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From REG Issue #14

ne of the most fascinating albums of all time is Pink Floyd's "The Wall," concept and lyrics and most of the music written by the group's creative leader Roger Waters.

The theme of The Wall deals with alienation and chronicles the story of the main character Pink, a fictional protagonist who slowly but surely becomes surrounded by a wall created brick by brick by the various emotionally painful events of his life. The fist brick is laid by the untimely death of his father in World War II, and is followed by the successive bricks of an abusive teacher, a smothering mother, and a faithless wife among others.

Some facets of The Wall are based on real life events and experiences of Roger Waters such as the death of his father in World War II and an unhappy marital break up. Other facets of the theme are loosely based on the life of former leader and founding member of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett. But much of the story is purely fictional.

While musically the album remains a masterpiece of consistency (as are most of Pink Floyd's albums), maintaining a constant primal scream atmosphere, the story line, as originally done by Roger, was unclear. Although a brilliant concept, the story cried out artistically for a little more linear direction.

Roger tried to do just that with the live concert stage show productions in 1980. During the concert a massive wall is created on stage brick by brick between the audience and the band which ultimately separates Pink (the band) from reality (the audience). Animation's created by Gerald Scarfe and projected on the wall as the music is played as well as huge inflatable characters also added dramatically to the show.

But not until the Alan Parker movie "The Wall" was released in 1982, starring Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldorf, did a cohesive story line develop.

Nevertheless, Roger expressed dissatisfaction with the result stating; "When it was finally put together, I watched the film and I'd been dubbing it for the previous three weeks, reel by reel. Each real on its own I thought was quite interesting. But when I saw all thirteen reels together, I felt it lacked any real dynamic. It seemed to start bashing you over the head in the first ten minutes, and it didn't stop until it was over, there was no quiet time. But my most serious criticism was - although I thought Bob Geldorf acted very well, and that Alan Parker directed the film with great technical competence - at the end of the day I felt who gives a shit. I wasn't interested in this Pink character; I didn't feel any empathy for him at all. And if you can't care about Pink, then you can't care about the concerns about the totalitarian nature of the iconography of rock 'n' roll.... or even about the dead father in the war and all. And if I go to the cinema and I don't care for any of the characters, it's a bad film."

Well, Roger might have been pleased by the stage production of "The Wall" that recently took place in Boston Massachusetts. It was performed for two straight weeks, the last week of July and the first week of August. The production was directed by Doug Thoms, who has been noted for his work in the Boston Rock Opera, particularly in his annual role as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.

While the play followed the movie very closely down to the set and even using local actors who resembled those in the movie, the company did such a passionate job in presenting the piece, one could not help but be moved.

However, great touches and some changes and twists in the plot were added that were not in the movie. Chief amongst them was the addition of a second Pink, one good, named "Pink," and one bad named "Evil Pink." They appeared together virtually throughout the play, rather than only at the beginning and end, as in the movie and the album.

Throughout the show we saw Evil Pink slowly but surely getting the upper hand over (Good) Pink. And such was the passion of Evil Pink (played masterfully by Thoms) that those sitting in the audience weren't always sure which of them to be sympathetic towards. It was especially delicious when Evil Pink would rise up against his tormentors, for example egging the kids on in "Another Brick In the Wall, Part 2" to thrash their teacher the way he had been thrashing them! The stage, at eye level with the audience, included a partially built wall, which remained only partially built throughout the show (unlike the concert version where the stage hands built the wall during the performance until it totally walled the band off from the audience.)

Like the movie, there was little dialogue. A band was on hand to play all the songs from the album. The show started, like the movie, with Pink's father (here played by James Aliberti) in the background, furiously screaming into his field phone as the battle rages around him. In the foreground, laying in his bed is Pink. Suddenly the stage is awash in blue light as the "space cadet" rock-and-rollers are beaten savagely by police, all in time with bright green strobe lights. Evil Pink makes his first appearance.

Pink's mother (played by Rena Pemper-Rodriguez) then appears and sings a stirring version of "Thin Ice." The stage is full of children for "The Happiest Days of Our Lives." The child actors, recruited from the local theater, were dressed in Catholic School uniforms (a nice Boston touch!).

Young Pink, (played by Sam Kiernan) looks perfectly neurotic and stressed out as he seeks to join various groups of school mates who are clustered around him. Keirnan's portrayal of young Pink, although he only appears a few times in the play, is incredible. He makes young Pink perfectly intense, and seriously tormented, despite his young and 'innocent' age. The Teacher, way overplayed by Justin Palmer, is chased around by 'his fat and psychopathic wife.' And all the kids, of course, joined in the rousing chorus of "Another Brick In the Wall, Part 2." It was quite stirring stuff!

An interesting touch was added during the next number "Mother," when Pink's ruthless manager, played quite well by James Brooks, gets Pink's Mother to sign a contract, stamped in bold print: "Standard Screw Job." I don't recall his Mother being the one who pushed him into the rock and roll superstar lifestyle in the movie.

Also making her appearance at this point is Pink's soon to be wife (played by Jodi Sussman). Pink's manager performs the wedding ceremony, as Mother glowers her disapproval of another woman in 'her baby's life.'

In "Goodbye Blue Sky" the stage is suffused in blue as muses twirl about a sleeping Pink.

On tour and from his hotel room Pink tries to phone his wife, now sitting atop the wall in the arms of another lover, who repeatedly, as on the album, hangs up on Pink. A clueless operator (played by Nikki Dalton) sits in the background repeatedly trying to connect and reconnect poor Pink!

Evil Pink sings "Empty Spaces" and the hotel room becomes filled with party-ers as Pink and his manager sing a rousing chorus of "Young Lust."

The manager eventually throws everyone out, but one plucky groupie (played by Veronica Page) hides under the bed and is subjected to "One Of My Turns" as Pink proceeds to beat her and trash his hotel room as he and Evil Pink sing a duet. This scene was played almost identically to the movie, but the performance was brilliant and frightening (especially for me sitting in the front row!).

Pink plaintively sings "Don't Leave Me Now," but it's too late as Evil Pink comes in for "Another Brick In the Wall, Part 3." Pink's metamorphosis is nearly complete.

A moving touch came on "Goodbye Cruel World," as Evil Pink forces a, by now nearly completely drained Pink, to sing the song. Pink is now saying goodbye to us and hello to a whole new personality, and not a very nice one!

"Hey You" is sung by the Groupie, the Wife, Pink, and Evil Pink, which is odd, as the song is often seen as (Good) Pink's struggle to assert himself.

The manager (on his cell phone of course) tries to call Pink in his room, but gets no response 'is there anybody out there' he asks? Pink moves to a keyboard in his room and plays "Nobody Home.

"Vera" is sung movingly by Pink's father, dressed in uniform. His fellow soldiers walk through the audience, as an offstage voice and choir sing "Bring the Boys Back Home." Young Pink reappears too, and walks through the audience, eyes wide with stress at the loss of his father. It was very moving.

"Comfortably Numb" is played just like the movie, down to every last detail. Even the hotel manager looks like the guy in the movie. An added humorous touch though, are the roadies who are hilarious as they can't contain their amusement at Pink's sorry condition, zoned out of his head on drugs.

Evil Pink is back for the fascist rally, "Run Like Hel," and "Waiting For the Worms." This again, is played exactly like the movie, right down to Evil Pink's guards roughing up the real audience in the theater (playfully of course).

The rally is done convincingly, with plenty of beatings and screaming and yelling as thugs grab their chosen victims and thrash them. Evil Pink even bites a poor guy's ear off! In a different and great touch, (Good) Pink looks on helplessly, frightened as his evil alter ego storms about.

Suddenly, Pink 'wants to go home, take off his uniform, and leave the show.' Of course he's accused of 'showing feelings, and showing feelings of an almost human nature.' A judge appears at the top of the wall, and a real live jury appears. But 'there's no need for the jury to retire' the judge asserts, and Pink is sentenced to 'be exposed before his peers.' The wall is then torn down to a smashing strobe light cataclysm. The bricks come flying straight out towards the audience!

Then Pink is alone. And in a tragic ending, one which Roger probably would not approve of, Pink pulls out a gun and kills himself.

This tragic end is the most controversial part of the production. The original script of "The Wall" left an ambiguous ending, and the movie ending was slightly hopeful. In "The Wall" show in Berlin however, Roger left us on a high note with the stirring "The Tide is Turning."

It is unclear whether Roger intended "The Wall" as a tragedy or not. Certainly being exposed before your peers is a double edged sword, for it can be healing, yet leaving one exposed and vulnerable to other's cruelty. One would have hoped that the production here would have kept to the original scripts ambiguity.

As Pink lays dead, "Outside the Wall" is played with an accordion and clarinet. The cast slowly walks past Pink, and in one more bit of exploitation one of the groupies takes a picture of his corpse.

All in all it was a well done rendition, despite flaws, including sticking too close to the movie and inserting a needlessly tragic ending. These folks however, did a fantastic and passionate job of presenting Pink's story. It was a great tribute to "The Wall" and to Roger.

But Roger is working on his own stage production version of "The Wall." And until that comes out, no one will be seeing an actual artistic presentation with the authors full intent made more clear.

(The following are reprinted reviews of the play)

Brick House

The Wall is solid at Lansdowne

by Theresa Regli

The Wall, by Roger Waters. Music by Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Bob Ezrin. Directed by Doug Thoms and Keith Grassette. Musical direction by Joel Simches. Choreography by James Aliberti. With Peter Moore, Doug Thoms, Jodi Sussman, and Rena Pemper-Rodriguez. At the Lansdowne Street Playhouse (upstairs at Mama Kin), through August 3.

The exceptional production of Roger Waters' The Wall that opened at the Lansdowne Street Playhouse last week is a good indication of just how far that theater has come in the past year. During its opening summer ('95) shows at the Lansdowne were sparsely attended and rarely worth seeing. This spring, things began to change with the Boston Rock Opera's successful production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Now some of Super star's cast and crew are back for The Wall.

This particular extravaganza, two years in the making, packed the house on press night. As Waters might say, the tide has turned - and rightly so. Leaving no one comfortably numb, this Wall actually presents a fiercer, more intense and bitter Mr. Pink Floyd than Waters may have intended.

Waters penned The Wall in 1979, back when he was the chief creative force in Pink Floyd. The album proved to be his last collaboration with the band - The Final Cut was released a few years later, but no other band members were involved in it's composition. It seems appropriate, then, that The Wall is a tale of a musician - "Pink" - slipping into a deep yet creative isolation from the rest of the world. His father is killed in World War II, his mother is an independence leaching witch, his teachers publicly abuse him, and he marries a woman who later cheats on him. Each experience is "another brick in the wall" of intense solitude.

The concept album became a movie in 1982, with Bob Geldof in the lead role. it's this cinematic rendition that directors Kieth Grassette and Doug Thoms copied for their production, down to the most painstaking details (with minor deviations necessitated by space considerations within the theater). In fact, so little of their staging diverges from the movie that one could condemn it as unoriginal - but the performers do such a damn good job, and the show is so well-executed, that it just doesn't seem to matter. At the forefront is the strong partnership between Peter Moore (Pink) and Doug Thoms (Evil Pink). Each represents a different aspect of Pink's persona, with Thoms (JC Supersar's Judas) captivating as he seduces Pink to the dark side.

This is one of the production's few innovations: in the film both Pink and Evil Pink are portrayed by Geldof. Splitting the roles enhances Waters' story - Moore and Thoms give the roles more depth than Geldof did on his own. But another change was made that, well, kills it. At the end, Pink commits suicide, destroying the element of hope present in the original. "Outside The Wall," the works final song, speaks of "the one's who really love you" walking outside the wall. No accident that Waters discarded that song and replaced it with "The Tide is Turning" (from his solo album Radio KAOS) when he performed The Wall among the ruins of the Berlin Wall in 1990. Tearing down walls is bout change, not suicide.

In spite of this final letdown, the show is one of the Lansdowne's best productions. At its heart is a strong band led by Joel Simches, a talented supporting ensemble, and excellent direction by Thoms and Grassette. This Wall should stand for a long time.

Playhouse builds a 'Wall of rock music

by Tristram Lozaw

A new production of Pink Floyd's rock epic "The Wall" starts a tree weekend run tonight at Lansdowne Street Playhouse above Mama Kin.

"I've thought of staging the music and story for years," said Doug Thoms, who is presenting the new "Wall." "it's a tragedy, but it still bears some of the hope for everyone. It shows that identifying a problem is the first step toward correction."

Thoms, who has starred in several Boston Rock Opera productions including "Jesus Christ Superstar," originally hoped that the Boston Rock Opera would produce "The Wall." However, some acrimony apparently developed between Thoms and some Boston Rock Opera members during this spring's "JC Superstar," partly fueled by glowing reviews for Thoms' role as Judas. When his idea for "The Wall" met with resistance, Thoms decided to stage it independently.

Extreme's Gary Cherone was slated for the lead in "The Wall,' but had to drop out. Peter Moore, singer for El Dopa and an inventively stylized Pontius Pilate in "JC Superstar," took over Cherone's role as rock star Pink. Thoms plays Pink's schizophrenic alter ego, and the show follows the strategic battle for control between the two.

The cast includes Boston Rock Opera's member Jodi Sussman and "real kids' provided by Riverside Theater Works, for the school-house scenes. Also a significant presence on stage is the 50 foot wide, 11-foot-tall wall constructed for the performances.

"It's worked out great," Thoms said. "Considering we have no national star power, it's gratifying to see how much interest we've generated. We don't need a star, the show is the star."

The show plays July 19-20, 25-27, and Aug. 1-3. Doors open at 7 p.m., show time is 7:30.

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