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