Tommy, Can You Hear Me?
Performed in Chicago in 1994
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 1994, Volume 1, #5
Written by John Metzger
For those of you who missed Pete Townshend's Broadway adaptation of his rock opera Tommy, which recently spent four weeks at the beautiful Auditorium Theater in Chicago, go to New York or wherever it happens to still be playing and make sure to see it! Personally, I hate musicals, but Townshend, who turned the music world upside down with the release of the original rock opera in 1969, has now turned musical theater on its head and proven that rock and roll and Broadway can mix.
Steve Isaacs, a former MTV "VJ", does an amazing job playing Tommy. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, particularly William Youmans as the evil Uncle Ernie and Roger Bart as the bully Cousin Kevin.
The sets and special effects are also out of this world and leave you gazing with wonder at the stage. Some of the effects were debuted by Townshend on his Psychoderelict tour last year, apparently a trial run prior to the debut of Tommy.
Between the sights and the sounds, the first act of the show is almost too much to handle. From the time the lights went down to the end of the act, I stared in wonder and absolute fascination at the events taking place on stage. All the emotion of the story is easily transferred to the audience. There is very little dialogue in the first act, which just goes to show how powerful this music really is.
Overall, the song order was rearranged slightly which led to a very understandable storyline. Act Two contained some added dialogue as well as some altered lyrics which added nothing to the story. While Act Two was certainly well done, the initial intensity built up over the first act declined.
It's too bad that this show didn't stick around for very long in Chicago. I'd certainly go see it again. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Townshend's next move will be! While the announcement of his retirement from rock and roll is very disappointing, his first foray into musical theater is quite promising.
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Copyright © 1994 The Music Box