. They don't know how to act, because it's a rock show," Castelli said. "Then as soon as we tell people, 'Come on, start dancing,' then all of a sudden, people are up; they're in the aisles, and they're up for the whole night."

The son of Italian immigrants, Castelli was pounding away on his older brother's drum set and his mother's pots and pans. He fell in love with the Beatles watching their first appearance on the "Ed Sullivan Show" on television screen in Alhambra, Calif.

Castelli got to combine those lifelong loves when he joined RAIN in 1986 as Ringo. Members of the group had been together since the mid 1970s.

"Even our nights off, we go to dinner together. We're always breaking bread," Castelli said. "It's a family; it's a brotherhood."

Despite those years of experience, the musicians haven't quite making their show better and better for the audience. Perfecting the music of the Beatles is harder than most people realize, Castelli said.

"We're constantly refining the parts; your ears get better with age," he said. "To re-create is very difficult."

"RAIN - A Tribute to The Beatles" has three more shows in at the Performing Arts Center's Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh – 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Those who miss the show, Castelli says, are missing "a fabulous time."



Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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