Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Mar 06th
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

 

Crop Circles

How the confusion over GMOs is undermining the organic movement

 

Week of Festivals: Full Moon, Lantern Festival, Purim, Holi

It is a week of many different festivals along with a full moon, all occurring simultaneously. Thursday Chinese New Year celebrations end with the Lantern Festival (at full moon). Thursday is also the Pisces Solar festival (full moon), Purim (Jewish Festival) and Holi (Hindu New Year Festival). Sunday, March 8, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. The festival of Purim celebrates the freedom of the Hebrew people from the cruel Haman (a magistrate) seeking to destroy them. Esther, the Queen of Persia, who was secretly Jewish, saved her people from death. The sweet cookie hamentaschen celebrates this festival. Friday, March 6, is Holi, the Hindu Spring Festival celebrated after the March full moon. Bonfires are lit the night before, warding off evil. Holi, the Festival of Colors, is the most colorful festival in the world. It is also the Festival of Love—of Radha for Krishna (the blue-colored God). It is a spring festival with singing, dancing, carnivals, food and bhang, a drink made of cannabis leaves. Holi signifies good over evil, ridding oneself of past errors, ending conflicts through rapprochement (returning to each other). It is a day of forgiveness, including debts. Holi also marks the beginning of New Year. At the Pisces Solar festival we recite the seed thought, “We leave the Father’s home and, turning back, we save.” Great Teachers remain on Earth until all of humanity is enlightened. The New Group of World Servers is called to this task and sacrifice. Sacrifice (from the heart) is the first Law of the Soul, the heart of which is Love. This sacrifice saves the world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of March 6

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Water Street Grill

YOLO gets reincarnated

 

What would make Santa Cruz better?

A lot more outdoor activities such as outdoor movies and concerts, food and art festivals, and more multicultural activites. Emmanuel Cole, Santa Cruz, Bicycle Industry Product Developer

 

Thomas Fogarty Winery

When looking for a bottle of something to have with dinner, Gewürztraminer 2012 is not the first wine to come to mind. Given the popularity of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir—to name but a few—Gewürztraminer sits low on the totem pole.

 

So Long, Louie’s

Louie’s Cajun Kitchen & Bourbon Bar closes, plus Back Porch pop-up, and 2015 Outstanding in the Field tour