December 5, 2020

1994-03-04 – St Louis Post Dispatch

1994 03 04 St__Louis_Post_Dispatch_Fri__Mar_4__1994_


By Joe Pollack
O! the Post-Dlspatch Sta"

T BEGAN 25 years ago this month

as a single record called “Pinball
Wizard." It grew to be an album.
“Tommy," recorded by groups as
disparate as The Who and the Lon—
don Symphony Orchestra. It was a
ballet in Canada, a movie in Holly-
wood and, as "The Who's Tommy," a
Tony-winning stage musical in New
York last year.

The touring company hit the Fox
Theatre Wednesday night with the
power of an avalanche. simply bedaz-
zling 4,060 people as it combined
song and dance and sound and light
into an exciting. brilliant evening of
theater. though the combination of
amplification and tempo makes some

The Who's Tommy: A Fox As-
sociates presentation

Where: Fox Theatre, 527 North
Grand Boulevard

Curtain: Friday at 8 p.m.‘ Saturday

I at 2 and 8. Sunday at 2 and 7
Tickets: $10-537, for information

call 534-1111

lyrics difficult to understand.

There's a change of tone along the
way, and the hard-driving, almost-
cold aura of the first act turned warm
and slightly fuzzy in the second. Pete
Townshend's music Changed, too,
and I must say I preferred the dia-
mond—sharp edges and the chilling
lack of sentimentality 0f the opening



‘The Who’s Tommy’ Explodes With Light And Sound At The Fox

act. “Welcome” didn't do much for

Townshend wrote most of the mu-
sic and lyrics, with some from Keith
Moon and John Entwistle, and Town-
shend and director Des McAnuff
combined on the book. The cast is
strong, energetic and talented, but
the triumph belongs to McAnuff, cho-
reographer Wayne Cilento, lighting
designer Chris Parry, scenic design-
er John Arnone and costumer David
C. Woolard.

“Tommy" replaces the usual back-
drops with photographs, in a triptych
that often breaks up into many small-
er images, and it's totally eye-catch.
ing — so much so that it sometimes
distracts from the cast in action. Par-
ry's lighting, hard and brilliant, is


almost another character.

The story is simple. Tommy, at
age 4, sees his father murder his
mother's lover, and their insistence
that he say nothing shocks him into
becoming a blind, deaf-mute. As he
grows, he becomes a toy for his cous-
in Kevin and his loutish friends, who
both torment and protect him, and
one day they place him in front of a
pinball machine. The rest is history.
until Tommy's mother shocks him
back into the use of the three senses.

Steve Isaacs is outstanding in the
title role, singing well and moving
with grace, and Robert Mann Kayser
and Caitlin Newman are scene-steal-
ers as Tommy at age 10 and 4, re-
spectively. It's amazing to see child
actors work with such discipline.


Caitlin, by the way, alternates with
Kelly Mady through the run.

Jessica Molaskey and Jason Work-
man are Tommy's parents, and Mo-
laskey stands out in “I Believe My
Own Eyes," but the characters are so
thinly written they are difficult to
take seriously. Much better parts
have been created for William You-
mans, as Uncle Ernie. and Roger
Bart, as Cousin Kevin. Youmans re-
verts almost to English music hall
style in “Tommy’s Holiday Camp,"
and Bart is a sinister delight in
“Cousin Kevin."

Kennya Ramsey is dazzling as the
Gypsy Queen, but her role is small,
and she’ll never make me forget Tina
Turner as the Acid Queen in the

Cilento's choreography, with a lot
of 19405 jitterbugging, is impressive.
and the ensemble fits together per-
fectly. The show is seamless, and
McAnuff's pacing is rocket-swift.

The volume is turned up high, but I
was so fascinated with the action on
the stage and the visual experiences
of the set that it didn't bother me,
and even the venerable Fox seemed
to shiver with joy in a wondrous the-
atrical extravaganza.




BEST ACTRESS - Juliette Binome