BEATLEMANIA, Through April 8 at the Warner Theater, 13th and E Streets NW. Call 737-2220.

Back in the '60s few things were more coveted than tickets to a Beatles concert. For many of us rock'n'roll began when the "Fab Four" made their American debut on the Ed Sullivan show. Each Beatles song was a touchstone marking a special moment in our adolescent years.

"Beatlemania," a multi-media show now at the Warner Theater, is the next best thing to attending a Beatles concert. There they are on stage, four look-alike musicians who have perfected the origianal group's every mannerism and gesture. And they sound like the real thing. Personable and warm, clean and innocent they were, uh, are. Before our eyes, these simulated Beatles metamorphose from collarless suits to Sgt. Pepper costumes and then jeans and much longer hair. Hearing songs like "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Michelle" and "Eleanor Rigby" certainly triggers old memories.

The combination of screams from the speakers around the theater, coupled with pictures of awe-struck fans and a video fragment of Ed Sullivan introducing the Beatles on television is a very effective and exciting way to bring on the "Beatlemania" group. If it had stayed with this nostalgic montage of the Beatles, using film clips and photos to recreate their exciting career, the presentation would have been much stronger.

Instead, the producers tried to document the '60s, bouncing haphazardly from theme to theme -- pictures and film clips of political turmoil, the Flower Power generation, drugs, media personalities like Brigitte Bardot and Tiny Tim and back again -- without ever touching substantially on any of the issues.

Interspersed with these are particuarly obnoxious sequences of the counter-culture: A pot party with stoned-out bodies (resembling Jonestown corpses) lying next to one another on the floor to the tune of "Day in a Life." There's also a Madison Avenue rendition of an acid trip with headache-inducing visual effects of flashing police lights and blinding strobes while "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" blares.

Intermittent fuzz attacks in the sound system, which the technicians compensated for by turning up the volume, was an assault on the ears. But the audience didn't seem to mind. Judging from the screams and endless popping of flash bulbs, this was as good as the real thing.