October 22, 2020

1994-03-27 – Pittsburgh Post Gazette

1994 03 27 Pittsburgh_Post_Gazette_Sun__Mar_27__1994_

Robert Mann
Kayser (as
Tommy) and
Roger Bart.
both fore-
ground, star in
the national
touring compa-
ny production
of "The Who‘s
Tommy."

Marga, Bruise, ,..

|
v

Townshend’s past
mocks his future

When Pete
Townshend
swapped rock
for a role as
Broadway
kingpin, more
than a few
eyebrows
raised. But
’The Who’s
Tommy’ heads
to Pittsburgh
with the kind
of respect
afforded the-

atrical royalty.

ete Townshend always has been something
of a cultural revolutionary.
With “My Generation,” he gave the world
its first true punk rock anthem — all slash—
ing guitars and teen-age rage.

Four years later. he returned with a far more so-
phisticated if no less revolutionary work. A spiritual
concept album detailin the adventures of a “deaf,
dumb and blind boy” w o rises above his abusive
surroundings to win fame and fortune as a messian-
ic pinball wizard. “Tommy" may not have been the

first record worthy of the “rock opera“ tag, but it

certainly did come to define the genre.

That was 25 years a 0. Townshend himself is par-
tially deaf now, one of t e uglier benefits of excessive
amplification, but he and Tommy are still out there
on the front lines. making the world safe for revolu-
tion. J ust last year, the boy who cried “I hope I die
before I get old" brought rock ’n‘ roll kicking and
screaming down Broadway — only instead of being
shovm the door, he managed to walk off with five
Tony Awards and a shiny new box-office record.

Talk about an amazing journey.

Wendy Bobbitt. musical director for the national
tour of “The Who’s Tommy," which opens Tuesday
at the Benedum. sees Townshend’s success as noth-
ing less than a theatrical watershed, one that could
open the door to a whole new wave of composers.

“It‘s the first of it’s kind.” she says. “All the walls
are falling down now and people are crossing the

Destan Owens. standing, Alec Timerman and Ken-
nya Ramsey in a scene from "The Who‘s Tommy." ”j

lines to shake hands."

Granted, Broadway has flirted with rock culture
in the past. “Hair" and “Jesus Ch'n'st Superstar" are
practically textbook examples" of people who have
nothing to do with rock ’n‘ roll trying real hard to
capture the magic.

But as Scott Totten. who's handling Townshend’s
guitar parts on the road. points out. sometimes try-
ing real hard just isn’t good enough.

“The score to ‘Jesus Christ Superstar‘ is excel-
lent.“ he says. “but as far as it being rock. let's face
it, it's Andrew Lloyd Webber."

People like Webber can dabble all the want. Tot-
ten says, “but these are people outside t e idiom.
whereas Pete Townshend is the idiom."

The most amazing thing about “Tommy“ may be

SEE ITOMMY'; iPACJE m

. . . but so what?

oor Pete Townshend.

How was he to know
he’d live forever. then grow
up to win live Tony Awards

for a bi -money rock ‘n‘ roll musi-
cal? Ki 5 don‘t think about stuti'
like that

Maybe if he had. he never would
have written anything as stupid as
“I hope I die before I get old.“ 01‘

COMMENTARY

maybe he would have mitten it
anyhow. just so future generations
of rock critics could sit around and
marvel at the irony of it all.

Heck just about everyone lives
to regret something they said back
when they were young and more
likely to say things A lot of times, it
can be something as simple as “I
do." For Pete Townshend. it‘s more
likely the famous death wish from
"My Generation.“ Or perhaps. “Hey
guys. why not get Kenny Jones to
fill in on drums?“

The trouble with big statements
like “I hope I die before I get old,“
of course. is the ever-present dan-
ger of a long, healthy life.

So now that he‘s old — well. he
turns 49 in a month — what‘s he
supposed to do? Take it back? Pre-
tend he's dead? Jump up and down
singing songs he wrote 30 years
a 0 until he makes a complete fool
0 himself like Mick Jagger?

He already tried that once. but
then his hearing went out right in
the middle of his third-to-last fare-
well tour.

The sad truth is. there‘s only so
many options left for a rocker push-

SEE TOWNSHEND, VIPKGE :2