Pete-approved Quadrophenia musical opens

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Sat Feb 10 06:39:29 CST 2007

>From The Western Mail: 

The mods are back in town Feb 9 2007 
Karen Price, Western Mail 

The Who's hit album Quadrophenia has been adapted for the stage more than 30 years after it was released. And the world premiere is taking place in Wales. Director Tom Critchley takes time out of rehearsals to tell Karen Price why he's stepping back to the days of the mods.

IT was October 1973 when The Who released their critically-acclaimed double album Quadrophenia.

The full-scale rock opera is set in London and Brighton in the mid '60s and is about the social, musical, and psychological happenings of a group of young British mods.

Although the story was the basis for a film, it's never been taken to theatres - until now.

Students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama will be performing the world premiere of the stage version of Quadrophenia tonight [Friday, Feb 9]. It takes place a day after it was revealed The Who will play Swansea's Liberty Stadium this summer. 

After receiving the blessing of The Who's primary songwriter Pete Townshend, director Tom Critchley, writer Jeff Young and musical director John O'Hara adapted the album for theatre.

After months of hard work, their efforts come to fruition with tonight's performance at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff.

And if it's a success, there are plans to take the production to the West End.

"It's something I've wanted to do for a long time," says Critchley, as he takes a break from rehearsals.

"It's brilliant to be staging the world premiere here in Cardiff. The show's about a group of young people and you certainly get that energy from these actors and musicians."

It was 14 years ago when Critchley and Young first thought about adapting the album.

"When Jeff and I were working at Bristol Old Vic in 1993 we said, 'Wouldn't it be great to stage Quadrophenia together?' That was long before I'd even met Townshend," says Critchley, who celebrates his 50th birthday this year.

"In 1973, when the album was released, it was a huge formative experience for us. Quadrophenia kind of got us both interested in music and the performing arts. It was such a fundamental influence for both of us."

Critchley and Young later found themselves working with Townshend on a project for BBC Radio 3 involving The Who's album Lifehouse.

But they were still keen to stage a musical based on Quadrophenia. Stage and film director Sir Trevor Nunn had previously been interested in putting on a show about the recording, which has appeared in countless polls to find the world's best albums.

However, he decided not to pursue the project and so Critchley and Young started working on their ideas.
Townshend was only too keen to give them his blessing.

"Pete was given the choice of a large-scale production or a more intimate production at the Sherman by the Royal Welsh College - he chose the latter option," says Critchley.

Townshend was hoping to attend rehearsals in Cardiff and he will be among the audience during the musical's run (until February 17).

The show features a strong cast of 12 young people from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama who were selected after a series of auditions.

"In my view, if we had auditioned all the drama schools in the country we couldn't have ended up with a better cast than we have here," says Critchley.

"What we are trying to do is use our very limited resources to bring as much magic and energy and share the excitement of the story on the stage."

The musical has been adapted from the 1973 album rather than the film, which was released six years later and starred Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash and Ray Winstone.

"Pete Townshend's frustration with the film was that the music was used as a background," says Critchley.

"We are using the music and songs as our primary language. I believe this (Quadrophenia) is some of the best narrative rock music ever written. Many of the current musicals seem to assemble songs around a flimsy story. We have one of the best pieces of rock music which needs no words."

The musical doesn't feature any dialogue but it also includes eight other songs by The Who, including I Can't Explain and Substitute.

"They fill in the gaps in the story more elegantly than writing any dialogue."

The show is split into two 50-minute sections. It's not set in any particular era but makes references to different periods of time, including the '60s mods, to the release of the 1973 album Quadrophenia and the release of the film based on the soundtrack in 1978.

"A gang of mods are in their own world telling us their story and so the musical visits different times. But we also wanted to give it an element of relevance for young people today."

Critchley believes the music will transport audiences on a high-powered journey.

"The energy of the music is like classic driving music," he admits. "You are on a pretty revved up journey for the duration of act one."

If the musical is well received, Critchley hopes it may be staged in the West End in the future.

"This is a try out really," he says. "If it's good enough to have a future run I'd be delighted. I would really love it if the cast was able to take it forward. We are taking quite big risks - it's extremely ambitious. If everything works, I think it will be more magical than some productions which have many more noughts attached to their budgets."

Quadrophenia is at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff until February 17. Call the box office on 029 2064 6900

-Brian in Atlanta 
The Who This Month!

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