Get ready to twist and shout Thursday at The Colonial

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PITTSFIELD — There won't be fake wigs. There won't be psychedelic costumes. There won't be imitation vocals, and heck, there won't even be exactly four band members.

But make no mistake about it: Thursday night at 7:30, the Colonial Theatre will be rocking to the tune of purportedly the nation's most innovative Beatles retrospective act: "Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience."

The act is the brainchild of Billy McGuigan, who along with brother Matthew, set out more than a decades ago to honor their father, William, a military veteran who moved the boy around the word when they were growing up.

Billy recounted how the McGuigan family was one of very modest means, and that much of the entertainment while the boys were young centered on their father's love of the Beatles.

"My dad was one of the biggest Beatles fans you could find anywhere," McGuigan said in an interview. "As military brats we were always moving somewhere new, but the one constant was how the music of the Beatles was so much a part of who our father was, and by extension, who the McGuigan boys grew up to be today, obviously, with this very cool creation in his honor."

The brothers, Billy continued, hailed originally from Florida, and were just 21 and 15 years old in 1996 when their father passed away after a difficult but courageous battle with leukemia.

His collection of the complete Beatles opus — even the most obscure titles — were passed on to the boys.

"It truly was a great gift he left us," Billy said. "Not just this classic vinyl collection, but the love, the passion, and the pure joy of the music that keeps him with us to this day. I guess we shouldn't be surprised it ended up growing into our career."

And that career, according to the act's publicity and road manager, and booking agent, Kate Whitecotton, of Rave On Productions in Omaha, takes the six-member band on the road for the better part of the year in an innovative way.

Whitecotton, who has toured with the act for 11 years, said the innovative twist that the band puts on its Beatles recreation is to take song request cards from the audience as they enter a performance venues, and then review and select the set list for each performance — just minutes before the show starts.

"I love the anticipation of getting the set list each night and I love watching the crowd react to hearing their requests being played," Whitecotton said. "Even more than that, my favorite part is recapping the special and cool moments that happened in the show, and in our hotel room after the show. It's so heartwarming to see how the show's personality changes based on where we are in the country."

Billy agreed with Whitecotton, saying that an additional element to song selection is that the band asks audience members to also write a brief reason on their request cards for why that song is special to them.

Once selected, he added, that reason also is shared with the audience before the song is performed, creating what he called "some of the most emotional moments imaginable for both audience and the band up on stage."

"Early on in our first year touring, I saw audience members with tears in their eyes for an older man who had asked us the play `Hey Jude,'" Billy said. "It was in honor of his best friend who died back when he was 11, because the song had been sung by the boy's older siblings around his grave. I knew right there we had something special."

The band comprises Billy McGuigan (guitar, keys, vocals), Matthew McGuigan (bass, vocals), Tara Vaughan (keys, Vocals), Jay Hanson (lead guitar, vocals), Adam Stoltenberg (guitar), and Rich Miller (drums).

Billy said the group has never been stumped by an audience request. His hope for Thursday's show, he says, is a night of rocking the grand old hall, and unity.

"`Yesterday and Today' is all about bringing people together, using the Beatles music as the glue," Billy said. "None of us imagined it would ever grow to more than 100 touring stops per year. I think my dad would have really, really, liked this."

     Contact Telly Halkias at tchalkias@aol.com, Twitter: @TellyHalkias




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