in rapid lyrical and visual detail.
Few musicals since Show Boat
have been able to compress de-
cades and hold on to emotion at
the same time. Tommy isn't one
of them, but the music and the
staging wizardry create a fasci-
nating effect of their own.
Tommy begins in World War 11
(updated from World War 1).
Tommy isconceived the night be-
fore his father goes off to war.
The father disappears while on a
mission and is presumed dead.
Dad’s surprise return four
years later prompts a domestic
tragedy. The young Tommy goes
deaf. dumb and blind in shock at,
and retreat from, the reality he
witnesses. The parents (who un-
wittingly caused it) try for years
to bring the boy back from his
mental exile. When he is brought
back, the event turns him into a
Choreographer Wayne Cilen-
to’s muscular dance creations are
fast-moving and sharp. Although
reminiscent of the ‘405, ’503 and
’605 that they depict, the dances
speak with a fresh sense of
Tommy, dressed in white and
lighted with a harsh white light, is
played and sung well by Michael
Cerveris. But this is an ensemble
success due to fine voices and act-
ing from all of the principals.
Jonathon Dokuchitz and Marcia
Mitzman are superb as the par-
ents, speaking with body lan-
guage where there is nothing in
the dialogue or lyrics.
Paul Kandel is Uncle Ernie, the
con artist of the family, and An-
thony Barrile is Cousin Kevin,
who forces his way to success on
Tommy’s coattails. There are
Michael Cerveris as the un-
wnlling hero and title charac-
ter in Tommy.
The Who's Tommy us playing
at the St. James Theatre. 246
W. 44th St, New York. Call Te-
top-notch cameos throughout the
show, led by Cheryl Freeman as
the Acid Queen.
The story unfolds through the
production’s fabulous technical
design —— a stunning mix of spe-
cial effects and bare-bones stag-
ing. It can be said that The Who’s
Tommy echoes ideas from The
Phantom of the Opera and Les
Miserables, but that‘s often coin-
cidental, given director McAn-
uff’s own record. From a revival
of Jesus Christ Superstar to the
national tour of Chess and other
projects, McAnuff has been add-
ing touches to the rock musical
(especially video) that give it a
visual and narrative vitality.