The Woodstock Opera House is preparing for a domestic version of the British invasion when American English pays its first visit to Woodstock, taking the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 19, to present a tribute to the Beatles.

More than 20 years ago, when Tom Gable, who portrays Ringo Starr in American English, joined what was then a bar band, he said, “Let’s kick this up a level.”

The band made some personnel changes, added songs spanning the entire career of the Beatles and put together outfits representing each period in the band’s career.

“One thing led to another, and before long, we had a full-fledged show,” said Gable.

The acclaimed Chicago-area band has been voted the winner of sound-alike contests at Beatlefest for three consecutive years and won Illinois Entertainer of the Year. A strong local fan base and growing demand has launched them into larger venues throughout the country and theaters worldwide.

Gable said his music start was at age 13, but he wasn’t initially into the Beatles. “Back then it was cool to play Led Zeppelin and the Kinks,” he said. But when he really dug in and started to study the Beatles, he discovered a depth to the band he grew to appreciate. As a drummer himself, he identified with Ringo, describing his talent as understated.

American English features Jim Irizarry as John Lennon, Eric Michaels as Paul McCartney, James Paul Lynch as George Harrison and Gable as Ringo Starr.

“You take on a character,” said Gable, “and then you take on a persona. Put it all together and for two hours, people believe you are the Beatles.”

Gable met Ringo about 12 years ago. “I met him, got his autograph and got choked up,” he said. “I didn’t even tell him what I do, but I thanked him and he said, ‘Well there you go.’ I had a smile on for days.”

Gable said the show is totally family-friendly and will appeal to fans that remember the Beatles as well as those who are discovering the music for the first time. American English makes a conscious effort to stay true to the music, avoiding letting their own personalities change the interpretations.

American English will take fans on a magical mystery tour beginning with the Ed Sullivan Show, playing favorites like “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The band will recreate the psychedelic era including selections from “Sgt. Pepper” and close by reliving the years of “The White Album,” “Let It Be” and “Abbey Road” with songs such as “Hey Jude,” “Something” and “Let It Be.”

“We want people to come out and see the band and get into it and enjoy the night,” said Gable, adding that the Woodstock Opera House is the perfect venue as it is reminiscent of the British theaters the Beatles played in early in their career.

Ticket prices are $38 A seating, $28 B seating. Call the Woodstock Opera House box office at 815-338-5300.

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