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It was fun to walk into Kleinhans Music Hall on Friday and hear the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra gearing up for Beatlemania. A trumpet could be heard running through the hint of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony that figures in the chaos at the end of "All You Need Is Love." Someone else was practicing a riff from "Penny Lane."

Happily, the orchestra, led by Assistant Conductor Ron Spigelman, did just fine throughout the show, which was fantastic -- and generous, too, with what must have been at least 20 Beatles tunes. (Unlike most pops concerts, in which the guest artists generally don't appear until after intermission, the Beatlemania stars are on stage all night long.)

As for the Beatlemania stars, I began wondering if maybe they believed they were the Fab Four, the way doctors week after week begin to believe they're doctors. I was reasonably sure that Jim Own, who portrayed John Lennon, believed he was Lennon. He wore that white bell-bottom suit with such conviction!

If they had lost track of reality, though, I can't blame them. They looked uncannily like the Beatles (from the balcony, it was eerie). They sounded like the Beatles, too. At first Paul's voice seemed strained on the high notes, but he had solved the problem by the second set.

I found myself fretting that our Paul wasn't left-handed. He could have learned to play left-handed bass -- how tough is this music, anyway? But that was, seriously, the only quibble.

We saw the Beatles first as mop tops, bowing in unison and singing "Got To Get You Into My Life" and "I Saw Her Standing There." Next they came out wearing the colorful Sergeant Pepper uniforms (John sported that hilarious mustache), and we heard a haunting "She's Leaving Home," "Something," "Eleanor Rigby," etc. Later, in the "Let It Be" phase, they looked more scruffy.

High points of the night included "Here Comes The Sun" (absolutely dead-on), John's meditative solo "Martha My Dear," an "Ob La Di, Ob La Da" that brought the house down and the moment when John ran out in those white bell bottoms.

A Wings medley included "Silly Love Songs" and "My Love."

Banter was brief, but funny in that British Beatles style. "Who remembers the '60s?" Paul asked, and then answered the question: "People who remember the '60s are in their 60s."

Throughout the night, the guitars were politely muted. Maybe someone feared that symphony regulars would be deafened -- but come on, they could have gradually worked things up. Certainly they should have cranked that guitar solo that followed "Carry That Weight," the solo that Eric Clapton played, the solo that guitarists call THE solo. It sounded as if George had it down. But you couldn't hear it.

Our Beatles this weekend are the original stars of the Broadway show. They are Jim Own as Lennon; Tony Kishman as Paul McCartney; David Brighton as George Harrison and Chris Camilleri as Ringo Starr. But it's more fun to suspend disbelief and tell yourself they're the Beatles.

Most of the crowd must have been doing just that, because applause was overpowering.



Stars of Broadway show, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Pope Concert.

Friday and tonight at 8 in Kleinhans Music Hall

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