Broadway Playbill cover
|Book||Bob Gill, Robert Rabinowitz, Lynda Obst|
|Basis||The life and music of The Beatles.|
Beatlemania was a Broadway musical revue focused on the music of The Beatles as it related to the events and changing attitudes of the tumultuous 1960s. A "rockumentary," advertised as "Not the Beatles, but an incredible simulation," it ran from 1977 to 1979 for a total of 1,006 performances.
Beatlemania took the form of a roughly chronological history of The Beatles via their music. About 50 songs were performed during the show. Other than some onstage banter, there was very little dialogue during the production, which consisted mostly of exact re-enactments of the Beatles' music. The multimedia production was notable for its extensive use of backdrops, slides, newspaper headlines, and video footage to evoke the 1960s and iconic Beatle moments.
Originally conceived and produced by Steve Leber and David Krebs, Beatlemania debuted in Boston at the Colonial Theatre in April 1977. It premiered on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on May 31, 1977 (after previewing since May 26 — although no critics were invited), with cast members Joe Pecorino ("John"), Mitch Weissman ("Paul"), Les Fradkin ("George"), and Justin McNeill ("Ringo").
Quickly achieving sellout status without ever having an official "opening night", Beatlemania saw great success and coverage in Time, People, Us, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone. For the first six months, every ticket for the show was sold out.
The production was nominated for the 1978 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design by designer Jules Fisher, while the sound engineer was longtime industry veteran William (Bill) Rofot. Season 3 of Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update (airing March 15, 1978) parodied the show when Dan Aykroyd mentioned "Beatlemaniamania: not Beatlemania, but an incredible simulation."
Beatlemania ran until October 17, 1979, for a total of 1006 performances; grossing more than $40 million. During its New York run, the show moved to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and finally the Palace Theatre.
As the show expanded in its formative years, over 50 original cast members formed 10 "bunks" (or casts of a single set of four). As the New York show continued its run, shows were opened in Los Angeles, Chicago, Cincinnati, and London. At its peak, Beatlemania had several permanent shows in several cities around the world and several semi-temporary shows in many more cities in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
After closing on Broadway, the Beatlemania Bus and Truck Tour began, running until 1983 and touring across the United States and worldwide. Short-term tours of Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa were produced after 1982.
An updated show, With the Beatles, was created as a tribute to the musical in 1983.
The 1986 decision in a lawsuit by the Beatles production company Apple Corps officially ended the show for a period of time, but revival tours still continue today, under such names as Beatlemania: Yesterday and Today and Beatlemania Now.
Beatlemania: The Album
In 1978, Beatlemania released a self-titled original cast album of the show which included contributions from the first and second cast of performers from the show (as well as five additional off-stage musicians — keyboards; violin; cello; sax/flute/recorder; trumpet/picollo trumpet and oboe). Released on Arista Records in 1978, the album received warm audience reaction, even placing on the Billboard 200 for several weeks, before falling into obscurity.
Tracks from the album included most but not all of the original show's song list, and several of the tracks were either re-recorded entirely or partially re-recorded in the studio. Cast members that appear on the album include Mitch Weissman, Joe Pecorino, Les Fradkin, Justin McNeill, Randy Clark, Reed Kailing, P. M. Howard, and Bobby Taylor.
Beatlemania: The Movie
After three years of production USA Video Productions took an interest in making a film version of the Beatlemania stage show. After a brief contract negotiation, Beatlemania: The Movie began production in late 1980 (shortly before the murder of John Lennon). Directed by Joseph Manduke, the film's cast featured Mitch Weissman (bass guitar; "Paul"), David Leon (rhythm guitar; "John"), Tom Teeley (lead guitar; "George"), and Ralph Castelli (drums; "Ringo").
Beatlemania: The Movie was released in the summer of 1981 and received negative reviews. Janet Maslin of The New York Times, "Beatlemania was a horror on the stage, and it's even more of a horror at close range, where the seams really show. This isn't a loving impersonation, or even an honest one. It's cheap, disingenuous and loathsome." Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader wrote, "My idea of hell is being forced at gunpoint to resee this ... atrocity, ... based on a terrible stage musical." Other observers[who?] criticized the film for being too artsy and not worthy of being associated with the stageshow; plans for a follow-up film were immediately cancelled.
Apple Corps Lawsuit
In 1979, Apple Corps sued show creator Steve Leber and Beatlemania's producers, alleging that Apple Corps owned various publicity rights and trademarks, and Leber and others "appropriated to themselves" the value of those trademarks and the Beatles' goodwill and fame without paying for it. In 1986, Los Angeles Superior Court judge Paul Breckenridge found in favor of Apple Corps, and ordered Leber and Beatlemania Inc. to pay Apple $5.6 million, plus 7% interest from September 1979. He also found that Apple was entitled to a court order barring the further unconsented use or exploitation of the Beatles, and that Beatlemania's actions "amounted to virtually a complete appropriation of the Beatles' persona" without their consent. The judge also found that Ely Landau and the This Is The Week That Was Beatlemania Company, which produced the Beatlemania film, were liable $2 million and 7% interest, also payable to Apple Corps.
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Because of the vocal strain (especially for "Paul") involved in doing 10 or more shows per week, each production utilized two (2) casts or "bunks," as they were dubbed by musical director Sandy Yaguda. The Original Broadway production featured Bunk 1 (Mitch Weissman, Joe Pecorino, Les Fradkin and Justin McNeill). and Bunk 2 (Randy Clark, Reed Kailing, P.M. Howard, and Bobby Taylor). Subsequent cast members of the Leber-Krebs production are known as "Original" cast members, as the show expanded with several touring casts.
Casts and casting became independent after 1984 as revival and current casts tour under many different Beatle-related nomenclatures. (It is common practice for other Beatles tribute bands to promote themselves falsely as "Original Broadway Cast".)
- Joe Pecorino
- Randy Clark
- Michael Palaikis (deceased)
- David Leon — also played with Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
- Marshall Crenshaw — performed in Hollywood and San Francisco productions as well as the touring production
- Mark Vaccacio (deceased)
- Peter McCann
- Bob Williford
- Robert Wirth
- Jim Riddle (deceased)
- Steve Landes — currently a member of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
- Joe Palermo
- Mitch Weissman
- Reed Kailing
- Lenie Colacino
- Alan LeBoeuf — also played with Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
- Glen Burtnick
- Tony Kishman
- Joey Curatolo — currently a member of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
- Jim Odom
- Jimmy Rooney
- Bobby Grant
- Don Linares
- Jim Cushing
- John Redgate
- Billy J. Ray
- Les Fradkin
- P. M. Howard
- Tom Teeley — also played with Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
- Rob Laufer
- Bobby Diebold
- Richie Gomez
- Jimmy Pou — currently a member of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
- Jimmy Rooney
- Bob Miller
- Peter Santora
- Chris Gavin
- Joe Bithorn — currently a member of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
- Richi Ray
- Justin McNeill
- Bobby Taylor
- Bennett Gale
- Louie Colucci
- Ralph Castelli — currently a member of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
- Sy Goraieb
- Bobby Forte
- Al Sapienza
- Rick Bloom
- Phil LoMedico
- Gemma Press
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
|1977||Tony Award||Best Lighting Design (Play or Musical)||Jules Fisher||Nominated|
- "Four Young Musicians to Simulate Beatles," New York Times (April 5, 1977).
- Itzkoff, Dave. "ARTSBEAT; Beatles Concert Show Coming to Broadway," New York Times (May 9, 2013).
- Rockwell, John. "Stage: 'Beatlemania's' Formula Is Sincerely Flattering," New York Times (June 17, 1977).
- Klein, Alvin. 'Beatlemania' Captures the Panorama of a Decade," New York Times (November 16, 1980).
- Sion, Mike. "Rain: New generation takes reins of Beatles tribute," Reno Gazette-Journal (January 23, 2015).
- "77o: Christopher Lee / Meat Loaf: Weekend Update with Jane Curtin & Dan Aykroyd," Saturday Night Live Transcripts website. Accessed March 19, 2016.
- "Picks and Pans Review: Beatlemania—the Movie," People Vol. 16, No. 11 (September 14, 1981).
- Weizel, Richard. "Years of Yesterdays And Yeah, Yeah, Yeah," New York Times (May 13, 2001).
- Plasko, Joe. "Beatlemania Now: Tribute paid to the Fab Four and the 1960's," Times News (Monday, September 13, 2010).
- Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Beatlemania," Chicago Reader. Accessed March 21, 2016.
- Maslin, Janet. 'BEATLEMANIA,' THEIR LIVES, OUR TIMES," New York Times (August 7, 1981).
- "Beatlemania Co. Loses Apple Suit". LA Times. 1986-06-05. Retrieved 2015-07-06.
- Reuters. "'Beatlemania' Ordered To Pay $10 Million," New York Times (June 5, 1986).
- Koda, Cub. "Marshall Crenshaw/MTV". All Music Guide. Retrieved 2010-06-17.