October 27, 2020

1993-04-23 – Philadelphia Daily News

1993 04 23 Philadelphia_Daily_News_Fri__Apr_23__1993_2

FRIDAY, APRIL 23, 1993



Here's the kicker. Who master-
mind Pete Townshend’s odd para-
ble of postwar numbness, child
abuse, rebellion with a cause, idol
worship and Christ-like martyr-
dom finally makes psychological
sense while seeming right at
home on the Great White Way.

Much of the improvement is
wrought by clever multimedia en-
hancements, veering from moody
rear—projection stills (of wartime
propaganda posters and 19505 and
’60s pop imagery) to mind-blow-
ing, full-fledged stage illusions.
Most memorable are sights of
British paratroopers jumping out
of a plane into a cloud, an even
higher-flying Tommy, a magic
mirror that reveals all and the
shock of the theater transformed
instantly into an electrifying pin-
ball machine.

There’s enough eye candy
dished out to keep even the MTV

generation satisfied. I suspect it’s
their middle-aged, prosperous
and still rocking parents, though,
who’ll be snapping up most of
these show seats. (Maybe that's
why Townshend had to wait 25
years, so his Broadway dream
could be financially fulfilled by
an audience of his peers.)

In fact, only a few lines of sec-
ond—act dialogue, one gentle new
ballad for Tommy’s parents (“I
Believe My Own Eyes") and a
couple of new musical bridges
have been added to the original
score, still played by a small (but
loud) rock combo, enhanced with
graceful toots of French horn.

Yet there’s so much pizazz in
the performance that classics
such as “Amazing Journey,” “See
Me Feel Me,” “Acid Queen," “Pin-
ball Wizard" and “We‘re Not

Gonna Take It” seem fresh again |

and very much alive.

The smooth, Broadway-style
emoting applied to the pop by
Marcia Mitzrnan and Jonathan
Dokuchltz as Tommy's parents
and the scenery—chewing histri-
onics of Paul Kandel as wicked
Uncle Ernie seem absolutely in
character, perhaps what com-
poser Townshend was always
hearing and seeing inside his
head. The bad-guy status of Cous-
in Kevin (Anthony Barille), as
leader of a zoot-suited Mods pack,
looms larger in this production.
adding grit to Tommy's teen—years
struggles and triumphs in the sec
ond act. I loved this gang pogoing
across the stage and taunting our
hero with a juicy a capella ver-
sion of “Tommy Can You Hear

Drily 'Cheryli Freeman's The

Gypsy makes you think of an-
other role essayist, “Tommy" film
performer Tina Turner. Probably
to make this production more
suitable for the family trade. the
Broadway voodoo lady isn't
nearly as fearsome. And Tommy’s
dad, feeling remorse. doesn’t
leave the boy in her clutches.

Seeing a small and mid-sized
waif of 21 Tommy on stage (both
played by little girls, actually)
certainly makes the child’s suffer-
ing concrete. And Michael Cer-
veris‘ grown-up Tommy offers a
perfect balance — bearing a rea-
sonable resemblance (physically
and vocally) to the angry young
composer/singer who first gave
the character voice, while en-
hancing the dramatic resonance
that explains Tommy's retreat to
his own private world. I


Tommy __ _

Music and lyrics by Pete Townshen
book by Townshend and Des Mctir
ufi, additional Iyncs and musuc by
John Entwistle and Keith Moon. 1'
duced by Dawd. Strong. Warner 'r
and Scott Zetger/Gary Gunas, d
rected by Des McAnuff. choreogu: t
by Wayne Cilento. scenery by )1: r a
Amone. costumes by Davud C. n :u
lard. lighting by Chris Parry. prOJeLtu v
by Wendell K. Harrington. muscai qt
rection by Joseph Church.

Mrs. Walker ........ Marena Marv»;-
Captain Walker . . Jonathan Dower
Uncle Emle .......... Paul Karz.
Tommy .......... Michae: Cert»? ~
Cousm Kevm ....... Anthony 85”
The Gypsy: . A . _ _ _ . a Chery Freema-

Pinyin; at: St; James Theater. 2.16
W. 44th St.. New York 8 pm. Mon
days-Saturdays. 2 pm. Wednesdays
and Saturdays Tickets: 520-365.
Info: 212-239-6200.