October 20, 2020

1994-03-07 – The Cincinnati Enquirer

1994 03 07 The_Cincinnati_Enquirer_Mon__Mar_7__1994_

Monday.March 7.1994 THE ClNClNNATlENQUlRER Features/B3

Townshend’s ‘Tommy’ readyt 0 light up Taft Theatre

Cox News Service

In an interview earlier this year,
the Who’ 5 Pete Townshend ex-
plained the mind- -blowing, artisti-
cally naive origins of his late-196OS

rock opera-cum- recent Broadway
musical Tommy.

“Psychedelic drugs were Chang -
ing everything. All of the olgd
craftsmanlike values of pop song—
writing were disposable. Peop le
like Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd
were coming along, stringing up 14
echo chambers, taking a tab of acid
and playing!" Townshend remi-
nisced. “I thought, ‘What I’ ll do 15,
I’ll string numbers of three- and
four-minute singles together, and
hopefully it will create a long
enough, sinuous enough, seamless
enough wash of music for these
new audiences to flow with. ' ”

That “wash of music" — the
Tom my double-album produced for
a then outrageously expensive
$36, 000 and released in 1969 —
went on to become one of rock’s
greatest achievements.

More than music

But Tommy has always been
about more than the freewheeling
strains of the Who, as captured in
such classic songs as “Pinball Wiz-
ard,” “Acid Queen” and ”See Me,
Feel Me.” In 1ts powerfully moving
tale about a deaf, dumb and blind
boy who awakes from his stupor to
become a pop icon, it has been
seen as a message of the disenfran-
chised ’605 generation, one that
begs to be told on a platform larger
than a concert stage.

Pete Townshend's rock masterpiece Tommy has been made into
a movie, a ballet and now a musical for the stage.

Hence, Tommy has been trans-
formed into a film (Ken Russell’s
1975 version), a ballet (Les Grands
Ballet Canadienes’ 1971 version), a
symphonic showcase (the London
Symphony Orchestra's 1972 ver-
sion). The Who also mounted it
several times in staged concert
versions, becoming the first pop
group to perform at the Metropoli-
tan Opera House in the process.

But the final, ultimate version of
Tommy may be the one that bowed
on Broadway last April. It’s the
same production that’s playing this
week at the Taft Theatre as an
entry in the Broadway Series.

If you 90

D What: The Who's Tom-
D When: Wednesday

th Sunday.
m: Taft Theatre,


> Tickets: Very few, most-
ly single and obstructed-view
seats. Call TicketMaster,

machine, but he only truly breaks
out of his shell when he shatters a
mirror that metaphorically shack-
les his soul. Then, he is turned into
a cult figure, who ultimately stands
apart from his followers.

But that is only half the story of
the Broadway version. Courtesy of
Townshend and McAnut’f’s
far-reaching vision and the produc-
tion team's fanciful costumes, sets,
projections and choreography, the

Conceived by Townshend and
Tony Award-winning Broadway di-
rector Des McAnuff, this is a Tom-
my that moves like some living,
breathing re-creation of contempo-
rary history.

The basic elements still are
there: A child of the war, Tommy
Walker witnesses his father kill his
mother’s lover when his father
returns home from battle unex-

covers in kaleidoscopic fashion,
from the grime and drudge of
post-World War 11 Britain to the
sock-hopping '505 to the psyche—


- - By Hagerty Dancing
pectedly. The 1nc1dent leaves Tom-
my in an autistic state, the helpless Phg’ifigsggfas
child is further abused by a sexual-
ly deranged uncle and a malicious ”Eiclfififygg: SF‘I’goEPRM.

cousin. Tommy finds some relief in
the buzz and whirl of a pinball

Starts Tues" March 15. 7:30 PM.

show conveys the time frame it'

delic '.605 Visually speaking, it' s a
case of Broadway meets MTV,
with the entire theater at one
mesmerizing point turned into a
giant pinball machine.

Second thoughts

Townshend had long ignored
the idea of a theatrical Tommy.
But after a biking accident in 1991,
he needed something to do while
he recuperated. He noticed a re-
quest from the Pace Theatrical
Group, a Broadway producer, for
the rights to the show.

As Townshend explained it, the
decision to finally go ahead
stemmed from a “personal drive to

we'- 51933.1?


ELM QUALITY. . . the New Standard

Burglars Hate Our Security Products


nowas AVAIIAILE mm M ("SIM IllllI IRON. FENCE. "INDIA“. SKIN" $10M noon, WIND“

1539 Race Street, Cincinnati, OH 45210
(513) 768-8873

move into musical theater. I have
waited a long time sitting on vari-
ous rights like a mother hen, for
some sign that the public is ready
to come to the theater to see my
shows rather than sports arenas to
see the Who. There is no question
that the time has come.” .

The show garnered several
raves upon its New York opemng..

Tommy did, however, fail to win
much at the Tony Awards, losing
out for best musical to K iss 0f the
Spider Woman. But it has won
where it counts most: the box
office. The show's day-after-open-
ing-day ticket sales of $494,897
broke an all-time Broadway record.

0. 0 0 0 .0
0.0 0 0 00 00 0 0 0‘0
. .::::0:0.00 .00: 0: 60:409.. 0
.0 .0. 0 .0 .0 . .I
o’ o v V‘o’o’o‘o o'i'o'o'c'o
0 o w”. Mo"
0’0 .'