Sunday, July 23, 2017

Waiting for Hamlet

Milton’s famous dictum – “they also serve who only stand and wait” – came to mind while experiencing the existential confusion of the duo at the heart of a new opera, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

Composer and librettist Herschel Garfein’s work musicalizes Tom Stoppard’s 1966 play, which took two minor characters at the edges of Hamlet and gave them universal anxieties – “What is my part in great events?”, “What am I doing here?”, “Do I really understand what’s going on?”

Rosencrantz  is receiving a fully-staged (and sensationally good) production with piano accompaniment at the Seagle Music Colony in Schroon Lake, N.Y. as part of the summer opera training program’s expanded initiative to support new works. Last year, the program produced a memorable staging of Mack and McGuire’s  Roscoe based on the William Kennedy novel, which went on to have an orchestral, semi-staged production with Deborah Voigt and the Albany Symphony.

A scene from the opera Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Photo/Seagle Music Colony
In Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two school friends of the prince, hired to spy on him and deliver him to an assassin. They prove to be unequal to the task and their eventual fate is announced with the dry line, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.”

With a healthy nod to Beckett’s existential Waiting for Godot, Stoppard created two bewildered bumblers trying to make sense of events whipping past their eyes – a prince who pretends to be mad, a murder mystery surrounding the previous king, a vengeful current king, a queen with loose morals. He also brilliantly created major characters out of the Player and his “tragedians” – the troupe that arrives at court and mimes the circumstances of the former king’s death – who deliver witty comments on acting and theater, artifice and reality.

Garfein’s intriguing music generally follows a narrative line since R and G are mostly passive characters commenting on the action, and he delightfully uses vaudeville style in “Your Uncle is the King of Denmark.” In addition, “Guildenstern’s Aria,” “The Butterfly Song” and the final chorus, “Was It All for This?” are particularly striking.

It’s the first staging for Rosencrantz, which has had excerpts produced, and it’s to be hoped the opera will have further development. While Garfein and director Richard Kagey’s staging have beautifully mined the absurdist humor in the play, the dramatic drive sags in the second act, with, for instance, one too many ruminations upon death.

A bit more exposition for those not familiar with Hamlet would help audiences through what seems to be a puzzling plot. In the final duel scene, for instance, Hamlet’s opponent Laertes’s name isn’t mentioned until halfway through the scene, much less why he’s dueling. Although any theater work can be enjoyed on its own, reading at least a synopsis of Hamlet before seeing the opera will help.

In this production, the ensemble acting is particularly strong. The July 22, 2017 cast featured Joshua Cook as a genial Rosencrantz, Zachary Crowle as a brooding Guildenstern, Andrew Henry as a charismatic Player, Kevin Bryant as a magnetic, arrogant Hamlet and Bridget Cappel as the sweet-voiced boy actor Alfred.

Clearly the cast had strong training in farce and absurdist styles, and director Kagey’s blocking created some beautiful stage pictures. Andrew Bisantz conducted with verve as master pianists Jennifer McGuire and José Meléndez negotiated the fast-moving score with enormous skill. Jim Koehnle’s set is simple but effective, with a barn-board backdrop, steps creating several levels and some clever projection work (Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy is projected on the backdrop while he mimes it downstage). Of Therese Tresco's Eliabethan costumes, the colorful plume on the Player's dramatic black hat was particularly effective. 

In the beginning, R and G note that “we were sent for,” but in the end they bungle their mission completely. Let’s hope that any of us responds to a similar call with more aplomb – but, of course, nothing is a sure thing.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Far away from violence and fear

I knew the cast of Come From Away, a new Broadway musical that celebrates the best of humanity in the dark days following 9/11, would get the Newfoundland accents right where a woman said early on that planes were landing at the "hairport."

The Rock's version of Celtic speech -- attaching an "h" to a beginning vowel and speaking with a rhythmic verve -- was just one of the island's unique ways that greeted 6,500 passengers from 38 planes forced to land in the town of Gander on that day of terror.

As American authorities closed U.S. airspace, dozens of incoming flights were diverted to Canada. With just 10,000 people, Gander's extra-long runway, from the days when it was a transatlantic refueling stop, made it a perfect location.  

What happened to the passengers next was first told in a 2003 book by journalist Jim DeFede, The Day the World Came to Town.

The people of Gander and its neighboring towns mobilized in an army of concern and hospitality, opening churches, community halls and schools as shelters, providing clothing and food (even kosher meals), setting up phone banks and fax machines.

Then they went further - inviting the "plane people" into their homes for a bed and a shower, taking care of the animals on the planes, offering to lend personal vehicles for sightseeing.

In a place that's mostly white and mostly Christian, they took care of people from all over the world -- a point that now resonates most powerfully in a time of suspicion and fear.

The Canadian creators of Come From Away's book, music and lyrics, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, attended a tenth-anniversary reunion in Gander in 2011. The show was then initially developed by producer Michael Rubinoff at Canada's Sheridan College, where the dynamic music theater performance program held a celebration in New York on opening weekend.

Featuring an ensemble cast, the show opens with a rousing "Welcome to the Rock," a fast-moving introduction to Newfoundland, a windswept island on the edge of the north Atlantic, "where the winter tried to kill us." The island's harsh weather serves as a clue to its culture - sturdy people in a seafaring economy whose instinct is to band together for survival and whose humor is legendary.

Lest the idea of a "9/11 musical" (as some unfortunate headlines had it) conjure up the ultimate in bad taste, the horrific events in the U.S. are referred to through reactions - to a radio report, an unseen TV, a phone call.

Left, Jenn Colella as American Airlines pilot Beverley Bass, and passengers..
A musical in the modern style that mixes narrative, song and movement, the 12-member cast plays many parts against Beowulf Boritt's spare set of planks and trees.

Director Christopher Ashley and choreographer Kelly Devine move the action swiftly, from the local Tim Hortons coffee shop to the airport, the planes and the town.

An eight-piece onstage band keeps the Irish-flavored music whirling, especially in a bar scene where some of the newcomers are made honorary Newfoundlanders by drinking the fiery rum called "screech" and kissing a cod.

One of the most affecting moments - again, in today's atmosphere - was a song called "Prayer," where the firefighter's mother prays at a Catholic church, the Muslim goes down on his knees and a Jewish rabbi chants. The song begins with the prayer of St. Francis: "Make me a channel of your peace."

The stress and tension of those days isn't glossed over - the school bus drivers are on strike and have to be convinced to come off the picket lines to drive hundreds of passengers from the airport, a Muslim passenger is the object of suspicion, people stuck in a strange place just want to get home, a woman is desperate for news of her firefighter son in New York.

The cast are all excellent, but standouts for me were the zestful Jenn Colella as American Airlines' first female captain, Beverley Bass and Joel Hatch as Gander Mayor Claude Elliott.

At times, the party atmosphere and celebration of all things Newfoundland made me a little uncomfortable, given the context. Yet the joy of discovering such humanity in a moment of ultimate darkness and evil bubbles to the surface, especially since one realizes that Americans were the refugees at that moment and were given shelter.

This was expressed most amusingly as an African-American passenger, played by Rodney Hicks, is told by the mayor to go get some barbecue grills out of some backyards so a big cook-out can help feed the passengers.

The black man is convinced he's going to be shot, then wonderingly relates how "every single person invited me in for a cup of tea and offered to help me steal their own grill."

"Sure, if you need it, go ahead and take it" -- that was the prevailing reaction in Gander, Newfoundland and its next-door towns on September 11, 2001.

This wonderful musical extols generosity and emotions that should last long after the current angry climate is swept away.


Monday, December 26, 2016

L'Amour de Loin: operatic dream world

Opera may be the most tradition-bound of art forms (on a par with symphony orchestras), but the Metropolitan Opera continues to explore exciting new methods of musical storytelling with its new production of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin (Love from afar).

The production has made headlines because it's only the second opera by a female composer produced in the Met's 133-year history. In addition, it's only the fourth time that a woman has taken the podium -- the Finnish conductor Susanna Malkki.

Far from a gimmick, both women are in the midst of respected careers and it seems a shame that the New York classical music world would seem to be a bit behind Europe and other areas in creating opportunities for female artistic leaders.

Now, L'Amour de Loin (which premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 2000) has very little action and practically no change of scene. However, Canadian director Robert LePage and set/costume designer Michael Curry have created a visual world that moves while exploring such non-physical realms as mind and emotion. 

Left to right, Tamara Mumford, Susanna Phillips
 and Eric Owens in L'Amour de Loin
The plot concerns the 12th century French poet and troubador, Jaufré Rudel, who was said to have fallen in love with the Countess of Tripoli (one of the Crusader states in what is now Lebanon) simply from descriptions of her virtues brought to France by pilgrim travelers. He sets sail across the Mediterranean to see her, falls ill on the journey and, upon arrival, dies in her arms.

This is wholly in keeping with improbably opera plots, but as is often the case, plot isn't the main point. Inhabiting the mythical status of the story, L'Amour de Loin explores the quality of purity in love, divorced from love's object. The poetic libretto by Amin Maalouf even asks, "What good is love from afar?"

The undulating sea is suggested by rows of thousands of LED lights suspended across the stage. A pilgrim traveler (Tamara Mumford) and Rudel (Eric Owens) travel in a small boat, but a large set piece resembling a bridge on a single pivot also suggests a boat and, when stationary, a shore or the rim of a castle. The lights swirl with color and are separated by enough space that the chorus seems to rise from the sea.

The work of lighting designer Kevin Adams, lighting image designer Lionel Arnould and sound designer Mark Grey is seamlessly integrated.    

While firmly tonal, Saariaho's music includes electronic sounds. Each character, the chorus and the orchestra is given differentiated music. (I was particularly struck by the nearly-human quality of the woodwind voices.)

Malkki's conducting drew out all the sectional qualities with a clear sense of pace. However, the score's overall flowing, dreamlike quality did produce one unintended effect: my seat companion and I found our eyelids lowering during the first half. At intermission, we agreed that we were so fascinated by what we were seeing and hearing that we were fighting the somnolent urge.

The small cast was thrillingly committed to the music. An announcement before the performance told us that Owens was battling bronchitis, but "he wishes to sing for you." His commanding bass-baritone voice seemed slightly diminished in power, with an occasional cough, but beautifully expressed Rudel's discontent and longing. I was glad Owens made the effort.

Mumford's pilgrim traveler shuttled between the lovers with a sturdy sense of mission and compassion. As the countess, soprano Susanna Phillips seemed to glow with both physical beauty and wistfulness, soaring in her final moments as she rails against fate and prays to - whom? God or her "love from afar?" The mysterious qualities of love seem to intersect with faith to pose eternal questions.  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Never stop the presses

I visited an old theatrical friend last fall - a limited Broadway run of the 1928 classic play about newspaper journalism, The Front Page.

As far as I'm concerned, no play to this day has captured better the sheer exuberant adventure of being a newspaper reporter, wrapped in long hours, grubby conditions and low pay. With its brilliant structured plot, rapid-fire overlapping dialogue and snappy pace, The Front Page remains sensationally entertaining nearly 90 years later.

I first encountered this look at the raucous world of Chicago journalism in a 1969 Broadway revival, then in a 1994 production at Canada's Shaw Festival.

The current production, starring Nathan Lane, not only unwittingly illustrates the seismic 21st century changes in the newspaper business but also, in today's overwrought political landscape, how journalism may well save us. That may be too heavy a load to place on the shoulders of what is intended as a comedy, but it's there, nonetheless.

John Slattery, left, as Hildy Johnson and
 Nathan Lane, right, as Walter Burns. Photo/Variety 
It all takes place in the press room of the downtown Criminal Courts Building on the eve of a hanging. Reporters on the courts beat make this room their home - phoning updates to their copy desks while passing the time playing cards and cracking wise.

They seek to drum up stories from the police scanner, leading to one of my favorite lines, from McCue of the City Press: "Is is true, madame, that you were the victim of a Peeping Tom?"

They are a powerful group - representing eight newspapers in a pre-television and certainly pre-Internet age. Radio was just beginning to grow in popularity.

Into their midst swaggers Hildy Johnson (played by John Slattery), star reporter for the Examiner, about to get married and move to New York for the plush confines of advertising and a salary of $150 a week. Not, however, if his editor, Walter Burns (played by Lane, whom we initially hear simply as an irascible voice barking orders over the phone) has anything to say about it.

The condemned man, Earl Williams (John Magaro), makes an improbable jailbreak, Hildy and Walter try to hide him for the scoop of all time, and the mayor (Dann Florek) and sheriff (John Goodman) are exposed as craven and corrupt opportunists.

Hildy tries to break free of the Examiner, Burns and the thrill of chasing the next big story as fiancee Peggy (Halley Feiffer) and her mother (Holland Taylor) grow impatient.

From left, John Goodman, John Slattery and Nathan Lane.
Photo Sara Krulwich/New York Times
It's not fair to compare performances, but the definitive Walter Burns for me was craggy Robert Ryan in the 1969 revival. Lane can play many things, but a tough guy isn't one of them. In fact, I was surprised to see him playing Walter and Slattery playing Hildy; the roles should have been reversed. Where Ryan prowled, Lane bustles.

Douglas W. Schmidt's wood-paneled set beautifully evokes the shabby grandeur of a 19th century municipal building.

The pace of the production could have been faster, however, and the comedy style a little less "knowing." Farce is at its best when it's played completely sincerely; any sort of "comment" on the action dilutes the fun for the audience.

As a former newspaper reporter and current editor, I love this play with all my heart. To me, the most romantic sentence is, "I am a newspaper reporter." The Canadian production got it wrong when it thought it was a critique of the business.

The Front Page glories in the raffish adventure of newspaper journalism, the adrenaline high of chasing the story, beating the competition, pounding out the words - even as it skewers with a clear eye the grubbier aspects of the process.

In covering and meddling in the saga of Earl Williams' escape, Hildy, Walter and the Examiner expose the incompetent sheriff and corrupt mayor - exactly what journalism is supposed to do.

The standup telephones are now smartphones and the typewriters now laptops, but journalism is more necessary than ever.   

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Politics as opera

In this fraught political year, the Seagle Music Colony in upstate New York has premiered Roscoe, a brilliant work by composer Evan Mack and librettist Joshua McGuire on the dark methods of governing at the state capital, Albany.

Based on the novel of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy, this daring work, here directed by Richard Kagey, excitingly advances the cause of modern opera, bringing a story of 20th century political intrigue to the dramatic level of a Rigoletto or a Tosca.
Left, author William Kennedy. Right, composer Evan Mack.
 Illustration/Hudson Sounds

In nurturing Roscoe, the Seagle Music Colony, now in its second century, is also advancing its own cause. Located in the Adirondack mountain town of Schroon Lake, Seagle is a summer training camp for young opera singers, who are shaping the roles in this new work even as they receive vocal, stage and career training.

This year, Seagle's program also includes The Elixir of Love, The Music Man and The Most Happy Fella. It's a courageous move by Seagle Artistic Director Darren K. Woods and General Director Tony Kostecki to present a work that is very different from those three other classics of musical theater and opera. However, Roscoe's four-performance run was a sell-out, proving that audiences want to be engaged by great stories, masterfully told.

The opera opens on V-J Day in 1945, with lawyer and Democratic fixer Roscoe Conway (played on Aug. 6 by Scott Purcell) musing on getting out of politics after two decades as Democratic Party fixer and bagman.

There is an impressionistic feeling from the beginning. The ensemble, singing a wistful punctuation to Roscoe's thoughts, seem to be people from his past. Designer Jim Koehnle's black and gray set features long metal window frames, a visual sense that we are looking into hearts, minds and years.    

The Oscar Seagle Memorial Theater
 Photo/Seagle Music Colony
Hamlet-like, Roscoe's late father, Felix (Jon Oakley), appears as a vision, setting a major theme of the opera - how one generation frees or handcuffs the next.

The swirling plot involves corrupt cops and judges, illegal cockfighting, whorehouses, political payoffs, fixed party conventions (!), Republican and Democratic maneuvering and the questionable parentage of two characters.

Roscoe re-connects with his great love, Veronica (Lauren Cook), whose husband, Elisha (Johnny Salvesen), has committed suicide. However, Veronica's sister, Pamela (Tascha Anderson), is suing for custody of the son, Gilby (Harvey Runyon), she gave up to Veronica for adoption.  

Mack's music echoes the times, with jazz strains, lyrical love themes and intense drama that thrillingly advances the story. The male quartet ending Act I and love duet in Act II are particularly powerful. McGuire's lyrics soar with poetry and author Kennedy's wry and poignant view of these flawed characters.

Musical accompaniment was expertly handled at the Aug. 6 performance by Kostecki as conductor, pianists Jennifer McGuire and Matthew Stephens and percussionist Bob Halek.

Vocally, all the principals exhibited skill and strength, with Purcell, Oakley, Salvesen,
Scott Purcell
Photo/Seagle Music Colony
Cook and Anderson standing out.

However, the Oscar Seagle Memorial Theater, while a beloved venue, has serious limitations, including a small stage that makes blocking (stage movement) and set design somewhat cramped, and uncomfortable seats that should be taken out and set on fire immediately. The colony is currently raising funds for a sorely-needed new theater.  

Those who may be uncertain about modern opera might like to know that Roscoe will be produced in a concert version in October with Metropolitan Opera superstar Deborah Voigt and the Albany Symphony.

It will be fascinating to hear this work fully-orchestrated and it should be headed for a long life in the repertoires of major opera companies.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Motor dreams

Dominique Morisseau has nailed the rhythms of working people at a dying auto plant in her play Skeleton Crew at the Atlantic Theater Company, now in its second run through June 19.

It's a landscape I walked from 1990 to 1991 at the old General Motors Scarborough Van Plant on the outskirts of Toronto, chronicled in Life on the Line:One Woman's Tale of Work, Sweat and Survival.

The van plant closed in the early 1990s recession; Morisseau's unnamed metal stamping plant, an auto manufacturing supplier, is about to become a victim of the 2008 economic collapse.

Our stories were about the people who labored like and with machines, who hung on to a middle-class existence through well-paid union labor, who were sometimes victimized by management and union alike, facing an uncertain future with equal parts dread and courage.

It's a testament to Skeleton Crew's skillful director, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, that one always gets the sense of many more people at the plant behind the four characters who meet in the break room -- tough, middle-aged Faye (Lynda Gravatt); young, volatile Dez (Jason Dirden); pregnant Shanita (Nikiya Mathis); supervisor Reggie (Wendell B. Franklin).
The "crew": from left, Dez (Jason Dirden), Faye (Lynda Gravatt), Shanita (Nikiya Mathis).
I often thought of how the workers and machines performed an intricate ballet every day amidst the crashing sounds of robot welders, the metallic creaks of the drag chain pulling the van bodies through the plant, the sharp pffts of pneumatic tools and skrees of drills.

Skeleton Crew's scenes are effectively punctuated by Robert Kaplowitz's mechanized music and the jerky dances choreographed and performed by Adesola Osakalumi, seen in half-light.

Although the situations were similar, my story took place in a diverse, but mostly white, community, while Morisseau is chronicling the decline of the mostly-black Motor City, in this third of a Detroit trilogy.

She skillfully paints her characters with a broad brush in the play's first half, so we get comfortable with gruff Faye, who insists on smoking despite the sign reading "No Smoking FAYE." Sweet and sassy Shanita fends off Dez' constant advances. By-the-book Reggie puts up more signs (No Gambling Dez This Means You) in vain attempts at control.

In the second half, the characters' rough poetry soars and these excellent actors give us the depths of their rage and pride. Dez, who uneasily packs a gun in his backpack, questions economic morality - "Is there zero tolerance for criminal activity upstairs or does that road only go one way?"

Reggie, pulled between his rise from the assembly line and his bosses upstairs, desperately wants to hang to a house and college savings for his daughter. "I need my job just like everybody else and I don't have the union to protect me," he tells Faye, the union rep, as he confides in her that the plant is doomed.

Shanita expresses something I heard many times, which may be counter-intuitive for people who are used to the white collar life in an office - pride in working a manual job at an auto factory. Facing the rumor of the plant closing, she has a job offer (at much less pay) at a copy center. At the plant, "I feel like I'm building something important, that's got a motor to take someone somewhere," and her success there has made her father, a former line worker, proud.

Faye reigns as the moral center of the play as we learn, from a heart-wrenching speech, that with "cancer treatments kicking my ass," she's lost her house to foreclosure and has been living out of her car or actually sleeping in the break room. Is this possible in America, even with union-negotiated medical benefits and salary? Yes, it is.

After 29 years, Faye feels as if she is as much a part of the plant as the couch mended with duct tape and the OSHA posters. "I can see through lockers. I know everything about this place. The walls talk to me. The dust on the floors write me messages."

The dust, chipped paint and dirty fluorescent light fixtures are expertly rendered in Michael Carnahan's set, with appropriately harsh lighting by Rui Rita. Projections between scenes, including Detroit's magnificently ruined Michigan Central Station, are by Nicholas Hussong.

"Tell 'em they can't write us off," Faye asks Reggie. That was the inspiration behind Life on the Line as well as Skeleton Crew: these people matter and they deserve to be heard.      

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Who's on first

Using an astonishing array of technical expertise, The Who turned its classic rock and roll songs into music and video theater at Madison Square Garden in New York last night.

This tour has been billed as "The Who Hits 50,"but since they actually formed around 1963, "50" is a kind of a loose marker. It's also supposed to be yet another farewell tour. (I recall writing about a Who farewell tour in the 1980s.)
Joan Jett with the Blackhearts
     Due to a couple of kind Toronto friends, the 18-year-old daughter and I found ourselves in excellent seats for the show and here I want to salute the opening act, which is often cannon fodder for the headliner. Not this time. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jett is 57, looks fabulous and rocked as hard as ever in a 40-minute set that included the great "I Love Rock and Roll" and her marvelous cover of Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover." Her "I Hate Myself for Loving You" is one of the great titles.

She and The Who also have some history, as a print crawl on a big video screen behind the stage noted that when Jett's fortunes were at a low ebb, The Who's management let her run up a $60,000 recording bill and said, "You can pay us later" -- which she did.
Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

The video screen at intermission also carried a lovely tribute from The Who to David Bowie, noting he'd been a dedicated follower of the band, even climbing a wall at a London venue to get his first album to Who leader Pete Townshend, and attending many of their shows during his later New York years.

The Garden was full, and pumped for The Who. Advance reviews of this leg of the tour had been good, but show business is never a sure thing.  Even in the anarchic world of 1960s rock and roll, The Who were unpredictable, smashing guitars and hotel rooms with abandon.

In fact, this show was a makeup date for an October postponement as lead singer Roger Daltrey battled a virus. He had just turned 72 and lead guitarist Townshend is 70, for gosh sakes.

The set was impressive as the band took the stage, to enormous applause. Pete, Roger and the boys don't do much these days in the way of costumes (remember the Union Jack jacket from the 60s?), but Madison Square Garden has been revamped to include high-definition video screens behind and flanking the stage, and The Who took full advantage.
The giant video screen behind the stage - mega light.
Opening with "Who Are You?" they did just about the full catalog of great songs throughout a two-hour-plus set, with stunning graphics, videos and photo montages on the huge screens. With original drummer Keith Moon (I wrote his obituary when I was with Associated Press Radio) and bassist John Entwistle gone, Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey filled in on drums and Townshend's brother Simon on guitar.

Townshend and the band were in fine musical form. Maybe he didn't jump as high as in previous years, but he could still windmill his arm and slam those chords. Daltrey, between songs, thanked fans for all their good wishes last fall and had no trouble with his trademark howls on "Baba O'Reilly" and Rain On Me."

They were just in great shape and at their age, that's work and dedication and respect for your audience -- and some luck. The fans included a wide range of ages, from a girl who looked to be about four and sported a pair of noise-dampening headphones to us folks who had been there at the beginning. I think I had a smile on my face for the whole two hours, along with 20,000 other dancing, singing, cheering people.

The 18-year-old knew all the songs, courtesy of the classic rock radio stations played by the elders in her life. However, a montage of events from the last 50 years from Vietnam to 9/11, during Townshend's instrumental "the Rock," resonated most powerfully with me.

As the concert continued, I wondered if we weren't just seeing an energetic version of an oldies show. Townshend is an accomplished writer - surely he was also interested in introducing newer material?

In the end, The Who's work, delivered with conviction and power, stood up. For one thing, in this crazy election year, we can all hope we "Won't Get Fooled Again."