BeatleShow! is pure Disneyland, for better and worse. As the lights went down on the Saxe Theater, we were invited to be 16 again. Monochrome TV “ON AIR” and “APPLAUSE” boxes lit up, and a single spot hit Ed Sullivan (a convincing Paul Terry), who announced a new act he was sure was going to make it big. And then, in black coats, white shirts and skinny ties, the lads we were waiting for jumped right into “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” just like they did on Feb. 9, 1964. The color, sets, costumes and lighting of the opening sequence were clearly designed to suspend disbelief, dispel the present and propel us backward in time. It worked for a while.
Steve Craig, Adam Joel, Howard Arthur and Tony Felicetta did a solid job shifting through what are now archetypal iterations of John, Paul, George and Ringo. They played live, and their vocals, instruments, stage equipment and effects were accurate and excellent, sometimes uncannily so. Their act formed in the mid-’90s as “The Fab Four” (now a separate venture). After a series of expansions, splits and some legal wrangling, the current name and revised lineup just recently shifted from Planet Hollywood’s V Theater to its current location. Perhaps that explains why there’s still a few sour notes.
A quarter of the roughly 90-minute show was spent in the black-and-white years. Then it moved along Carousel of Progress style, with period costumes matched to songs you’d expect: “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help,” “Sgt. Pepper’s,” “Yesterday,” “With a Little Help From My Friends” and Lennon’s “Imagine.”
However, the ride was only superficially immersive, and it often drifted into Cheesyland. As much as they tout their ability to “re-create the music and excitement of a real Beatles concert,” it often seemed like the producers went out of their way to sabotage the experience. It was hard to figure out what we were supposed to be seeing and feeling as the show jerked from a poignant rendition of “Yesterday” to Terry’s gratingly painful Austin Powers impersonation. It completely undid his outstanding Sullivan, especially when he spun out bizarrely anachronistic Viagra jokes. Way to pull Dad out of his reverie.
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