Churchill High School is putting on The Who's "Tommy" for one night only on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the school. This is one of the few student-run performances throughout the school year. These questions were answered by the director, Sam Klein.
<b>Premise of the story: </b> “Tommy” focuses on the maturation of a man called Tommy Walker, who is traumatized at the age of 5 when he sees his father kill his mother's lover. In a symbolic moment, Tommy becomes "blind deaf and dumb" to the world around, responding to his parents' claim that he "didn't see it, hear it, or know it." For 15 years, the Walkers are unable to revive Tommy. At the age of 20, he comes "back to life" when his mother smashes the mirror through which he witnessed the murder, and he is exalted and praised by all who hear his story. Tommy's fame becomes too much for him, at which point he tells his adoring fans, who all want a part of his world, that his dream was always to be more like them.
<b>Since this is an opera, why was it chosen for a high school performance? Why did you choose to direct this play? </b> I chose “Tommy,” though it is an opera, because the music is so famously incredible. Most of the songs are simple classic rock tunes, so the orchestrations and vocal parts are not terribly difficult. I also wanted to do a show that would have meaning for both the young and old, and I feel Tommy is that way in that the music is that of my parents' generation but it has a feel of a "new" musical.
<b>What were some of the challenges when putting together the play? </b>Putting on this show was difficult in many ways. One issue was the time constraint; I have only been rehearsing with the cast since the beginning of the school year, so we essentially had six weeks to put the whole show together. Also, being a high school student trying to direct my peers, it was difficult for me to take command early on because I was friends with many of the students in the cast. Cutting down my status as a friend at rehearsal took a lot of effort on both my part and the cast's part.
<b>What stands out the most about this production? </b>I think the thing that stands out about this production is its student commitment. This is the biggest student-produced musical that has ever been at Churchill, which makes me feel very proud of it. The tremendous effort on the parts of the student singers, musicians, and technical staff has been fantastic. We also have an eight-student production team that has put in a ton of effort since June to make this show the best it can be.
<b>What is your favorite character/most challenging role? </b>My favorite character in the show is Cousin Kevin, Tommy's abusive elder cousin who just cannot control his hatred for Tommy. Though sinister, I feel that Cousin Kevin is a complex character who has to deal with being so closely related to a boy as strange as Tommy, and so his psyche is much more complicated. The most challenging role in the show is Adult Tommy, because it is demanding in both an acting sense and a singing sense. Adult Tommy has to emote love, joy, confusion, anger, and many other varied emotions, while also singing some songs in a sweet falsetto and others in a rich baritone.
<b>What has been your favorite play-related moment (either on stage or backstage)? </b>My favorite play-related moment came a few weeks ago when I was teaching music to the cast. Normally, I play the piano while they sing, but for one number, I stopped playing for a bit just to listen their voices. The song, "Listening To You," is the finale of the show, so of course I wanted it to sound excellent. What I heard was unimaginably good, and my assistant director poked her head in from the next room and wondered why we were listening to the Broadway recording when she heard the cast's voices.
<b>Is there music involved in the play and if so, how does it affect the play? If no music, how does the lack of it change the mood of the play? </b>The entire show is underscored in music, and so the music sets the tone for every second of it. The music conveys every possible emotion and moves each of the characters through their development throughout the show.
<b>Have you ever acted? </b>I have acted in numerous shows at Churchill and at Hoover, my former middle school. I love acting and singing, and Tommy was a great opportunity for me to demonstrate the acting and singing skills that I have learned in high school.
<b>What do you hope the audience will get out of it?</b> I hope the audience will enjoy the sound of the music. The Who is one of my favorite rock bands, and I feel that their music is unbounded by years. Even today, Pete Townshend's poignant songwriting is evident throughout all of “Tommy.’
<b>Have you directed any other plays and if so, were they high school performances? </b>I directed a play in middle school for a theater class, but never on as grand a scale as with “Tommy.”
<b>What is the funniest line/situation in the play? </b>The play is not musical drama, and as such, comedic moments are few and in most cases not funny as much as disturbing.