Being Ringo Starr for Almost 30 Years: Ralph Castelli

At age six, so the story goes, Ralph Castelli saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show (February 1964) and decided what he wanted to do for the rest of his life -- namely, play drums.

But for the past 27 years, Castelli has gone beyond that with even more specificity. Because for almost three decades, he's played Ringo Starr, first in the touring production of Beatlemania, then in Beatlemania: The Movie and finally in RAIN. He was even Ringo Starr on Broadway.

And that's how Houstonians are going to have a chance to have a look at him when RAIN comes to the Hobby Center for three performances starting November 18 courtesy of Gexa Energy Broadway Across America.

"I grew up in an Italian family; my parents are from Italy," Castelli told Art Attack. One of four brothers, Castelli said, "There was always music playing in our house -- Italian music, opera, Frank Sinatra, Big Band stuff."

As a boy, out of all the instruments, he always gravitated to drums, Castelli said. After seeing Ringo perform, Castelli said he put on Beatles music and worked at learning their songs.

Raised in Southern California, Castelli now makes his home in Reno with his family, which includes two sons and a daughter -- "all creative," he said.

The show RAIN has evolved, Castelli said. Its story is told through the music. "The first set is identical to the Ed Sullivan show and everything in that part of the show is in black and white," he said. He goes through six costume changes as the show moves through time, and adds color. During the part when the show recreates the Beatles playing at Shea Stadium in 1965, he said, "You feel like you're in a coliseum."

This isn't a show when anyone is going to shush audience members for singing along. "The audience is having a blast. The audience is burning calories singing and dancing. We definitely encourage it. Though really, there's not much we have to do."

RAIN runs November 18 and 19 at the Hobby Center. Tickets can be purchased by calling 800-982-2787 or visiting www.broadwayacrossamerica.com/houston or www.thehobbycenter.org.

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