BWW Review: Dare to Defy's THE WHO'S TOMMY Rocks at the Mathile
Review: Dare to Defy's TOMMY Rocks at the Mathile
Going into the Mathile Theatre on Saturday night, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. I am not overly familiar with The Who's music but I do remember that my older brother had a copy of the Tommy album back in the 70's. I also think that I may have actually played pinball on a Tommy machine. Consequently, my mind was a pretty clean slate and I was ready to enjoy the evening.
THE WHO'S TOMMY, with music and lyrics by Pete Townshend and book by Des McAnuff and Pete Townshend, is the story of, not surprisingly, Tommy and all of the people that are pivotal influences on his life, both positive and negative. It chronicles the traumas and triumphs of his life through three distinct time periods: small boy (Paul Hahn), older boy (Chavin Medina) and young man (Garrett Young). The show won five Tony awards back in 1993 including Best Score, which is the element that really shines with this musical. This production is no different. It is the music that steals the show here.
As you would expect from a rock musical, the band was the dominant force during the show. Consisting of Adam Clark on guitar, Andrew Hackworth on keyboard 2 and supplemental percussion, Bryan Sharpe on guitar, Jeremy King on percussion, Kainan Shank on bass and Nancy Perrin on keyboard 1 along with conductor Zac Clemens and some cast members providing supplemental instrumentation, the band let loose and set a rocking tone for the evening from the first note.
The best number of the night came at the end of Act 1 with the iconic "Pinball Wizard" with Naman Clark, Tyler Smith, and Jesse Trieger leading the cast in a perfect rendition of the iconic song. Similarly, the reprise of the song adding in Garret Young's Tommy brought me the exact rocking note that I wanted. Other highlights for the evening were T.C. Schreier and Natalie Sanders on the poignant "I Believe My Own Eyes", "Acid Queen" by Melissa Hall, and the delightful interplay and harmonies by Jamal Cann and Brennan Paulin when they appeared together. Darren Brown hit the perfect creepy as the sadistic Uncle Ernie.
Unfortunately, the direction, by Layne Roate with the collaboration of the cast and and staff of Tommy, felt muddled at times and seemed to lack a singular focus which made it very difficult for those of us who didn't know the story already. I left with an unsatisfying feeling that I just didn't get it and others around me had a similar reaction.
Contributing to my confusion, I wish I could have seen this performance in a large venue. The intimate Mathile Theatre at the Schuster Center is a great space for many shows but the size of the theatre vs the size of the set and many cast members had a restraining effect on the actors and limited them from really giving everything that they had to the performance because they just had no room to maneuver.
All in all, I would recommend TOMMY to others but as of today, Dare to Defy reports that they are sold out for the final two performances. Contact the Ticket Center Stage box office if you have any questions at 937-228-3630.Photo Credit: Sydney Fleming