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CULTURE | Vol. 8, No. 26, June 28, 2007
(What's Hot This Summer)

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‘Beatlemania’ Still Going Strong

by Beege Welborn


What: GetBack! Cast of Beatlemania
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 30
Where: Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox Place
Cost: $24-$44 to benefit Saenger expansion
Details: 595-3880 or

Jack Petrilla laughs at the thought and exclaims in his engaging voice on the other end of the phone, "I've been Paul McCartney almost as long as Paul McCartney has!"

Petrilla is one of the members of the original Broadway cast of "Beatlemania" and is reprising his McCartney role when "GetBack! Cast of Beatlemania" appears for the Saenger Theater renovation and expansion fundraiser at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 30. 

Petrilla enthusiastically rattles off some of the reasons for the enduring popularity and influence of the Beatles: "It's inter-generational. Maybe there's a lot of nostalgia there. And it's a whole lotta fun."

The "GetBack! Cast of Beatlemania" is built around recreating as authentic a Beatles concert experience as possible. The production employs period sound systems and instruments enhanced by state-of-the-art digital orchestration, as well as authentic costumes, to showcase the talented cast members. 

"We do the vintage Liverpuddlian accents," Petrilla explains. "We go into character and stay there. Between songs, we banter and that adds to the effect of a Beatles concert."

The first act is set at the beginning of the Beatles meteoric rise.

"The 'Ed Sullivan Era' is another way of putting it," Petrilla says. "The Edwardian, velvet collared suits and mop-tops, and the early energy, excitement phase."

The second half of the show begins with "Sgt. Pepper" and then magically morphs into the "Abbey Road"/"Let It Be" era.

"That's how we finish off the show," Petrilla says. "It kind of goes full circle, with rock 'n' roll and high energy at the end!

"And, by the way, " he adds. "This is the 40th anniversary of 'The Summer of Love.'"

It's hard to believe it was 40 years ago that the quintessential "Summer of Love" album was released. Starting in January 1967, young people had taken off for San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district in the largest migration of its kind in American history.

On June 1, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" hit the record stands and came complete with psychedelic influences, Indian music and eye-popping cover.

One of the album's songs made its global debut during a June 25 worldwide radio broadcast, a song that told people: "There's nothing you can do that can't be done" because "all you need is love."  

Originally flocking to the San Fran's streets for a "Human Be-In" experience, the hippies and peaceniks still gathering the following summer found the legendary name perfectly articulated in the catchy Beatles anthem.

Petrilla thinks those memories have been lovingly shared and account for the family groups that attend performances.

"We get a kick out of how many generations we see in the audience," he says. "There are the ones that grew up with the Beatles and their kids. And now we're even getting THEIR kids!"

I confess to him that, in the early 1980s, our toddler son watched "Yellow Submarine" constantly on a newfangled VCR. The "GetBack!" cast sees many Beatles fans of tender years at their shows, Petrilla tells me, thanks to parents like us.

He obligingly offers an example that happened at one performance.

"In between songs, we'll bow and, in that bow, this little kid—he was no more than 5 years old—ran across the orchestra pit right in front. And he pointed up at us and said 'I've got your records!' The whole place just cracked up! It's that kind of experience.

"It's a testament to how phenomenal an act the Beatles were," Petrilla adds. "What they spoke about, what they sang about—love and peace—never goes out of style."

He said that the band can't wait until they see that first member of the fourth generation in their audience.

One has to believe they will, because the Beatles are timeless. The continuing success of productions like "GetBack! Cast of Beatlemania" proves that.