BetteBack April 1, 1971: Bette Midler Takes On The Who’s “Tommy” Musical

Mister D: Later on a movie musical would be made with Tina Turner as The Acid Queen and Ann Margaret as the mother. I believe Ann Margaret was nominated for an Oscar or Golden Globe….she lost!

Centralia Daily Chronicle
Notes On Art . . .
April 1, 1971

From The Seattle Opera House:

Bette Midler as the Acid Queen threatens a mummified Steve Curry as Tommy.

In 1970 the Seattle Opera approached Richard Pearlman and Ronald Chase to create a theatre piece from The Who’s rock-opera TOMMY, a work which had previously only been performed in a concert version.

The production opened in 1971. Chase recalled the production in an interview in Opera Monthly, “Merging FIlm with Opera”. “Richard Pearlman had found this terrific young singer named Bette Midler who performed on weekends at New York’s Continental Baths. He wanted her to play the Mother and Acid Queen and she nervously agreed to do the job (which turned out to be quite an ordeal for her). In one scene Tommy emerges from his mummy gauze and stands on top of some oversized bleaches while his mother, in a slinky, red Rita Hayworth dress that’s slit up the side, angrily climbs toward him. The bleachers were covered with surgical gauze and purposely designed so they would be difficult to climb. Bette was absolutely terrified because she was holding a mike while climbing those bleachers and singing the most difficult music in the opera. As if THAT weren’t enough, when she reached the top of the platform and tried to shove Tommy into giant mirror, he stepped aside so Bette could fall through the mirror and land on a backstage trampoline located twenty feet below. Bette never mentions this production in any of her interviews so I gather she obviously loathed the experience. But her anger and frustration fit the mother character perfectly and made for a riveting scene each night.”

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