Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Who's Tommy"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


The WHO's Tommy

Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend

Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwhistle & Keith Moon
Book by Pete Townshend & Des McAnuff
Directed and Choreographed by Tony Stevens
Choreographer George McCarthy
Musical Direction by Jo Lynn Burks

Sets and LightsDesigned by Tom Sturge
Costumes from Costume World
Sound Designed by John Stone
Production Stage Manager K. Lee Harvey

Mrs. Walker................................................................Erika Greene
Captain Walker........................................................Richard Roland
Uncle Ernie...................................................................John Hillner
Minister/Mr. Simpson...............................................Douglas Fraser
Minister's Wife/Nurse................................................Ronit Mitzner
Nurses...........................................Nicole Van Giesen, Leah Blevins
Officer #1/Hawker............................................David Aron Damane
Officer #2./Pinball Lad #2........................................Nick Potenziere
Allied Soldiers....................................Joseph Carlino, Bryant Caroll
Lover/Harmonica Player................................................Bruce Harris
Tommy Age 4..............................David Jeffers or Mallory Ottariano
Tommy...........................................................................Jay Douglas
Judge/News Vendor......................................................Bill Bateman
Tommy Age 10................................................Matthew Soursourian
Cousin Kevin..................................................................Aaron Ellis
Kevin's mother.......................................................Laurie Sheppard
Kevin's Father/D.J. .....................................................Bill Bateman
The Gypsy......................................................................Sybil Scoby
Pinball Lad #1................................................................David Kent
Sally Simpson......................................................Sarah Jane Nelson
Mrs. Simpson......................................................Jaura-Jean Smillie
Local Lass...............................................................Lisa Braverman

Keyboard #1...............................................................Jon Delfin
Keyboard #2............................................................Kim Steiner
Keyboard #3.........................................................Jo Lynn Burks
Electric & Acoustic Guitar...................................Robert Stanton
Electric Guitar...............................................Jackson Schultz, Jr
Bass Guitar...............................................................Barry Smith
Drums.......................................................................Ken Hadley
French Horn...........................................................Whitacre Hill


Whenever a critic resorts to the word "I" he invites direct personal comment from anyone who happens to have seen the show and disagreed. Considering the sell-out packed houses, considering the fact that I was the only person sitting during curtain-calls of "The Who's Tommy" at the North Shore Music Theatre, when I say I thought it the biggest bore I've sat through all year I expect everyone will stop reading here.

Despite the insistence of Pete Townshend who wrote it originally and Des McAnuff who tried to give it a book, I think "The Who's Tommy" remains a rock-concert with dancing. Neither the direction nor the choreography --- both from Tony Stevens --- did anything to make the thinly unbelievable story comprehensible, or to distract anyone's attention from the steam-drill monotony of Ken Hadley's never-varied drumming.

I managed to ignore "Tommy" till now, and I always try to get the plot from the stage rather than from press-releases, so I have only a vague sketch of what might be going on here. A paratrooper in a German prison comes home to find his wife in a lover's arms, then demands that his five-year-old son say nothing about what he's seen or heard about the ensuing murder. Instead Tommy says, hears, sees nothing at all. There's eventually a shock-treatment sequence that allows the boy to become a never-failing championship player of pin-ball games, then fame makes him into some sort of money-making cult figure, so that when he regains speech he can plead that people shouldn't hope miraculously to be like Tommy, but should rejoice that Tommy is, finally, like them --- i.e., a seeing, hearing, speaking ordinary human being.

People who have read the liner-notes for the original concept-album may know more about this plot than I do. I had to rely on lyrics shouted over the drumming. (I long ago learned to understand public address squawks by loosely covering my ears with my fingertips. The trick will work here, but the words still keep their message enigmatic.)

For me the brightest moment of the entire evening was a brief dance done by John Hillner. He plays Uncle Ernie, a man with a limp. When the boy becomes so famous his uncle can sell TOMMY tee-shirts, TOMMY paraphernalia, TOMMY kitsch, bric-a-brac and gewgaws, he does a little dance that demonstrates not only his joy but his oddly twisted game leg.

And the North Shore Music Theatre sells a carrot-cake to die for.

That's about all I found worth talking about. But I am a strange old man.

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark)

"The Who's Tommy" (till 23 August)
NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY
1(617)922-8500
Check their web site

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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