She Brings Daring Choreography To The Broadway Musical ‘Tommy’

Arts & Celebrities

In 2019, choreographer Lorin Latarro received a phone call that would transform the course of her life. The caller was director Des McAnuff who wanted to meet and chat about the possibility of working on the revival of the hit Broadway musical, The Who is Tommy. Latarro clearly remembers feeling the hair on his arms stand up. Tommy is based on the Who album of the same name, released in 1969. McAnuff had directed the musical in 1993.

I went into my bedroom, turned off the lights, closed my eyes and listened to the whole album. I hadn't felt that in years,” says Latarro, who has choreographed shows on Broadway, off-Broadway, at the Metropolitan Opera and around the world. “The album is amazing.”

As Latarro shares, the record, with its sung narrative, is groundbreaking. “I was moved by the lyrical, mellow moments even more than the rock and roll,” says Latarro, who is also an accomplished conductor. “There is a real longing in the melodies and the lyrics. It's a longing to be seen, which is a very universal feeling. It's amazing that Pete Townshend was only 24 years old when he wrote it. And yet, it's voiced by a guy who wanted to be understood.”

Often hailed as one of the greatest albums ever made, The Who's rock opera, which was written primarily by Townshend, tells the story of Tommy Walker's journey. After witnessing a murder, he becomes blind, deaf and unable to speak. Completely misunderstood, Tommy finds hope and happiness by becoming a pinball champion.

Also, Tommy has the ability to see his reflection, or “his illusory self,” in the mirror, which Townshend sees as a great metaphor “There had to be a loophole so he could show that,” he said Townshend. rolling stone in 1969, the year the album was released. “The boy has completely shut down as a result of the murder and the pressures of his parents, and all he can see is his reflection in the mirror. This reflection – his illusory self – turns out to be his eventual salvation”.

Tommy became an iconic 1975 film with Roger Daltrey playing Tommy and an ensemble cast including Jack Nicholson, Eric Clapton, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Tina Turner and Elton John. The film was eventually turned into a stage production and opened on Broadway in 1993.

Pete Townsend wrote Tommy's music and lyrics and also wrote the musical's book with Des McAnuff. The show ran for over 899 performances and won five Tony Awards. For Latarro, whose credits include Waitress, There was a mattress, in the forest, Oliver! and the heart of rock and roll, which also opens on Broadway this season, the opportunity to collaborate with Des McAnuff and Pete Townshend is pure nirvana.

“Pete and Des are visionaries. Choreographing this music, I feel like I'm inside Pete's heartbeat. It's so revealing in his lyrics and music,” says Latarro, who danced in 14 Broadway shows and worked with Twyla Tharp, Graham Company and Momix, before becoming a choreographer.

“Des brought this album to life in such a visceral way. He takes the responsibility of telling Pete's story so seriously and Pete is very supportive of the musical. It's such a beautiful thing to see two great artists taking care of this musical concept with such grace and passion.”

Jeryl Brunner: Why were you so drawn to Tommy and the storytelling?

Lorin Latarro: I love this music. And as a mom, I'm constantly in a state of overdrive with the world. I am hyper aware of its dangers and its beauty. The currency of this show is the hyperbole of this danger and beauty. Every parent has nightmares about a single moment that could hurt your child. This show synthesizes that parenting experience through the eyes of a traumatized child in such a unique way.

Brunner: When you were choreographing Tommywhat story did you want to tell with the movement?

Latarro: Two ideas with the set really resonate with me. In the first act, the moment the teenagers witness the miracle of little Tommy playing pinball, I wanted the movement to build to a frenzy. Almost like speaking in tongues. Then, in the second act, I was interested in showing how a religious or political movement grows and grows, and then warps. Then it finally sinks in.

Brunner: What do you hope people take away after watching? Tommy?

Latarro: I hope people see the beauty and grace when Tommy forgives. Pete often says that healing begins when you lean into the light. The musical ends with a powerful launch into that light.

Brunner: How did you become a dancer?

Latarro: I grew up in New Jersey and am thankful that my parents signed me up for dance class in kindergarten and took us kids to shows.

I loved how I felt when I danced. I felt free. I won a dance competition in first grade and enjoyed being “good” at something. My family supported me and I spent many hours in the Broadway Dance Center lounge while taking classes. Then I moved on to a work-study scholarship. He cleaned the bathrooms and floors every night so he could have free classes during the day.

Brunner: And you ended up going to the Juilliard School.

Latarro: In fourth grade I told everyone I was going to Juilliard. During that time, we went on a field trip to Lincoln Center to see him the Nutcracker. A school chaperone told us about the school. I remember the moment. It was a cold, but sunny day next to the Complex's outdoor fountain.

Brunner: How do you feel when you dance? And what does being a choreographer and director bring you that maybe dancing as an artist doesn't?

Latarro: Only dancers know what it feels like to fly. Dancers dance for how they feel. It's not for the money or the fame. It's such a pure art form. Also, I love being a choreographer and director because I am no longer bound by the limitations of my own body.

Brunner: How does being a mother of a young daughter inform your art and increase your creativity?

Latarro: Being a mother has made me more creative and more productive. My favorite secret is to spend the day with my daughter, put her to bed, and then go to work. I feel like Batwoman! Like I have a double agent superhero life.


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