October 25, 2020

1997-03-09 – The Central New Jersey Home News

1997 03 09 The_Central_New_Jersey_Home_News_Sun__Mar_9__1997_

TOMMY

I Continued from page D1

the episode returns him to his
senses; his final refrain of “See
Me, Feel Me" proves to be emo-
tionally uplifting, even though
Tommy loses everything. The
phrase “listening to you” in the
song has been interpreted by some
fans of the show to mean that
Tommy is addressing God or an-
other spiritual being.

When the rock opera was resur-
rected in 1993 on Broadway under
the aegis of The Who’s songwriter
Pete Townshend, the ending of the
story was changed. In the updated
version, Tommy looks to return to
his parents and relatives in what is
a tidier, less ambiguous ending.
Hence the Broadway “Tommy,”
while presenting the same songs

as the original 1969 work, conveys
a different theme.

“After a lifetime in isolation and
loneliness, Tommy would choose
not to climb a . . . mountain, with or
without psychotropic drugs,”
Townshend told the Toronto Star
in 1995. “(He) would go back to his
family and accept life and so-
ciety and the world as it is."

Townshend collaborated with
writer/director Des McAnuff, who
previously won a Tony award in
1985 for his direction of Broad-
way’s “Big River." The refashi-
oned “Tommy” was such a smash
on Broadway that New York Times
critic Frank Rich wrote that
“Tommy" was “the authentic rock
musical that has eluded Broadway
for two generations.” It won five
Tonys in 1993 and the London pro-
duction recently garnered three
Olivier theater awards, including
one for best musical.

“1 do some dancing, as well as
play the role of a narrator,” Kirby,
25, said of his part in “The Who’s
Tommy.” Kirby has appeared in
regional theater, as well as Las
Vegas and Royal Caribbean Cruise
Ships productions. “I’m kind of a
liaison between the thoughts of
Tommy and the audience, so as an
actor I relish the role."

Whatever the shading of the tale,
“Tommy’s” 25-plus songs remain
popular today, most notably “Pin-
ball Wizard," ‘fAcid Queen" and
“I’m Free.”

For Kirby, the songs of
“Tommy" provide a challenge,
“because of the time signature and
the key changes,” he said. “How-
ever, the work is rewarding. Plus,
there’s a large amount of freedom
that you don’t really get to use in a
lot of the classic Broadway pieces.

“It really is a rock opera.”

That label speaks to the music’s
rich past.

The Who performed “Tommy"
at New York’s Metropolitan Opera
in 1970 and in 1972, the London
Symphony Orchestra adapted the
work. Filmmaker Ken Russell pre-
sented his garish, yet visually stim-
ulating vision of “Tommy” on film
in 1975, a work which features
Elton John’s version of “Pinball
Wizard." The Who — which broke
up in the early 19805 — reunited in
1989 for a 20th-anniversary
“Tommy" pay-per-view television
event with stars including Phil Col-
lins and Billy Idol taking turns
singinglead.

“The Who’s Tommy” will be at
the State Theatre, 15 Livingston
Ave., New Brunswick at 8 pm,
March 20 and 21. Tickets are $45 to
$21. Call (908) 246-7469 for more
infomation.

A NEW MUSICAL
MUSIC AND lYIlCS IV PETE IOWNSNEND
|OOK IV PEI! YOWNSNEND & DES McANUFF

TWO PERFORMANCES!!!
March 20 & 2! a! 8 pm
For Titkefs, Call me) 246-7469

T-HvE-A-T-R-F.

NIW HRIIN_~NILK