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March 22, 2012 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-03-22

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4B - Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4B - Thursday, March 22, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

From Page 1B
Media savvy
Tomorrow night, more than 40
years after the album premiered,
the revisited and overhauled
"Tommy" will be presented by
MUSKET, the University's only
student-run musical-theater
organization. As MUSKET pre-
pares to unveil its 21st-century
version of "Tommy," director
Taylor Norton, a School of Music,
Theatre & Dance freshman, dis-
cussed the advantages and com-
plexities that revamping such a
popular show entailed.
"In the original show, Cap-
tain Walker is a pilot in the
British army," Norton said. "So
what is he in America in 2001?
There needed to be an event
that spurred Captain Walker's
release, so the whole show hing-
es around the 'Mission Accom-
plished' speech that Bush gave in
Finding appropriate backsto-
ries for characters was just the tip
of The Who-sized iceberg. Due to
the rock musical's concept-album
beginnings, connecting the mul-
tiple layers present in the origi-
nal work has been a challenge
from the show's first production,
no matter the time and place in
which the show is situated.
"Trying to highlight the
moments that aren't about a huge
rock show, the moments where
there's really something happen-
ing between two people onstage
- even if it's something horrific
- how do we communicate it
without it being uncomfortable?"
Norton said. "How do we tell the
story rather than demonstrating
(it) onstage?"
In keeping with the theme of
modernity, the 21st century is
woven into the show: Not only do
characters carry cell phones and
iPods, but the back wall of the
set will also be a series of muslin
screens onto which video clips
will be projected.
The reason behind the mar-
riage of social media and rock
opera is the intense cultural
connection people have with
the Internet today: Sites such as
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube
allow ordinary individuals to
skyrocket to fame overnight. The
show portrays Tommy as a You-
Tube phenomenon, made famous
instantaneously for his skills
playing pinball.
"The idea of Tommy as a You-
Tube sensation really clicked for
me because it happens all the
time, and it happens instantly, so
we're using the projections to pull
from the media," Norton said.
"Sure plays a mean pinball"
MT&D senior Lance Fletke
plays war veteran Captain
Walker, Tommy's father. After
he murders his wife's lover, Cap-
tain Walker must deal with the
fallout of his actions: Tommy
is traumatized after witness-
ing this struggle and becomes
catatonic. Throughout the show,
Captain Walker tries to resolve
his relationship with his son and
his wife, wanting to return to the
pre-war familial life he shared

with them.
"He's a murderer, and (though)
he got away with it, he's trauma-
tized his son," Fletke said. "But
through it all, his main goal is to


MUSKET's version of "The Who's 'Tommy' " adopts motifs related to the culture surrounding social media, featuring Tommy as a YouTube sensation.

come back to this woman that got
him through the war, to reconcile
and fall back in love with Mrs.
Captain Walker soon learns
that it is not as simple as apolo-
gizing and moving forward. As
Tommy grows older, hope for a
cure is sparse. He and Mrs. Walk-
er continue to take Tommy from
doctor to doctor, hoping that a
new therapy or medicine is avail-
able for their son.
"You can never really have
what you've lost, but you can
have something different, some-
thing new, and so, to do that,
he's trying to get his son better,"
Fletke said. "There's a lot of guilt
there, not only with killing the
lover and affecting Tommy but
also from the war. Captain Walk-
er is very laden down with guilt,
and so he's trying to find a way
to peel that off and live a typical,
normal life."
Despite the setbacks and trag-
edies Tommy has faced, he has a
secret that begins to set in motion
his recovery: As one of the songs
describes, he is a "Pinball Wiz-
ard." After discovering his tal-
ent for pinball, Tommy becomes
a YouTube sensation, garnering
him fans and recognition every-
Uplifting in music and tone,
"Pinball Wizard" brings the
spirit and energy of The Who
to the stage with inspiring lyr-
ics and catchy beats, reminding
audience members of how very
rock 'n' roll the musical is.
"In the show, 'Pinball Wiz-
ard' is a huge number - a lot of
dancing, movement. And that's
the point: It's a huge,, climactic
moment when you discover this
kid you thought was helpless
is actually this god of a pinball
player," Fletke said. "Anything
that happens at the end of Act
One is important because it sets
the tone for Act Two, and so then
(inActTwo), Tommy'sgrownup
and he's this pinball wizard. It's
a big party scene."
A song of strife
Along with the larger-
than-life sequences, there are
moments in "Tommy" that
require tenderness and delicacy
on the part of the actors and the
audience. LSA junior Rachel
Gubow, who plays Mrs. Walker,
described the necessity of the
intense scenes that occur in the
"We see murder, abuse, drugs
and bullying," Gubow said.

"Delving into those things and
understanding them allows the
character to have passions and
regrets and troubles, and that's
what makes it interesting to
In order to convey the darker
elements of the story, "Tommy"
turned to media once again. By
projecting pre-recorded clips
such as the abuse scene involv-
ing babysitter Uncle Ernie and
10-year-old Tommy, the show was
able to utilize its technological
motifs as well as convey a power-
ful image to the audience.
In the scene, Tommy, dressed
in all white, sits in a chair while
the looming figure of Uncle Ernie
in a business suit stands eerily
behind him. Ernie puts a hand on
Tommy's shoulder as a represen-
tation of the abusive relationship
between the young boy and his
uncle. The audience can extrapo-
late the rest of the scene without
witnessing it, and the show relies
on this understanding on the part
of the audience.
"For us now, we understand
so much more about the cycle of
violence and sexual abuse," Nor-
ton said. "We don't have to go so
far and be abrasive with those
moments because everyone will
understand them."
According to Gubow, the

greatest difficulty in conveying
emotion during the show's more
intense moments lies in getting
past the music and focusing on
the lyrics.
"It's easy to sing what's writ-
ten, but finding the meaning
behind all those lyrics is the chal-
lenge," Gubow said.
"When you're given a script
of lines, there's no set melody to
say the lines to. You get to inter-
pret the speed, your inflection,
and you put meaning behind
them. But when the lyrics are set
to a song with a specific melody,
it takes a lot more effort to put
intent behind them - to not just
sing a pretty song, but mean it,"
she added.
During "I Believe My Own
Eyes," a song Townshend wrote
especially for the musical, there
is a scene between Captain and
Mrs. Walker that Fletke noted
for its misleadingly upbeat music
covering for a brewing inten-
sity between the married couple.
Though it's easily sung as a large
number, when probed further,
it uncovers the demise of a rela-
tionship and the desire to bring it
"It's a big, sweeping song that
you can get caught up in, when
really, all they're doing is having
a fight (and) trying to find some

common ground.
"It's not a big ballad; it's that
we'rebeinginvestedinone anoth-
er and trying to help our kid," he
added. "It's about remembering
(that) lyrics come first. It's our job
as storytellers to piece everything
together: All these things bring
light to the stories we're trying to
tell and the people we portray."
Putting the'rock'in
rock 'n' roll
To help the story unfold with-
out succumbing to the vastness
of the music, the set was created
to portray the inside of Tommy's
mind. Along with the projection
screens, the set boasts an array of
newspaper clippings, photos and
memories from Tommy's child-
hood that link the scenes happen-
ing onstage to the setting of the
"You walk onto the set, and you
walk into Tommy's mind," Norton
said. "It's like a control room, and
all the colors are subdued, and the
projections on the back wall will
also have old media on it. You see
pictures of Tommy's first steps,
newspaper clips that have to do
with 'Tommy.' ... It will be a col-
lage of things that have to do with
the show."
But the premise of the rock

opera is an album: a really loud,
jamming album. Rather than
trying to convince the audience
that this rock musical can stand
alone without The Who, Norton
said the goal of the production is
to incorporate rock and emotion
into one excitingshow.
"We're trying to remember
that this is a rock 'n' roll show,
and as much as you want it to be
a musical, it can't be, so we're
trying to highlight the plot we've
created and tying loose ends
together, and then letting the big
rock moments that everyone loves
kind of explode and take over,"
Norton said.
To get the people excited at
the right moments in the perfor-
mance, Norton explained that
there will be surprises and excit-
ing additions for the audience,
such as Tommy's YouTube fan-
girls appearing in the audience
and interacting with the charac-
ters onstage.
"There's a lot of stuff happen-
ing in the audience, because we
really want to have the feel of a
rock show," Norton said. "With
the way we have crazy fangirls
from the show run up to the stage
from the audience, or the way we
shoot T-shirts into the crowd, we
will hopefully be able to reel the
audience in."


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Pinball Pete's finds its success in mixing the old and the new.

I ll 1 , ! ,

From Page 3B
as bountiful as they once were,
but Pinball Pete's is still find-
ing new avenues to make money.
Aside fromhosting private parties
and lending their machines for
corporate events, the arcade has
kept afloat with its "street route"
strategy: giving game machines to

bars, restaurants and other estab-
lishments and taking a cut of the
revenue. All these savvy business
decisions have paid off - Pinball
Pete's has survived the arcade
apocalypse and has a bright
future. It's recognized as one of
the "Five Best Arcades in Amer-
ica" by Tips & Tricks magazine.
"We're not planning on going
anywhere," Arnold said. "We've
got a long-term lease."

Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2012- 4-5 pilC, CC. Little
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