March 28 2013 12:00 AM

Beatles tribute heading for Wharton


Thursday, March 28 — For Steve Landes, a self-proclaimed hardcore Beatles geek, taking the stage as John Lennon is “a dream come true.” He and his bandmates roll into the Wharton Center this Friday for the North American tour of RAIN — A Tribute to the Beatles.

Landes,said he has had a love of the Beatles for as long as he can remember. He joined RAIN after being a member of the Beatlemaina Stage Show in the late 70s, which, like RAIN, was an homage to the music of the boys from Liverpool. But Landes said that RAIN goes beyond any typical gimmick or tribute band.

“There's a difference between imitation and acting, truly embodying the character,” Landes said. “Anybody can get up there and sing like the Beatles and it's like, well yeah, nice caricature, but are you really embodying your role?”

Landes said that the members of the show are very much actors, and that a lot of time and research goes into perfecting every detail about their characters. Costume changes and time-accurate hairstyles are just the first things to be worked out.

“I'm researching everything John Lennon did,” Landes says. “How he moved, how he stood, his facial expressions, how he would look at Paul when he was singing. Even chewing gum onstage later on. It's the details.”

RAIN started in 1975 as an original band that would do a Beatles set as part of their act. But audiences fell in love with their John, Paul, George and Ringo personas, launching the band on a successful career that included doing the soundtrack to the 1979 TV movie, “Birth of the Beatles.” Since then, the lineup has changed quite a bit, and RAIN has had a successful run both on Broadway and on the road.

The tour is somewhere between a staged history of the Fab Four and a well rehearsed cover band. As the show moves forward through the Beatles’ career, audiences will get to watch the costumes change as well as the set and props. The band opens up on a replica of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” followed by a re-creation of the Shea Stadium concert, the 1969 London rooftop show and sets made to look like album covers such as “Sgt. Pepper” and “Abbey Road.”

As a large screen displays original video, the band works through two and a half hours of Beatles tunes, including later songs that the band never performed live. Landes said that RAIN was best known for being able to do any Beatles song, and that while they have to stick to a tighter set for the stage show, they can still surprise audiences.

“We've changed our set from when we were on Broadway, so if anyone has seen us before, 75 percent of the songs will be different,” Landes said. “Of course we have to do certain songs like ‘Hey, Jude.’ They'd rush the stage otherwise.”

Landes said RAIN is as close as you can get to seeing the Beatles, short of experiencing the real thing.

“You have to let the audience completely suspend disbelief,” he said. “We want them to feel like they really just saw the Beatles.”

RAIN — A Tribute to the Beatles

8 p.m. Friday

Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center

East Lansing