October 20, 2020

1996-04-11 – The Post Crescent

1996 04 11 The_Post_Crescent_Thu__Apr_11__1996_

‘Tommy’
puts the rock
in opera

I The Broadway musical
created by The Who’s Pete
Townshend opens a run at
the Weldner Center In
Green Bay Tuesday

By Tom Richards

Post-Crescent stat! writer

rock opera. But it started with the

music, really. It first was performed
in concert in April 1969 by the legendary
rock band, The Who.

Then it was an album, a two-record set.
It was a piece, never really an opera in
the truest sense.

It was 24 years to the day after Tommy.
written by The Who’s windmill guitarist.
Pete Townshend. that it finally was
performed as a full-fledged, Broadwa
theatrical piece. Among other accola es.
it won five Tony awards.

Finally it was time to take it on the
road, but Victoria Bussert. the director of
the road show. envisioned something
different.

it is this presentation that plays
Tuesday through April 21 at the Weidner
Center in Green Bay.

“This piece is generated from the
music," Bussert said.

To that end, set designer Tony Fanning
and projection designer Wendall K.
Harrington created an atmosphere that
is at once concert and theater.

“Everything on the set is red. white.

Tommy" always has been billed as a

“TOMMY”: The “Pinball Wizard" scene is one of the production‘s key moments.

silver or gold. and it's supposed to have
the feel of a rock ’n’ roll show." said
Fanning.

“In our production, the band is
onstage, the lighting instruments and
most of the technical aspects are visible.
just like at a concert."

in fact. the title character. Tommy,
emerges from the area onstage where
the band is situated.

However, the production also uses
conventional theater techniques. such as
masking and flies.

Meanwhile. Harrington employs 21
film projectors to put images before the
audience, drawings. photographs.
graphics of other sorts. to take the viewer
virtually anywhere. including inside the
character's head.

That’s important in the play. which
tells the story of a boy who is struck deaf.
dumb and blind when he sees his father.
who has returned from war. murder his
mother’s lover.

()ne of the singular scenes is the
“Pinball Wizard" number. which creates
the feeling that the audience actually is
inside a pinball machine.

“This piece can be totally overdone."
said Fanning. “The music is so exciting,
and there are so many things you can 0
with pinball machines. so Kour mind
sometimesthinksbiggert an
necessary That forced me to pull
back, and i think the result really
addresses the needs of the piece.“

He said that it was Bussert‘s view that
the design should be simple and focus
more on the life of the child in Tommy.

“Vicky wanted to show that there‘s a

human aspect to the story. that it‘s not all
spectacle The finale is back to basics.
We‘rejust dealing with the music."
I “Tommy" will be staged Tuesday
through April 21 at the Weidner Center in
Green Buy. Tickets are $32 to $42 and
can be obtained by calling 800-328-8587.
Seats are available for all performances.