Beatles nostalgia is a powerful force. On most weekend afternoons, amateurs can generally be found wailing shaky but enthusiastic renditions of Fab Four favorites in a particular northwestern lane of New York City's Central Park. Other ragtag groups gather for the same purpose a few miles south in Washington Square Park, and in bars and karaoke clubs all around the world. Now, four decades after the Beatles broke up, the irresistible impulse to keep singing their music as often and as loudly as possible returns to Broadway with Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles for a limited run (through Jan. 9, 2011).
Rain is less a full-fledged musical than a two-hour greatest-hits concert by the professional Beatles cover band Rain. The four stars aren't exactly playing John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Despite period-appropriate costumes and wigs, passable Liverpool accents, and some spot-on mannerisms, they make little attempt to stay in character between songs. It wouldn't have been difficult to dress the tunes up with a minimum of plot, as Mamma Mia! did for ABBA, but Rain opts for the humbler pleasure of watching four very competent mimics recreate the Beatles' recorded output in a live setting. Audience participation is encouraged, with ''Yesterday,'' ''Twist & Shout,'' and ''When I'm 64'' turning into fun sing-alongs.
Aside from some cool-looking psychedelic scenery, Rain doesn't offer anything especially new. If you loved or hated 1977's Beatlemania, you already know your opinion of this show. (Indeed, all four cast members have performed in various iterations of that oft-revived revue.) Then again, maybe qualities like novelty and originality are beside the point here. Rain isn't worth overthinking. To quote a Beatles classic that didn't make the cut, just turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream for a quick fix of nostalgic cheer. B-
(Tickets: Ticketmaster.com or 877-250-2929)