September 23, 2020

2015-01-09 – Chicago Tribune

2015 01 09 Chicago_Tribune_Fri__Jan_9__2015_

‘The Who’s Tommy’ comes to Paramount

BY RANDALL G. MIELKE
Special to the Tribune

Tom Vendafreddo, music
director, conductor and key-
boardist for the Paramount
Theatre’s production of “The
Who’s Tommy,” believes that
Pete Townshend of the ’60s
and ’70s British rock group
The Who changed the course
of rock ’n’ roll.

“It used to be that a song
had a verse, then a chorus,
then a verse, then a ch0-
rus, and it was pretty re-
petitive; very conventional,”
Vendafreddo said. “Town-
shend and The Who started
writing expanded sequences
and it became narrative. The
Who’s 1969 double album
‘Tommy’ is the first true pop
masterpiece and it brings it
all together: It’s rock ’n’ roll
in a new way.”

“The Who’s Tommy” will
be presented from Jan. 14
to Feb. 15 at the Paramount

Theatre in Aurora. The rock
opera is based on the 1969
double concept album by
The Who.

Jim Corti, the show’s di-
rector, thinks the music is a
huge part of the show’s ap-
pea].

“Every song from the
album was on top of the
charts,” Corti said. “Then
it was done as a rock con-
cert for a while. It wasn’t
until 1993 when Townshend
teamed up with Des McAnuff
that it became a rock opera
(on the stage).” There is also
a movie version of the show,
which came out in 1975.

The music and lyrics for
the show are by The Who’s
lead guitarist and principal
songwriter Pete Townshend.
The book is by Pete Townsh-
end and Des McAnuff. Ad-
ditional music and lyrics are
by John Entwistle and Keith
Moon.

The 1993 Broadway pro-

“The Who’s Tommy," starring
Devin DeSantis, will be at the
Paramount Theatre in Aurora
Ian. 14-Feb. 15. l SUBMITTED

duction was nominated for
10 Tony Awards and won
five, including Best Original
Score and Best Choreogra-
phy. Iconic rock songs fea-
tured in the show include
“Pinball Wizard,” “See Me”
and “I’m Free.”

Set in the 1940s, “Tommy”
is the story of a little boy who
witnesses his father murder
his mother’s lover upon the
father’s return home after
being released from a pris-
oner of war camp.

The trauma sends Tom-
my into a nearly catatonic
state, becoming deaf, dumb
and blind. Eventually, his
only form of communica-
tion becomes playing pin-
ball and he becomes an
international pinball super-
star.

“The whole thing is about
shutting out the noise and
going within yourself,”
Corti said. “The kid goes
into a state of catatonia and

“THE WHO’S
TOMMY”

I Jan. 14-Feb. 15

I Paramount Theatre, 23
E. Galena Blvd., Aurora

I Tickets, $41-$54
l (630) 896-6666
I paramountaurora.com

in the deep recesses of the
child’s psyche an alter ego
appears.

“We are inside the little
boy’s mind,” Corti contin-
ued. “How that looks versus
‘real time.’ We go from ‘in-
ner space’ to ‘real time.’ We
go back and forth. In the
inner mind there is light,
sound and color. It’s almost
like a hallucination of sight
and sound. He becomes
like a rock star. The whole
thing takes place in a kind
of rock ’n’ roll universe. It

is meant to be that kind of
spectacle.”

Also a bit of a spectacle is
the music.

“There are some extend-
ed instrumental pieces in
the show,” said Vendafred-
do, who is conducting an
eight-piece orchestra.
“When the band would play
the album, they would jam.
The musical incorporates
that jam session aspect.
There is no improvisa-
tion any longer. It is now
planned in the show.”

But as good as the mu-
sic is, Vendafreddo thinks
there is more to the show’s
appeal.

“It is something about
the story,” he said. “The boy
is deprived of his senses
and he becomes like a Mes-
siah. In the 1960s, people
latched onto it and it just
became a big part of their
lives and it has become en-
grained in the culture.”