Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Tommy"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2004 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Bay Colony Production's current show is The Who's rock opera "Tommy" with music and lyrics by Pete Townshend & book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff. Originally written as a 1975 movie, it was adapted as a stage show in the early 1990's and ran on Broadway for almost 900 performances. The story is about Tommy who as a 4 year old child witnesses his father kill his mother's lover. As he stared at the mirror while this happened, he became deaf, dumb and blind. His parents search for a cure for many years and Tommy finds one thing he is good at is pinball. When his upset mother finally smashes the mirror, Tommy recovers. Now famous for both his pinball skills and being cured, Tommy gets caught up in his fame but when he comes back, his fans turn on him. However instead of going back to what he was before, Tommy turns to his family. This show is excellently executed from set to lights to costumes with brilliant direction, musical direction and choreography, this high energy show captures the audience in its spell as the 28 talented performers entertain you from start to finish, making it one of the must see shows this season.

Director Bill Cunningham casts the best people in these roles and moves them up and down this massive set with ease. Musical director Rob Goldman delivers the goods not only conducting and playing the keyboards but doing a topnotch job with his orchestra and the vocalists, too. The harmonies and vocal prowess of this cast is fantastic whether doing solo or ensemble numbers. Choreographer Marianne Lonati keeps the cast in perpetual motion whether they are doing a 1940's style dance or the pinball dance segment. She always gives her dancers the best moves so the audience can enjoy the visual effects of her choreography. The over 200 costumes are by Dan Kozar who also does a spectacular job on the numerous shows he works on. The huge metal set by Mike Teixeira reminds you of a jungle gym but it symbolizes the cold world that the character of Tommy lives in. There are also six televisions onstage plus two screens where a lot of audiovisual work is done live. Mike's lighting is amazing with his white lights blazing at the audience at the start of the show and changing from color to color during it to give it a dazzling effect. His hardworking fiancee, Jessica Chartoff is the production manager who keeps the set changes moving so quickly and efficently that you don't have a chance to applaud the show until the end of the first act. The highest production values are achieved in this show by these hardworking people and their crews.

There are 3 actors playing the role of Tommy from 1945 to 1963. All of them are dressed in white to show Tommy's innocence while he is being physically and mentally abused by the cruel and cold world. (The first act of the show lets you see what is going on with Tommy while the second act gives you time to understand it more fully.) 6 year old Andrew Purdy plays Tommy when he is 4 years old, witnesses the murder and becomes catatonic. He handles this challenging role like a true pro and makes the most of his stage time. The second Tommy is played by 10 year old Edmund Metzold who remains in a catatonic state for almost the whole first act. The character is diddled with by his Uncle Ernie, tormented and thrown in a garbage can by his cousin Kevin and his friends and poked and prodded by numerous doctors and nurses. Edmund doesn't flinch while this is happening, remaining in character throughout and giving an impressive portrayal while doing it. The 18 year old Tommy is played wonderfully by George Scala III. He portrays this tortured creature and infuses him with an energy and a pathos that captures your heart and makes you empathize with his plight. George scales this huge set and climbs all over the place while delivering his numbers first as the narrator/Tommy looking back at his tragic life in "Amazing Journey". His voice soars in that number and in "Sensation" when he plays pinball for the first time, in "I'm Free" where he finally speaks after 14 years and in the prettiest ballad in the show called "Welcome" where he invites his fans to his home after his miraculous cure. When the fans reject Tommy, he finally realizes that his family is important to him and not the fake adoration of the fans. George has grown into an amazing performer who gets better in each show he does. The final tableau of the 3 Tommys is a tearjerker and all 3 actors deserve a round of applause for their tackling a very difficult role and doing a great job with it.

All the supporting performers do wonderful work in their roles. Fallon Healy and David DaCosta play Tommy's mother and father and they both show off their fabulous voices in their numbers including "What About the Boy" and "I Believe My Own Eyes". (David finally gets to use his high tenor voice in his last role in Massachusetts before he and his lovely wife Nicole (who is in the chorus) move to NY. They will be greatly missed both onstage and off.) Bill Stambaugh once again returns to his villainous roots as Uncle Ernie who molests Tommy in the song "Fiddle About" (the innuendo is there because what might have been an acceptable part of the 1970's movie is taboo in 2004) The character is done tongue in cheek as a drunken buffoon and has a lighter song and dance song in Act 2 called "Tommy's Holiday Camp" where he tries to sell passes to see Tommy after his cure. Kevin Foley is the high energy, Cousin Kevin who mocks Tommy as a youth and later on helps him find fame as a "Pinball Wizard" in this song with the ensemble. Kevin also leads the male chorus in "Tommy Can You Hear Me", a song with fantastic harmony in it. The sexy and slutty gypsy who Captain Walker brings Tommy to hoping she can cure him is played with great sensuality by Samantha Brior Jones. She is a leggy brunette who can kick her leg high over her head during a dance move in her song of seduction called "Acid Queen". (Fortunately Captain Walker comes to his senses and removes 10 year old Tommy from her clutches.) The many choral and dance numbers are marvelous, too. Kudos to everyone who made this a show to be very proud of. So for a fantastic rendition of "Tommy" be sure to catch this show at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro before it's too late. You definitely won't be disappointed. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Tommy" (18 - 27 June)
1 School Street, Foxboro, MA
1 (508) 543-ARTS

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide