October 21, 2020

1998-02-22 – Reno Gazette Journal

1998 02 22 Reno_Gazette_Journal_Sun__Feb_22__1998_

The human touch

Nevada Rep puts spotlight on the characters

It” muu‘

in furlnatiun

‘Tommy’

I When: 8 pm. Feb. 27. 28.
and March 4. 5. 6. 7 and at 2
pm. March 8

I Where: Redfield
Proscenium Theatre, Church
Fine Arts Center

I Who: Well they did it origi-
nally, but now the Nevada
Repertory Theater Company is
doin it.

I Ickets: $14 Feb. 27-28.
$16 March 4-5, $18 March 6-8.

I Details: 784-6847

I Music: The Nevada Rep
production will be using a
seven-piece ensemble.

I Listen up: To hear an
excerpt from the

Broadway cast Nc

recording of l.“ ‘0
‘Tommy,’ dial 2 0
3240225 and a “

press 3270. To

end the record—

ing and return to the menu.
press the star (‘) key.

I History: Like “Jesus Christ
Superstar.” “Evita‘ and “Jekyll
and Hyde." ‘Tommy' began as a
concept album. Pete
Townshend wrote it. and the
Who per-
formed it:
Townshend.
Roger
Daltrey.
Keith Moon
and John
Entwistle. it
came out in
. , t 1969; the

rock opera
Townshend concept
brought the Who out of arenas
and into Carnegie Hall.

Since then. stage versions
have popped up from time to
time. The absurdist filmmaker
Ken Russell directed a film
based on the opera in 1975.
starring Daltrey, Ann-Margaret,
Oliver Reed and Elton John as
the pinball wizard. Russell. not
known for understatement.
directed Ann-Margaret sloshing
around at one point in muck
pouring out of mirrors.

The movie was more about
“chocolate sauce and baked
beans," said Jim Bernardi. direc-
tor of the current Reno produc-
tion of “Tommy." than the opera
itself. ‘I love Ken Russell films.
and I felt it was visually excit-
ing, but it has very little to do
with the play."

Then in 1992. the stage direc-
tor Des McAnutf collaborated
with Townshend to create a
stage version suitab|e for
Broadway. It made its debut at
the La Jolla Playhouse in
Southern California and broke
box office records when it
opened on Broadway in 1994. A
touring production appeared at
the Pioneer Center for the
Performing Arts in 1996,

By Richard LeComte
RENQigéziETl'fifJOURNALi

audacity to write a rock opera,
Jim Bemardi has the audacity to
take “Tommy” seriously.

Whenever Townshend’s master-
piece is recorded or performed, it
seems, the stops come out. Loud,
hard rock music blares from speak-
ers. Elaborate scenes of decadence
pour forth from the screen, as in the
Ken Russell film version. Stage tricks
grab an audience’s attention, as in
the 1994 Broadway staging by Des
McAnuff.

But Bernardi thinks “Tommy”
doesn’t need all that. The opera’s
story can stand on its own. So the
Nevada Repertory Company produc-
tion, which he is directing, will be
getting back to basics.

“We’re not doing the Broadway
production,” said Bemardi, professor
of theater at the University of
Nevada, Reno. “No slides, no multi-
media. The characters kind of got
lost in the Broadway production.
We’re focusing more on the people.”

The people are Tommy, the lead
character, his parents and the people
who swirl about them — about 25
cast members in all, plus two chil-
dren.

Tommy witnesses a murder, then is
struck deaf, dumb and blind. He
embarks on a journey of self discov-
ery that takes him down many roads,
including, of course, pinball.

As a running metaphor, Bemardi
uses a stage design that incorporates
mirrors. Lots of mirrors. The mirrors
symbolize Tommy’s search for iden-
tity, which lurks somewhere himself.

“Tommy becomes disconnected
from the world and his family,” Ber-
nardi said. “He’s searching for him-
self, to find out who he is. He takes a
lot of paths that are not particularly
helpful to find out who he is. He
finds heroes who are unheroic, who
are bad models. Then he learns that

Just as Pete Townshend had the

who he is conies'ftotii hisinner's’elf.” 7

Fr.- Ieft to right, Chris Cells“, Til Glyn and 5mm Selim stat in the Nevada Rep's “Telly."

m

‘Tommy ’

Ilril Stulyvln

RENO GAZE'I‘I'E-JOURNAL

But it’s Townshend’s music that
grabs the attention of the artists
putting this show together. Bernardi
says the album hooked him when it
first came out. He tried a few times
to stage a version of the show, but he
says he never had the right team to
do it. Now he has the right team, and
he’s off and running.

“I wouldn’t say that it was my pas-
sion, but I did find it enticing,” he
said. “It was the score. I liked the
music.”

The music also drew Tim Glynn,
who plays Tommy. Glynn, a 21-year-
old public relations and theater
major, is way too young to have
plugged into the Who in its heyday.
But the Opera’s recent incarnation
caught his attention.

“Before they announced they were
doing the show, I had heard the cast
recording,” Glynn said. “I loved the
music. So I was excited when they
announced they were doing it, and
when I was cast as Tommy, it was
even more exciting.”

“Tommy” presents challenges to
the guy playing Tommy. He gets to
narrate the first part of the show,
then must spend several minutes on
stage being deaf, dumb and blind —
unable to interact with others on
stage. The music also is stretching his
abilities. He’s more at home with
classic Broadway tunes than with
Townshend’s hard rock.

“It’s a rock musical, and I am more
adept at singing more Broadway-type
songs or country-type songs,” he
said. “They’re a lot easier on the
throat.”

Because of the rock score, the
actresses and actors pretty much
have to be miked, Bernardi said.

“We’ve learned that when you’re
doing rock scores you need mikes,”
he said. “You need a really strong
piercing sound that the acoustic
voice can’t provide.”

And if the singing weren’t enough,
there’s the dancing. Lots of dancing.
Eat the music, at least inspires dance,

' TOMMY” continues next page ' '