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Pinball Wizard: CMTS Presents “Tommy”

If you’re looking for a traditional, all-American musical, Tommy is not for you.  That doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing- it’s a musical of a different formula, resembling Mamma Mia more than Aida.

Tommy is a musical by Pete Townshend (yes, that Pete Townshend) based on a concept album by The Who in 1969 of the same name.  Tommy is a young boy, rendered deaf, mute, and blind by a tragedy from his past, who rises to fame for his skill at pinball (no other way to fit “Pinball Wizard” in the score, Bwog presumes).  Like Rent, this is a “rock opera,” and according to Wikipedia, Townshend wants it to be a giant metaphor for…something.

Though the musical takes place somewhere in the UK, the location was vague- the designed set looked more American, especially the Christmas time scene, and there was only one instance of a British accent, which stood out against all the American accents.

The story’s not all that important.  This is an all-out rock show.  The band CMTS put together for the show was phenomenal (if a little disconnected from the proceedings), down to Thomas Anawalt’s (Tommy) Daltry-like mic swings (which made techies around the world cringe).  The entire cast was enthusiastic and totally sixties; you could almost see Daphne and Velma up on stage with them groovin’ awkwardly.  They even succeeded in getting the audience to participate, albeit somewhat reluctantly, for the big finale.  We were encouraged to get up and dance whenever we felt the urge, but Bwog didn’t notice anyone taking advantage of the invitation.

Tech can make or break a show, especially in the case of a musical.  The actors used handheld microphones the entire time, and the performance space (the floor in front of the stage in Roone) was littered with wired microphones on stands.  Often, it seemed as if members of the cast had “forgotten” to take a microphone with them, and they would look around panickedly until someone handed one to them.  Mic technique was inconsistent, meaning Lerner Tech had to work hard to keep the levels right so we could even hear them.  Bwog probably missed 80% of the lyrics due to the singers being drowned out by the (totally rockin’) band.  In addition, the artistic decision to use a series of screens to portray location with elementary cartoons seemed unnecessary- it was more distracting than helpful, and the audience is capable of discerning when action takes place in a hospital versus in a church (helpfully labeled “church” with an engraved “Jesus” on the cross in the illustration).

Kudos to the standout performances of Lew Bibler as a mean-spirited Cousin Kevin (but with killer attitude) and Giselle Gastell as a vital, salacious Acid Queen.  Both were extremely confident and alive on stage, not at all aware of their vulnerability in front of an over-amped band and an over-excited crowd.

Overall, Tommy is for those who just want to have a good, foot-tapping time.  Don’t take it too seriously, and it’ll be enjoyable.

CMTS will have performances tonight at 8 PM and 10:30 PM in Roone.  Tickets are $5 with a CUID.

— Anish Bramhandkar

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  • pinball wizard says:

    @pinball wizard IT WAS AMAZING!!!

  • melech hakadur says:

    @melech hakadur “eich hu yachol laasot”

    “lo yodeaaaaaa”

    1. i don't says:

      @i don't get it.

    2. your says:

      @your grammar skills are horrible. that does not translate how you want it to.

  • YESSS says:


  • There is not says:

    @There is not one thing about Aida that would qualify it as a traditional all-American musical. Get a better theatre reviewer, Bwog

    1. Why says:

      @Why can’t Bwog find someone to write theater reviews, who knows the first thing about theater? Also, the quality of the show aside, I really dislike the dismissive tone of this review.

  • Fiddling About says:

    @Fiddling About Also major props to Uncle Ernie. He was so good, I really wanted to curl up into a ball and hide. Extremely creepy

    1. yeah says:

      @yeah He was really good in the way that copying the performance from the cast album is good.

      1. whatever says:

        @whatever Dude, go to hell. It takes an amount of talent to copy a cast album performance and do it well. And who gives a shit if it was similar to the cast album? Conor was excellent. He had everyone squirming in their seats. Well, at least the people in the first three rows who could actually see anything.

  • wow says:

    @wow I normally love you Bwog, but this was unnecessarily critical.

  • what says:

    @what a horrible review. how about telling us something about the cast, singing, costumes…anything?

  • I thought this says:

    @I thought this was a fair review. It may be more critical than some cast and production team members would have liked, but it didn’t pan the show completely — and it could have. Regardless of how great many of the student performances were, the technical aspects and staging of the show were just bad. At least the reviewer knew enough about theater to know why the sound was off (no one taught many of the performers mic technique) and understands the dangers of performing “in front of an over-amped band and an over-excited crowd.” The review didn’t even get into the production’s staging and choreography nightmares.

    If you found this review offensive, you were probably somehow connected to the show; in which case, you might want to learn to take criticism if you want to put on productions better than this. Go pick up a Sunday Times and have a glance at the theater reviews. Not too many of them are filled with congratulatory sunshine and rainbows.

  • Plus it says:

    @Plus it talks about how Giselle rocks. She’s amazing!

    1. Agreed! says:

      @Agreed! Giselle has serious chops.

  • oh man tommy says:

    @oh man tommy I just wished they had had a musical director. The sole purpose of the show seemed to be for the band to have fun playing some of their favorite tunes and the actors to just be there for show. Most of the time I didn’t even realize a show was being put on. Someone was needed to connect the band and the cast and that would have been a musical director. Also how could the review fail to mention that one of the leading characters (Captain Walker) practically NEVER sang or spoke, leaving Mrs. Walker to sing duets by herself. Not to mention staging dances on the floor where no one could see them. Bwog, I implore you, PLEASE get a reviewer who knows either how to write a review, or something about theater, this is getting pathetic.

    1. The actor who played says:

      @The actor who played Captain Walker lost his voice right before the show. Not really anyone’s fault.

      1. not to mention says:

        @not to mention CREEPY looking

  • Musical director... says:

    @Musical director... …was the female guitarist.

    BWOG, that bit about fitting Pinball Wizard into the score…The song exists because the pinball was a part of the plot of the concept album.

    The performers did a good job with what they had, particularly Lew Bibler and Conner Spahn. The decision to put the band on stage while staging the show on the floor was a mistake; it was impossible to see half of what happened. The staging itself was like a strange crossbreed of Spring Awakening and Lonny Price’s concert staging of Sweeney Todd. The staging of “The Acid Queen” in particular was problematic; the character gives Tommy drugs, but it looked like she was sexing him up in…some way or another.

    This show is, in my mind, something of an abhorance. The original concept album is one of the greatest achievements of rock music; this show took that brilliance and totally reversed its original message, which was explicitly against normality. Also, many of Townshend’s wonderful melodies are barely intact.

  • lighten up says:

    @lighten up it rocked out.

  • in all honesty says:

    @in all honesty the main problem was that the band was playing for themselves and the actors were barely heard. If you were in the first few rows you could hear and see the ensemble having a blast and giving it their all, but the rest of the audience couldn’t see what was happening or hear it, so the story was hard to follow. I think everyone involved did a great job, but I didn’t much like the show itself. It really makes no sense.

    I think the review was fair, but for the most part a little too kind. Tommy was fun if you went to support your friends, but as a piece of theater it fell short.

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