Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Oct 21st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

School Of Rock

tommy1Arindam Krishna Das on the making of another smashing rock opera featuring local youth

Arindam Krishna Das is not afraid of taking risks when it comes to his theatrical productions. Since directing his first play at Little People’s Repertory Theater nearly 15 years ago, Das has developed a reputation around Santa Cruz County for his unique artistic vision, go-big-or-go-home mentality, and ability to breathe new life into classic musicals, from “Annie” to “The Rocky Horror Show.” Das plans to continue that tradition this month at San Lorenzo Valley High School, where he will unveil The Who’s “Tommy” on Feb. 15.

Thirty-two SLVHS students will help tell the story of Tommy Walker, a “deaf, dumb and blind boy” who becomes the leader of a messianic movement after discovering his inexplicable mastery of the pinball machine. The rock opera, based on Pete Townshend’s 1969 eponymous double-album which sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, features a number of chart-toppers, including “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “See Me, Feel Me” and “Pinball Wizard,” and implores the audience to reflect on the social norms of the 1950s and today.

In the days leading up to opening night, we sat down with Das to discuss the art of the rock opera, what it takes to put on a production of this magnitude, and what he hopes the audience will take away from “Tommy.”


 

Good Times: ‘Tommy’ is known for its incredibly beautiful and complex score—were you at all worried that it might be too difficult for a high school age cast to perform?

Arindam Krishna Das: We have 32 students in our cast and all of them are extremely gifted. Ryland Gordon is playing Tommy, and I have to say, having been involved in musical theater in town since 1999, there has been maybe one other boy that has come through shows that I have been involved with that has a voice of that caliber. The sound, the tone quality, that musical theater voice; I’ve only worked with one other boy that has that kind of talent. He is now in New York City, but they have flown him in to do Cabrillo (Stage) shows like “The Full Monty.” Ryland has worked a lot with All About Theater and over the years he has just developed this wonderful voice. I don’t know if I would have even considered doing “Tommy” unless there was that caliber of voice.

How does ‘Tommy,’ which features numerous songs by The Who, compare to the film Across the Universe, which used Beatles hits to tell the story?

Across the Universe took Beatles songs and wove a story into it. With “Tommy,” the story was built into it from the beginning. It’s often referred to as the first rock opera. It is based off of the double album by Pete Townshend, released in 1969, which is just gorgeous. If you get the original album, put on the headphones and just listen to it from beginning to end.

Why do you think audiences are so responsive to operas, rock operas and musicals?

I’ve run into a person here or there who just can’t stand musicals. I think it is because it asks them to suspend too much of their disbelief; their rational mind just can’t handle it. But if you are willing to go along for the ride and suspend your disbelief a little bit … There is an expression that describes the spiritual world that says “Every word is a song and every step is a dance.” So from what I’ve seen and experienced, often the closest thing to that happening is a musical or an opera. I mean literally many of these steps are dances, and certainly in opera, every word is a song. I see that connection with theater, especially musical theater.

What do you think Pete Townshend was trying to accomplish by writing this musical?

He was trying to share the teachings of his guru, Meher Baba, and trying to put across some of the things he’s learned. In the play, Tommy becomes megalomaniacal after his success with pinball. He finds all these followers around him and he becomes kind of a cult leader. He builds up this fanatical cult following, but eventually they all revolt against him. It is a hard journey—there is violence, there is abuse, but in the end, it’s a triumph of the spirit, for Tommy, for the cult followers, and hopefully for the audience.

What is the main message that drives ‘Tommy’?

It makes you ask questions like “Why worship someone?”, “What makes something or someone worshipable?” and “What are the hazards of being worshipped?” A guru means “great teacher.” There are a lot of gurus out there, especially in Santa Cruz. Some of them are charlatans who just want to rip you off and take your money, but some of them are sincere. I think a real guru is someone who teaches that the guru is to be seen in everyone and everything you encounter. Hopefully that comes across in the finale of our show.


'Tommy’ runs Feb. 15-March 3 at the San Lorenzo Valley High School Performing Arts Center, 7105 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $15/general, $10/students, seniors, SLV faculty and staff. All tickets are $9 on Community Night, Thursday, Feb. 21. For tickets, visit https://sites.google.com/a/slvusd.org/drama/productions.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Field Work

Santa Cruz Mountain winemakers explain how the harvest works, and what kind of wine to expect from this year's crop

 

Libra's Two Choices

Libra (our last week) is the sign of creating right relations and values. In Libra we are asked to choose how to be, our identity in the world. We can maintain a hermetic sealed-off attitude (my life, my work, my money, etc.) or we can gain knowledge of world events and learn more about those in need. Libra is a group sign—self with others. Here are some events occurring in our world this week concerning food, poverty, spirituality, values and global realities. The UN (a spiritual experiment) each month places a “light” upon world problems. This week a light shines on Rural Women, Farms, Food & Poverty. Before we choose to respond we must have knowledge. “So we can each do our part.” Oct. 15 - International Day of Rural Women (unrecognized with few resources); Oct. 16 - World Food Day & Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth; Oct. 17 - Eradication of Poverty Day (international). During the month of Libra (with Saturn exalted), we pause, contemplate and assess what it is we know, don’t know, and need to know. Libra receives and distributes Ray 3 of divine intelligence, right relations, right choice and right economy (Venus). Use your intelligence “tips the Libran scales” in terms of being able to see and then choose between the two paths Libra offers (return to the past or step forward into Scorpio’s Discipleship). Libra (the oscillating light) prepares us for the great tests and conflicts in Scorpio. In Libra we are subtly tested as we learn the nature of polarized energies (s/he loves me, s/he loves me not). In Libra we learn more about ourselves through others. Libra’s Ray 3 asks us to become more adaptable and skillful. And then we are to teach each other what we know. In Libra, we all become teachers. In all these ways love is cultivated.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Docs Without Borders

United Nations Association Film Festival showcases documentaries from around the globe
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Nut Kreations

Co-owner Craig Olsen goes nuts over nuts

 

What artist or artists participating in the encore weekend of Open Studios should not be missed?

Santa Cruz | Teacher

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Friends who are wine club members of Martin Ranch invited us to the winery’s fun and festive annual barbecue, where the wine is flowing and the food just keeps on coming. Music and dancing are part and parcel of the action, and a good time is guaranteed.

 

Beer Bus

Santa Cruz’s new Brew Cruz, award winning ales, mole by el Jardín, and Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay