‘Rain’ floods Detroit with Beatlemania, songs, tribute
By GARY GRAFF Of the Oakland Press
Ralph Castelli has been Ringo more than Ringo himself —- at least on stage. Castelli, 50, has played Ringo Starr since the late ’70s, when he was part of “Beatlemania” on Broadway and since 1986 in “Rain — A Tribute to the Beatles,” a traveling multimedia show that mixes the Beatles’ music, played live by Castelli and his castmates (also “Beatlemania” alumni) and historical footage. Between those jobs, he’s certainly played more concerts than Starr.
With “Rain” coming to Detroit’s Masonic Temple Theatre this week, we took a few minutes to have a “Starr” moment with the man who plays him from “Love Me Do” to, literally, “The End.”
How did you become a Beatlemaniac?
Castelli: I was a little puppy, 7 years old. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a musical family, the youngest of four.
All my brothers played an instrument and were in bands. One night they came home and said, “We’ve gotta watch Ed Sullivan. The Beatles are on!” “Who?” I remember laying down in front of that TV; I saw the performance and knew exactly what I wanted to do. I went right into the bedroom where the drums were and started playing, re-creating what I had just seen on TV. It was the same way for the other guys (in “Rain”).
What makes someone want to spend their life in Beatles tribute shows?
Castelli: No. 1, we’re fans, and we just love doing this.
We really love to bring this music to a whole new generation, and when the curtain goes up and you see three generations of people there — grandparents, parents, children — singing along, it’s fabulous.
This music will live on forever; it really will. So just like any classically trained musician has dedicated their life to playing Mozart and Beethoven, we’re dedicated to playing the Beatles’ songs.
Can you guys play everything by the Beatles?
Castelli: I’d say we know pretty much 80 percent of the Beatles repertoire. Some stuff — “Piggies,” “Revolution 9” — just don’t go over, you know? But at any given time, and it happens quite often, somebody will start yelling out (a request) for a song, and we’ll do that song, so we have to be on our toes. Somebody did yell out “Revolution 9” once, and we did a piece of it, which was pretty funny.
After all these years, have you had a personal Beatles “moment” or encounter?
Castelli: No — but once we were in the same state! (laughs) They know of us, I can tell you that. We’re helping sell their CDs and movies and are keep their music alive. There’s a few bands out there that are touring around doing that, but we’re the biggest.
What’s your favorite Ringo moment in the show?
Castelli: Oh, picking a personal favorite is very difficult because it’s like picking a favorite child.
I love it all. Ringo was always experimenting with his drums and trying his interesting thing. But we do “The End,” so probably the drum solo.
The Beatles’ Rock Band game is coming out in September. Does that help “Rain” or will people be too busy playing it to go to a show?
Castelli: When the Beatles make headlines, whether it’s the game coming out or the recent Monopoly game that was just released, any publicity is good publicity. Their marketing is still very much alive, and it does help us. And that game is gonna be great!
“Rain — A Tribute to the Beatles” performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (March 19) at Masonic Temple Theatre, 500 Temple Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $25-$75. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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