Sunday, March 19, 2006

Listening to you, I get the music…

Review of The Who’s Tommy Broadway Musical

Yesterday I finally went to my first Broadway musical in my 15 years in Japan. It has made my year, even though it is only March.

Of all people, I went with two others from my tennis class! One of them is a fellow student, a housewife with two kids. She probably around my age and is quite a chic and sexy lady, wearing short skirts and high leather boots. The other is the tennis instructor himself, who is a young guy in his early twenties and into Mod fashion and music. Both of them are Japanese, which is great because The Who was never nearly as big here as it was in the West and I only have a few friends here who share my passion for the band. There was a bit of a Mod explosion here at one time, but astonishingly it may have centered more on The Jam and Paul Weller!

Our plan was to meet at the performance hall in Shinjuku and at first I wasn’t totally confident I found the right place because the building is so nondescript. I was reassured at the sight of a middle-aged Japanese guy with a hairstyle identical to Keith Moon’s pacing around talking on his cell phone. He also had a slight paunch, not unlike The Loon himself in his final years. The attendees were real menagerie: All ages from teenagers to those who are practically segueing out of middle age into something beyond. There were a lot of foreigners; in fact the majority of the older people were such, one example being a feisty group of German executives.

Now I am not a reviewer, and find it difficult to say anything about the show except that it was awesome. I have seen some Broadway musicals in my Canada days, and Tommy was not as glitzy or over-the-top as they tend to be. It was solid and professional and polished, but not produced to death either. Kind of… just right. It was one of those experiences that will likely stay with me.

I first saw the movie version when I was in high school. Some of the parts that were seared into my memory were when Mrs. Walker’s lover killed Captain Walker, Moon’s diabolical portrayal of Uncle Ernie “fiddling about”, and Tina Turner as the Acid Queen, not to mention how hot Ann Margret was as Tommy’s mother.

In the musical version, Captain Walker ends up killing the lover, and the Walkers end up back together, and in love with each other. This made Tommy’s family situation much less sordid than the movie version. Uncle Ernie was portrayed by a less threatening individual and perhaps some of the child abuse scenes may have been watered down because of the times we live in. And needless to say, no Tina Turner or Ann Margret!

The band, playing on a platform above the stage, was terrific. Probably more polished than The Who themselves. They made liberal use of synthesizers which actually works very well with this music and story. The vocalist, who also played the lead character, was able to imitate very well both Roger Daltrey when he sang and Pete Townsend when he played the guitar.

The grand finale of See Me Feel Me, and its thundering conclusion, was enrapturing. Again, glorious, but accomplishes this somehow without being over-the-top. It is the kind of stuff that really emotionally connects. I suspect there may be a lot of subjectivity at play here.

I paid around a hundred dollars for the ticket, but came out of it a much richer man.

No comments: