I was in Blackpool for the opening night of Pete Townsend’s (The Who) musical, Quadrophenia, at the Grand Theatre. Based on The Who’s sixth studio album in 1973, about the Mods on their Lambretta scooters versus the Rockers in Brighton back in the sixties.
Before the show began, about sixty Mods arrived on Lambrettas, all decked out in drain pipe jeans, slimline suits, narrow ties and duck’s arse parkas, and it was a blast from the past. Mods didn’t have that much impact in Waterford but I did recognise some typical clothes and styles. Theatre promotion in Blackpool is a slick business chasing mostly walk-up customers on the night.
The show tells the story of Jimmy, growing up with his mother and father in a grey place in a grey time before flower power. As well as a young boy, four other actors play aspects of Jimmy’s personality, in a mixed-up version of – not schizophrenic, he’s quadrophenic.
A full band play in the background and the young professional cast keep up a high energy, dancing and fighting routines, with moody returns to a sad sea motif with familiar songs – I Am The Sea Sea And Sand and the sad, The Rock, which suggests suicide.
Within this slightly complex storyline, there is a lost boy and a passing girl who seems to be available to others but not to the protagonist.
There is a similarity between Act One and Act Two that all the high manic energy doesn’t quite mask. Songs like Cut My Hair, Substitute, and a version of M. Generation, have a hard pounding punky feel but the angst seems to get lost into the formula of musical theatre.
The show is on a UK national tour with the hope of a West End slot in 2010, but with 17 theatres up for sale in the greater London area and perhaps, like the way Mods got lost in fashion, this fine show could be lost in a jukebox musical world and not hit the big time.
I loved the excitement of it all and the frantic promotional buzz of it all. About six venues have to hustle and chase a passing public every week and then I come home and look up the Theatre Royal website, not updated since 09/04/09 and not a mention of the re-opening or a forward programme. This is a week that I had invites to two shows next February 2010 – A David Hennessy directed premiere of Beauty And The Beast for Tipperary Musical Society and another premiere of The Pirate Queen in Ballinrobe.
Waterford has got to ring that bell, bang that drum and shout it out, loud and early or the parade will pass us by.