It was inevitable Paul Curatolo would wind up in “Rain,” the stage show that pays tribute to the Beatles.
His dad has played Paul for a number of years. His “pseudo uncles” (as he refers to other members of the cast) have made sure his education included numerous lessons on John, Paul, George and Ringo.
“It’s really wacky,” Curatolo says. Dad asked him “one fateful evening” if he ever wanted to play McCartney and, over time, “I got into it. I’ve always been a Beatles fan.”
Although dad is the ultimate authority (he now serves as the show’s musical director), Curatolo figured the best way to play Paul was to dive right in. He studied videos, learned how to play the guitar left-handed (which dad didn’t) and dissected the music.
“The first three months, you’re constantly training,” he says. “Then the brain gives up trying to fight you.”
Now, the role is second nature.
And what a great time to be in a show like this. In tribute to the 50th anniversary of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the cast of “Rain” performs the entire album, complete with costumes and visuals. “It’s less talking, more songs,” the 27-year-old actor says. “It’s more of a concert than our show has ever been.”
Considered one of the first concept albums, “Sgt. Pepper” won four Grammys, including Album of the Year. Frequently listed as the greatest album ever made, it’s often viewed as a view into the creative process that made the Beatles the most important rock band in history.
“Nobody comes close,” Curatolo says. “Not to offend other groups, but the Beatles were brilliant. They had timeless music, style and character. Even their look – there’s nothing cooler than well-tailored black pants, a nice black tie and a white shirts. Even the shag haircuts work.”
Although Curatolo can leave Paul on the stage most nights, fans have been able to spot him in public. “It’s the teeth,” he says. “They’re a dead giveaway.”
While he and other members in the current cast haven’t met any of the Beatles, he’s not sure what he would say if he did encounter “Sir Paul.” “I’ve been asked this so many times but I honestly have no clue. I don’t even know if I could form words. I’d probably cry and smile at the same time.”
Besides, he says, “What can you ask that hasn’t been asked before?”
The show, which covers all aspects of the Beatles’ career, lets the music do the talking. The first act introduces the band and addresses the first live concerts and tours. “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver” are sampled before giving way to “Sgt. Pepper.”
Because the Beatles retired from touring before recording “Sgt. Pepper,” “Rain’s” tribute is a way for fans to see how those concerts might have gone. Among the cuts that came from the project: “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Lovely Rita” and “A Day in the Life.”
Listen closely, Curatolo says, and you’ll learn how to write a brilliant pop song.
“It gives you these guidelines – John’s chord progressions and lyrical genius, Paul’s ability to express himself.”
The music doesn’t intimidate, he adds. “It inspires.”
Curatolo’s father, Joey, has lived with the music even longer and still marvels. Both consider it “this generation’s classical music.”
Dad, too, is proud of his son’s ability to walk in his footsteps. “He’s like my coach, my captain. He knows all the tricks of the trade and he’s more than willing to walk me through them. He’s proud, too, to see how far I’ve come and how far I’m going.”
A lifetime of playing Paul McCartney? Curatolo says it wouldn’t be a bad gig. “He’s done so much – from this starry-eyed, bobble-headed mop top to this very confident, mature composer. He’s had three entire careers, not just one.”