BWW Review: THE WHO'S TOMMY at the Kennedy Center
From the beginning strumming of the electric guitars (Manny Moreira, Jim Roberts and Paul Henry) from the fabulous Kennedy Center Orchestra's 8-piece orchestra (Joe Mowart on Drums, Geoffrey Pilkington on Horn, and on Keyboards Michael Gacetta, Anthony Nalker, and Alex Tang) I was hooked. I had a perpetual smile on my face watching this spectacular production under the Direction of Josh Rhodes who also did the superb Choreography.
The Broadway Center Stage series brings Broadway talent to DC after a short two-week rehearsal process and is semi-staged. This allows actors to use scripts if needed. No scripts were needed for TOMMY.
TOMMY is by far the best of these that have been presented.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of The Who's original concept album for the rock opera about a "deaf, dumb, and blind" boy who overcomes his disabilities with the help of his pinball machine skills.
I was fortunate to see the Original Broadway Cast when it opened April 22, 1993 and featured Michael Cerveris as "Tommy", Alice Ripley, Sherie Scott, Tracy Nicole Chapman, Christian Huff, and introduced Norm Lewis.
What patrons will always remember from this production is the incredible Set Design by Paul Tate DePoo III which features wonderful projections. DePoo's work can be seen currently at the Signature Theatre's GRAND HOTEL. He also did their marvelous set for TITANIC which is heading to Broadway as soon as they find a theater. He has the upcoming World Premiere BLACKBEARD which features a huge ship on the Signature stage. I was just confounded to hear from him that he did the TOMMY set in just two weeks. Astounding.
The Lighting Design by Jake DeGroot was also memorable. Tony Award-winner Kai Harada did the great Sound Design. Conducting the onstage orchestra was Lynne Shankel. She worked non-stop and her musicians were amazing.
The cast was uniformly superb. Playing Tommy's father is the always marvelous Christian Borle, winner of two Tony Awards. I've seen him six times on Broadway and has done two live Broadway shows on television, THE SOUND OF MUSIC and PETER PAN.
Playing Mrs. Walker, Tommy's mother, is Mandy Gonzalez who is now starring on Broadway in HAMILTON as "Angelica Schulyer". I loved her in the Original Broadway cast of IN THE HEIGHTS. Borle and Gonzalez work beautifully together.
One of my favorite actors, Manu Narayan, plays against type as the creepy "Uncle Ernie". What a year he has had. He was recently in the Lincoln Center production of MY FAIR LADY, starred on Broadway in GETTING' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER, and I just saw him in the wonderful Broadway production of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. He's done three plays at Baltimore Center Stage: CYRANO, THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE, and THE RIVALS. He's a consummate performer.
Wesley Taylor is the bully Cousin Kevin. Kimberly Nichole shines at "The Gypsy" and brought down the house with her rendition of "Acid Queen". Playing "Tommy" at ages 4 and 10 are Declan Fennel and Hudson Loverro who were both wonderful.
But TOMMY depends on an actor playing the leading role who can perform like a rock star. Filling this bill is the amazing Casey Cott who is best known as portraying Kevin Keller in the season III from the CW smash hit "Riverdale". He shines in Act II. The audience was blown away with his performance. It was difficult to sit still during the show. People were cheering at the end.
Kudos to the energetic and fabulous energetic ensemble! If ever a show deserves a Broadway run it is this production.
TOMMY only runs through Monday, April 29, 2019. Do not walk but run to snag a ticket. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
Next up at the Kennedy Center is HELLO DOLLY featuring the Tony Award-winning Betty Buckley. It runs June 4 to July 7 in the Opera House.
Coming to the Eisenhower Theatre is FALSETTOS, running June 11-23.
THE BAND'S VISIT comes July 9 to August 4 in the Eisenhower while ALADDIN flies into the Opera House July 18 to Sept. 7.
Then the hit musical DEAR EVAN HANSEN arrives August 6 to Sept. 8.
Upcoming Broadway Center Stage at the Kennedy Center include FOOTLOOSE (Oct. 9-14), NEXT TO NORMAL starring Rachel Bay Jones (January 29 to Feb. 2, 2020) and BYE BYE BIRDIE (April 23-27, 2020).