September 23, 2020

1972-02-24 – Chicago Tribune

1972 02 24 Chicago_Tribune_Thu__Feb_24__1972_

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Section 2

Tommy” in T insel Town

A Sellout to Show Biz

BY THOMAS 1WILLIS
Hollywood

9 “TOMMY,” the blind;

deaf, and dumb pinball wiz-
ard who took his place in
r o c k mythology alongside
Sgt. Pepper long before. Je-
sus Christ became a “Super
Star” has finally made it to

Tinsel Town. AIive and in i

the flesh, as they used to say
at carnivals, he has invaded
the Aquarius Theatre, for-

Opera

merly the lair of “Hair,” at
the corner of Sunset and
Vine. With him are a large,
energetic, andversatile cast,
quad sound, sophisticated
projection equipment, and a
computer operated switch-
board to keep the media pot
bubbfing.

It. is not the first time
someone has tried to convert

The Who’s classic album into
a stage production. Like “Su-
per Star,” “Tommy” invites
translation from platter to
piatform. The Seattle Opera
and Les Grands Ballet Cana-
diens have both tried to with
varying success with the
rock invasion of musical the-
atre in full swing today,
more will surely follow.
Unlike “Super Star” and
“Hair,” this “rock opera”
has no easily followed story
line. When Peter Townshend
and the rest of his hard
stomping herd performed it
in Chicago’s late lamented

. Kinetic Playground a few
Z years ago, they played the
f songs in order without naijra-
. tion. Whether or not listeners

!
t

i
1

were familiar with the al-
bum or text, they knew just

Peter Townshend of The
Who.

enough to keep their place as
the antihero progressed from
Helen Keller darkness and
silence to frustrated messi-

ah- The trip’s scenery, lam?"

scape, and fellow travelers
were left to the individual
imagination.

In the current version,
which opened Tuesday and
was assembled by Joel Ro-
senzwerg, a media-oriented
24-year-old just out of col-
lege, enough additional de-
tails are supplied to give the
stage characters some be-
]ievability. A few slides on
hexaginal overhead screens
suggest a British location,

and movies from time to

time give a view of the pur-
p o r t e d surroundings. The
singers wear appropriate
costumes and keep to their
own roles. A complete
stranger to the work might
have trouble keeping his
place but no one else will.

The cast is for the most
part excellent. Ted Nelley, in
the title role, knows the mir-
rored multilevel stage so well
that he can stumble, dive

head-Iohg, and carom off its

. sharp edge surface. Annette

Cardona and Bert Woods
steam the glass as the sex
Acid Queen and her smolder4
ing hawkerna' role obviously
created to let Mr. Woods
strut his tight hipped stuff.
And, Barbara Hancock trans-
forms the antigroupie, Sally
Simpson, into an entirely ap-
propriate toe dancing Shirley
Temple.

For all the powerful gadge-
try on hand, this “Tommy”
remains a song and dance
8 h o w. Visually it comes

straight from commercial
television and high class cab-
areL Claude Thompson, the
director, mythodically alter~
nates between songs and
snappy, high kicking produc-
tion numbers whose only
choreographic virtue is that
they sometimes match the
energy of the music.

As an admirer of “Tom-
my,” I can applaud those re-
sponsible for translating him
into theatrical existence.
Without letting the media
power go to their heads. But
this production is essentially
a sellout to show biz. As
such, it has neither the in-
ventiveness of the Broadway
“Hair” nor the narrative
thrust of “Super Star,” nor a
recognizable face of its own.
Like the Opera’s vulgar Un-
cle Ernie, it mostly fiddles
about.

[Chicago Trihune Press Service]

Any weekday is
a holiday when you
have dinner at the

WRIGLEY BUILDING
JRESTAURAN ..

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