Four guys who look and sound moderately like the Beatles play a plethora of Lennon/McCartney classics, while footage of memorable sixties events flashes by.

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David Leon ...
Mitch Weissman ...
Tom Teeley ...
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Four guys who look and sound moderately like the Beatles play a plethora of Lennon/McCartney classics, while footage of memorable sixties events flashes by. Written by Ed Chen <echen@bcm.tmc.edu>

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Not The Beatles, But an Incredible Simulation.

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Music

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PG
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July 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Beatlemania: The Movie  »

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Referenced in ...An Incredible Simulation (2000) See more »

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A Beatles/Broadway phenomenon filmed on tour
15 January 2007 | by (Jersey City, New Jersey) – See all my reviews

At a then phenomenal 1,000+ performances (mostly at the Winter Garden Theatre with five final months at the Lunt-Fontanne and another two at the Palace - it moved to make way for the also filmed ZOOT SUIT and successful revivals of PETER PAN with Sandy Duncan and OKLAHOMA! respectively) from May 26, 1977 to October 17, 1979, BEATLEMANIA was the fore-runner of a number of so-called "jukebox musicals" and remains, to date, the most successful of the stage shows seeking to translate the Beatles' musical canon to the stage.

Conceived and co-produced by famed Broadway lighting designer Jules Fisher (who got another Tony nomination for lighting the show), BEATLEMANIA (some felt cynically, but undeniably successfully) offered four Beatles look-alikes doing a multi-media concert that covered each of the periods of the Beatles careers with artful projections putting the music in the context of the time the music was introduced.

For the film (recorded during the post-Broadway tour in slightly reduced form - the two hour show was cut down, according to the 1981 U.S.A. Home Video VHS and Beta video release, to a mere 95 minutes - though that may have included the previews of something called "DAZZLE DANCING", BUDDY HACKETT LIVE AND UNCENSORED and THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES which were also on the tape), Fisher's atmospheric stage projections took center stage (moved from the areas around the band and on a sheer screen in front of it during scene and costume changes to fill the movie screen - too often for maximum effect) and almost threaten to overwhelm the generally effective concert.

One of the genius things about the show as produced was that it acknowledged that the stars performing were merely Beatles imitators, so while undeniably talented, they were basically replaceable and the cast filmed (Mitch Weissman, Ralph Castelli, David Leon and Tom Teeley) was not the cast which opened the show at the Winter Garden (Randy Clark, P.M. Howard, Reed Kailing and Bobby Taylor). Few noticed. The Internet Broadway Database, ibdb, which usually tracks cast replacements carefully, did not track the shifting musicians on this effort, so it's hard to tell if any of the film cast actually played in BEATLEMANIA during the Broadway run.

At least the basic physical production, costumes and staging remained the same and the film - even in its abbreviated form - gives us an excellent document of what a supremely successful (if hybrid) Broadway revue looked and sounded like in the late 1970's.

The film was not (and is not) as successful on screen as it was in the theatre - neither, truth be told, was the Woodstock experience in its very successful film - but it remains very enjoyable for what it is. Movie-movie fans may not find much to attract them here, but Beatles fans and even those who merely want a piece of nostalgia for the music of their youth (if that youth was in the 1960's) will find much to enjoy in this concert film.

It's a long way from BEATLEMANIA to a multi-band documentary like WOODSTOCK or the current Tony winning Broadway smash JERSEY BOYS (based on the careers of Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons), but all three trade on the same desire to relive a popular live band experience - with bands that made their mark and left. We should be very glad that at least BEATLEMANIA and WOODSTOCK were preserved for posterity to enjoy for what they are.


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