October 20, 2020

1971-04-15 – Chicago Tribune

1971 04 15 Chicago_Tribune_Thu__Apr_15__1971_

“Tommy” as Ballet

BY CLIVE BARNES‘

0 “SEE ME, Feel me, Touch
me. Heal me"-- the Cognos-
centi wili note thnt‘ Tommy,
the deaf, blind, mute prophet
0! rock is back in town,
“Tommy” is the so-cnlled
rock opera composed by the
English group, The Who. It
started in 1969 and has
traveled the world.

In New York The Who has
performed it first at Fillmore
East and then—-surprise, sur-
prises - at the Metropoiitan
Opera House. It may not

Bael‘le‘t

exactly been opera, but it
was assuredly the first time
the acrid~sweet smeil of pot
had ever intruded upon Met-
based nostrils. “T o m m y’
also sold as a record album,
sold and sold and sold again.

r

a most remarkable pop music
achievement. This is warm,
powerful and highly sophisti-
cated music. .

I approached the proSpect
of it being made into a ballet
by this Canadian company
with nothing but misgivings“ '
it seemed as tho nothing but
he'rm could come from .the
project. Yet the finished
product is not nearly as bad
as might have been expected
—and at times it is most
impressive.

The use of tapes for the
musie is less than ideal. 0n
the other hand as The Who
themselves customarily it
seems blast audiences out of
their seats with their over-
amplifying equipment, even
this is not all loss. And
Fernand Nauit, the choreog-
rapher, has gone about his

,r‘ job with some care and

sensibility.
The dancing—apart from
the tortured figure of Belin—

'1th staging was never V91? . w a s moderately effective.
safleflctOI‘Y- It was more—xf Hilda Morales was notable as

we are going to be formal—
like a rock cantata than a
rock Opera, because nltho it

undoubtedly did have a story, _

the story seemed too dramat-
ically diffuse for credible
dramatic staging. With The
Who themselves, when they
presented their opera, they
just let everything hang out,
and hoped that lead singer
Roger Daltrey—the only man
in history to confuse the
function of a microphone with
a yo-yo—would help them to
make their own visual dra-
ma.

Tuesday night at the New
York City Center, “Tommy"
took on a, new shape, when it
was presented as a rock ballet
by Les Grands Ballets Can-

adiennes. With'its music and . hit the

lyrics by Peter Townshend,
John Entwistle and Keith
Moon—who with Daltrey- are
the which and what ofiThe
Who—“Tommy” is even now

k

the exultant acid queen, and
the rest did well enough. This
is not one of the great dance
companies of North America,
and it would do well to make
a sharper differentiation in
stage presence between the
boys and the girls.

“Tommy" has a curtain
raiser, also Nault, called
“Hip and Straight.” It proved
more hip than straight and
not very hip. The live music
was provided by a Montreal
group called Les Percussions
de Montreal, which sounded
like enthusiastic soft: rock.
The ballet was danced in
manner that might charitably
be called cute. .

So if you go to see “Tommy”
I would suggest 'arriving to
intermission. But

“Tommy” itself is far from
' being the worst rock staging
that we are going to see in
the years to come.

(N. Y. Timahcmcano Trlhune service]