Original Cast Member:

Justin McNeil (McNeill)

Drums & Percussion


Justin with the original cast 
Leslie Fradkin, Joe Pecorino, and Mitch Weissman,


(l-r) Leslie Fradkin, Mitch Weissman, 
Joe Pecorino, and  Justin McNeil
pose for a 1978 Rolling Stone interview

Justin with friend, original Beatles drummer
Pete Best

Justin at home with his kit.

Paul Stanley of KISS with Justin 
and their High School yearbook!

Eric Singer of KISS with Justin

Justin in Peter Criss' make-up


Q & A with Justin:

How did you hear about BEATLEMANIA auditions?

 I saw an ad in the Village Voice, it was different from other ads since it had Paul McCartney's face peeking over the ad. 
It said "For a unique experience call 212-xxx-xxxx. Beatle musicians or look-alikes wanted".

Had you been impersonating Paul McCartney before you heard about BEATLEMANIA?

No, I am a drummer although Paul McCartney was my favorite Beatle.

Sorry, a cut-and-paste oversite on our part.  Of course you played Ringo in the show.
What was your audition experience like?

When I showed up to S.I.R. studios on 54th street in New York, there were a lot of nervous people there. 
Kenny Laguna, the musical director walked in and wanted to know who wanted to audition first. 
No one else spoke up so I volunteered.  I felt no apprehension since I had been
playing Beatle songs since Ed Sullivan and was currently playing in a jazz-fusion
band.  Some guys got on stage with me (Leslie Fradkin was one of the guitarists). 
My audition songs were "Lady Madonna" and "With a Little Help from my Friends" (drums & vocals).

How old were you when you were accepted into the show?


What was your first experience on stage as Ringo in front of an audience like?  Was it the first for your other band members as well?  Tell us that moment right before you hit that first note on IWTHYH?

By the time we got to Broadway, we had played for the past nine months to many audiences while showcasing and doing our pre-Broadway tryout in Boston.  Nevertheless, opening night on Broadway was so exhilarating, I felt like I was playing in front of an audience for the very first time.

When I hit that very first note I felt we were making theater history!! 
Picked from 2,000 hopefuls, we were living the dream of  millions of young musicians who dreamed of "being" the Beatles ever since they had first seen them on the Ed Sullivan show.

How many years were you with the show?

About 4 years, but I've played in many variations of BEATLEMANIA since then, even today as we speak.

You studied with Carmine Appice, I remember you saying that on the Mike Douglas show way back when.  You went to school with Paul Stanley of KISS.  Who else have you played with?

 I studied drums with Carmine in Long Island when I was 19 and I did go to the High School of Music and Art with Paul.  A funny anecdote is that years later at S.I.R. studios BEATLEMANIA and KISS were rehearsing and Paul recognized me from school but I had no idea who he was until I went home and checked my yearbook.  I was blown away by this revelation!!

 I've studied and jammed with Eric Singer of Kiss/Alice Cooper and have played with many BEATLEMANIA alumni through the years.  I've been on the bill with Felix Cavaliere, Herman's Hermits, Turtles, Rare Earth, Box Tops and many sixties groups.

Who would you like to play with but haven't yet?
KISS and Paul McCartney.

Were there ever any accidents on stage?  Any anecdotes?
All I can really think of  is the time that my nose prosthesis was bothering me so I yanked it off right before we went on. This started a chain reaction between the rest of us and we never used them again.

If you had any, what was the most embarrassing moment on stage?  Power outage?  Flubbed lyrics? Sneezes? etc.

Embarrasing Moment: 

Curtains go up and my bass pedal is missing, a couple of nights later my drum seat was missing! I played crouching for a couple of songs!

 Power Outage:

1977,  New York City Blackout and we're on stage.  I was in the middle of singing "With a Little Help from my Friends"
and in the verse "what do you see when you turn off the lights?", the electricity went out!  We first thought it was just a power outage in the theater.  Mitch, Joe and Leslie switched to acoustic songs and did an audience sing-along.  Later that night we all found out what really happened and the next day we woke up to rave newspaper reviews commenting on how well we performed under pressure and kept the audience calm and entertained.

What was your favorite part of the show?
The early part.

What was your least favorite?
I didn't have a least favorite.

Who did you enjoy working with the most?
I would have to say Mitch Weissman, Joe Pecorino and  Leslie Fradkin.  We shared the unique experience of being the initial BEATLEMANIA cast who introduced the audience to this  new type of  Broadway show.   Besides this great original lineup, I have to mention that playing with Steve Landes (John/Rain) and Jimmy Poe (George/1964) was one of the most enjoyable times for me.  Their musicianship and charisma has always been a joy for me.

Where did you enjoy performing the most?
Shubert Theater in Century City, Los Angeles.  There were always celebrities in the audience who would come backstage after the show.

Did you play vintage instruments and use vintage equipment for the show?
My drums were not vintage, they were the new style Ludwigs of that time. 

We know that supposedly none of the Beatles ever saw the show live, but some people from the Beatles' camp did see it.  Do you recall who?

I personally believe that all the Beatles saw the show in disguise.  Those that did see it for sure include :Mick Fleetwood (who told me I sounded and played just like Ringo and would tell him  to come see the show), Keith Allison,  former Paul Revere Raider
and bass player on a Ringo TV special that year.

Did you ever meet any of the Beatles?
I never met any of the Beatles except for good friend Pete Best.
Mitch met Ringo and John on separate occasions and Leslie met Paul, but I should let them tell the story.

Do you still perform with other alumni?  Do you keep in touch with the producers and other production crew?

Through the years I've played with about 60% of the alumni.  I still keep in touch with Kenny Laguna.  I feel I owe him a lot for picking me to be "Ringo".   He was the one who ultimately decided who would be in the original cast.   He now manages Joan Jett and is a record company president.  He graciously always lets me hang out backstage when Joan is playing in town.

Are you still in the music business today?  What projects are you involved in these days?
I still play drums on weekends with several local bands.

If the right situation ever came up again, I would go full time again. 

I've been influenced the most by The Beatles and KISS. The Beatles for the music and joy they brought to the world; and KISS for the over-the-top pure entertainment spectacle that they originated.

All in all, looking back how was the BEATLEMANIA experience for you?
An exciting, unique experience which gave me a chance to know what it's like to feel like a Beatle for 2 hours a day.




Contact:  Beatlemaniac@BeatlemaniaAlumni.com