|Q&A with Richi Ray:
(May 27th, 2003)
… How did you hear about BEATLEMANIA auditions?
I'm an accidental participant in the show. A friend of mine was a techno
dance-mix producer with some hits and he took me to the audition without
me knowing what it was for. He tried out as John and I said, "Well,
I'll be George, why not?" ...and played a few tunes for Andy Dorfman with
some guys from the cast at SIR, San Francisco. They gave me a call
back audition, for which I did come prepared. I didn't know that they were
looking for "potential understudies". When you're at an audition, you
don't ask too many questions before you get the job.
Many Broadway theater houses have strict union minimum hiring rules.
The Orpheum in San Francisco is such a place. I became a do-nothing for
$348 a week with Beatlemania. I was paid to sit around and watch the show
and collect my check.
I didn't get a Beatle school, because the company
knew that I had learned my way around the guitar already. In
retrospect, I probably could have benefited from it.
Just hanging around, I formed friendships with the cast and a contributing
reason I did want to join when my number came up was that Marshall
Crenshaw, Joey Curatolo and everyone generally treated me well.
During their SF run we even went into a recording studio and with just
everybody from the show playing something, produced and mixed a Bobby
Taylor original song, a real Phil Spector extravaganza, "Be My Baby
Tonight". That was fun! But after a few weeks, I bid them all goodbye
forever as their tour was moving on. Six months later when I was up in
mountains teaching at a music camp, Andy called and asked if I could
be in Philadelphia ...MONDAY! I had really never expected to hear
from them again.
So my task was easy ..just replace Bob Miller, one of the finest musicians
on the planet, an excellent look-a-like and popular in the company as
well. He was leaving the show to form the Metro Men (hope I got that
right, Bob), his own band. Do you think I was shaking in my pointy
that first night? With just one dress rehearsal,
I should have properly been embalmed. Joey Curatolo, bless him, loosened
me up by making this
hissing noise from the wings like I had missed a cue. They got me good!
It really did take a while for me to learn the tight blocking as I'd always
been in hippie bands that couldn't give two shits for staging.
… How many years were you with the show?
I played in the official Beatlemania production for about two years.
During this time I played with a varying set of John Lennons and I'm sure
now from the other interviews you know the details of how the show
operated. Two bands in every city, my first: Marshall, Al, and Don, Bunk
Bunk Junk as we became known. I believe we earned that title because
we were slopped together in some congressional redistricting. Or perhaps
there was another reason for that title ..Hmmm.
… Where there ever any accidents on stage say
during costume changes? eg: trips and falls, etc.
Hawaii was interesting in that the humidity would strip your fake moustache
right off your face in about one minute under the lights ..no matter how
much tape you used. Once, Bob Williford's moustache stuck to the microphone
while he was singing and just hung there in mid-air after he had
walked away.. the only way to get out of that problem is to press your
face hard against the damn mic and hope it'll re-attach ...and pray that
producer isn't in town watching this, which of course he is because
it's Hawaii! (you figure it out). I think somebody fell off the stage in
also, but that wasn't humidity, that was the cast getting a hold of
some local hippie lettuce in fact, there were even some rare lighting mis-cues
that tour also. It didn't much matter, there were only thirty or forty
people in the audience ...In industry lingo it's called a tax write-off.
… Where did you enjoy performing the most?
(What city, country, theatre, etc.)
Vancouver was a record-breaker for the touring company and I believe
we were the number one draw in Billboard that entire month. It's also my
favorite because I enjoyed the fine restaurants and good French wine
available next door to the Queen Victoria Theater. The proprietor was an
eighty-year old Russian chef named Rocco who had served the Beatles,
the Stones and several British Royalty in his time. He didn't know I wasn't
famous, and I was performing next door, so he treated me to homemade
pate and food not on the menu (kept slipping me Russian vodka as well.)
Also in town were some great musician friends playing at this night
club called Acapulco. The best looking women would go there and once
brought the cast with me after the show and we sat in with the band
and Joey did twenty-five minutes of Hey Jude. The crowd was ecstatic and
were in most of our eyes. Very moving night.
… We know that supposedly none of the original
Beatles ever saw the show live, but some people from the Beatles camp (other
attorneys) did see it. Do you recall
Ask Mitch this. He has the best John Lennon story. If I have
it right, Lennon crossed the street in the winter snow to talk to Mitch
who was heading
towards the stage door at the Wintergarden.
… Do you still perform with other alumni?
I joined up with Tony Kishman in 1986 to play Vegas for a year and
still play shows with him occasionally. We didn't get to work together
after the show had closed, so like other guys in different touring
companies, we discovered each other "after" the fact. Tony and myself were
on a job with Classical Mystery Tour just a few weeks ago, in fact. Fabulous
performer and a very good friend of mine.
I still see Mitch on a job now and then too. He's one of my favorite
people. Joey keeps in touch now and then and we shared the loss of
one of the
best guys ever, Jim Riddle, when he passed away.
… What are you doing these days?
Before joining Beatlemania I would do many advertising singing dates
as well as engineering spots for radio. This has continued to this day
since I live in Los Angeles I get work in film and television. This
week I had the Dodgers and Chevrolet for instance. I run my own studio
and work closely with a facility in Burbank that does movie trailer and
television voice overs. Composing music for jingles and raising children
seems to be
two things that I can do.