September 18, 2020

1971-04-16 – The Cincinnati Enquirer

1971 04 16 The_Cincinnati_Enquirer_Fri__Apr_16__1971_

‘The Who’ Performs Rock

ticuiarly clear in this bai-'

By CLIVE BARNES
New York Times Service

NEW YORK —- “See me.
ieel me. touch me, heal
me" — the coznoscenti

will note that Tommy. the
deaf. blind. mute prophet
or rock is back in town.
“Tommy” is the so-called

rock opera composed by
the English group. The
Who. It started in 1969 and
has traveled the world.

In New York The Who
has performed it tirst at

Fillmore East and then —
surprise. surprises — at
the Metropolitan Opera
House. It may not exactly
be an open. but it was as-
suredly the first time the
acridasweet smell of pot
had ever intruded upon
Met-ieased nostrils. “Tom-
my" also sold as a record

album. sold as a record al-
sold and sold. and

said again.

THE STAGING was nev-
er very satisfactory. It was
more — it we are going to
be' formal — like a rock
cantata than aroci: opera.
because although it un-
doubtedly did have a story,
the story seemed too dra-
matically diffuse ior credi-
ble dramatic staging.

With The Who them
selves, when they present-
ed their opera, they just
let everything hang out,
and hoped that lead singer
Roger Daitrey — the only
man in history to confuse
the function of a micro-
phone with a yo-yo —
would help them to make
their own visual drama. It
worked and it didn‘t work
— it was better on neeords.

This week at the New
York City Center, “Tom-

my" took on a new shape.
when it was presented as a
rock ballet by Les Grands
Ballets Canadiennes. With
its music and lyrics by Pe-
ter Townshend. John lin-
twistie and Keith Moon —
who with Daltrey are the
which and what oi The
Who — ‘Tommy” is even
now a most remarkable
pop m u s i e achievement.
This is warm, powerful
and highly sophisticated
music.

I approaehed the pros—

pect of it being made into
a ballet by this Canadian

company with nothing but
misgivings — it seemed as
though nothing but harm

could come from the proj-
ect. Yet the finished prod-

uct is not nearly as bad as

might have been expected
— and at times itismost

impressive.

The use of tapes for the
music is less than ideal.

On the other hand asThe
Who tilmnseives customari-
ly blast audiences out or
their seats with their
over-empliiyim equipment.
even this is not all loss.
And Fernand Nault. the
choreographer. has gone
about his job with some
care and sensibility.

The story of a young boy
who. in 1921,witnesses the
murder or his mother's
lover and is thereby trau-

matized into a blind mute. _

lends itself to dance narra-
tion. And even his explana-
tion at the sense or touch.
and transformation into a
cult leader can be reasona-

biy clearly expressed.

The ending, where the
people reject Tommy, has
ne ver been particularly
clear to me, nor is it par-

Ffldtly, April 16. 1971

let. But no especial matter.
N a u it ’s choreography
coasts clear the wrong side
of brilliance. He uses a iot
0t bumps and grinds. hips
rotate. and there is a great
deal of rhythmic bouncing.
In short. it is not remarka-
bly good. but it is not aii
disastrous. And other as-
pects of the staging have
very real merits.

NAULT DOES often
achieve a ritual eiiect that
is totally appropriate tor
the music. and his dramat-
ic concept or Tomnw him
3 e if — very sensitively
played by Alexandre Belin
— is most touching. The
sets by David Jenkins
looked absolutely apt. the
various iilm sequences
were excellently used, and
the lighting by Nicholas
Cernavitch is possibly the
best Broadway has seen all:
season.

The dancing — apart
from the tortured iigure 0t
Benn — was moderately
effective. HildaMorales
was notable as the exuit-
ant acid queen. and the
rest did well enough This
is not one or the great
dance companies of North
America, and it would do
well to make a sharper dii-
ierentlation in stage pres-
ence between the boys and
the girls.

“Tommy" has a curtain
raiser, also Nauit, called
“Hip and Straight.” It

proved more hip than

m CINCINNATI INQUIRER

————-————.—

Opera

straight and not very hip.
The live music was provid-

ed by a Montreal group
called Les Percussions de
Montreal, which sounded
like enthusiastic soit rock.
The ballet was danced in
manner that might chari-
tsbiy be called cute.

80 if you go to set
"Tommy" I would sumsi
arriving to hit the inter
mission. But “'mmrny" it
self is far from being the
worst rock staging that we

are going to see in the
years to come.