The Center for the Arts premiered their version of The Who’s classic rock opera Tommy last night to a packed audience.
Despite the limited production value, the musical proved to be an entertaining ride highlighted by some poignant performances and faithful renditions of iconic rock anthems—the most iconic among them being the musical’s most recognizable track, “Pinball Wizard.”
Andrew Clark starred as the titular Tommy—a “deaf, dumb, and blind kid” who grows up in a dysfunctional 1950s British family and, of course, he plays one mean game of pinball. Clark’s performance, along with many others, executed the original material with great pathos and singing ability.
As with any musical, there were many stand-out vocal performances, including Adam LaPorte, who with flamboyant Broadway-style panache, delivered a memorable performance as Tommy’s sinister cousin Kevin. Shane Lowery also provided great comic relief as the extraordinarily creepy Uncle Ernie and Emily Dennis, Alexius Frost and Miranda Johnson, who played a trio of gypsies, gave a rollicking rendition of the song “Acid Queen.”
Since Tommy is such a bombastic and epic musical, this production felt constricted due to the venue’s size. Nevertheless, director Renee Robinson did a commendable job of bringing such a large-scale musical down to the small stage. At times the play’s modest means even added to the entertainment.
In an early scene for instance, actors dressed as British army lieutenants zip-line down from the top of the stage and hurl miniature planes to represent going off to war. The result is kitschy, but fun.
Overall Tommy is worth the price of admission with fine performances and even finer music. At the very least, it’s great reminder of how quintessential The Who’s iconic rock-opera is as an album and as an anthem to the angst of growing up.
The musical will be running at The Center of the Arts until Nov. 23, showing on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.