Allow me to share my latest writing assignment: “Director’s Notes” for the Playbill of Paramount’s upcoming production of TOMMY.
The Who are a British rock band, and their principal songwriter and guitarist, Pete Townshend, wrote the 1969 double album rock opera TOMMY. “Art imitates life” in this story set in London during WWII, whereas Townshend’s own parents enlisted in the Royal Air Force. At 16yo, his mother drove a truck for the RAF and became a singer in pop orchestras while his father was a saxophonist in the RAF’s dance band The Squadronaires. Both were heavy drinkers, had affairs, fiery tempers and didn’t see their toddler son for two years. In the story you are about to see, 4yo Tommy witnesses a violent crime of passion leaving him traumatized deaf, dumb and blind. A survival mechanism, evoked from the depths of the young boy’s psyche, is summoned in the persona of an alter ego, an older version of the child’s self, to protect him, guide him, and serve as Narrator to the audience of the goings-on in the boy’s mind which has been violently shut down and repeatedly terrorized by the adult, outside world. A savant-like skill is discovered in young Tommy as he responds to the sights and sounds of a pinball machine, and it is only there and in his gaze in a mirror that the boy has any recognizance of his senses. He becomes a celebrity as a Pinball Champion after his mother breaks the spell-like trauma with another violent trauma, the smashing of the mirror. Tommy’s pop stardom takes on a following of a spiritualist’s proportions as they ask, “How can we be more like you?” Tommy’s reply speaks to what they already have within themselves. His salvation is in being more like them rather than them being like him. The crowd turns on him. His answer is not what they want to hear. But this is a very deliberate reflection of Pete Townshend on his spiritual awakening upon his acceptance of eastern philosophy in the late 60’s. “Listening to You” is a prayer, an anthem to the nobility of our human being; while we are capable of the atrocities of greed, violence and injustice, we are as well the highest ennoblement of the divine within us. Townshend’s intention here is to, in some way, heal his suffering as a child and the suffering of the child within all of us. Typically a concert of rock songs with a nuanced story and message, the theatrical telling shared here is made hopefully richer, and clearer, powerfully performed and orchestrated, for more of us who can see, feel, hear it.
Meanwhile, I am happy to report that Paramount’s MARY POPPINS is selling out, breaking all box office records. Don’t hesitate to purchase your tickets now! For the first time in the theatre’s 80-plus year history, it is projected that an estimated audience of some 60,000 will see Emily Rohm as “Mary,” Matt Crowle as “Bert” and this sublime ensemble of star turns directed by Rachel Rockwell.
This morning, I meet with Theresa Ham costuming TOMMY as we have our production meeting later this week with all collaborating designers and technicians. And production meetings tomorrow for Paramount’s final show of Season Four: LES MISERABLES! I’m a lucky guy to be directing both and promise you a theatrical experience you won’t soon forget!
Check out my links below to buy tickets, or get the subscription to see all three and save 40%!
Love & thanks,