October 22, 2020

1999-03-12 – The News Journal

1999 03 12 The_News_Journal_Fri__Mar_12__1999_ 2

Tommy: Ramone chosen
from 25 who auditioned

Ramone is just starting out, having ap-
peared in two earlier OperaDelaware

shows. _
“This is my trial run to see what a tour 18

like and whether I like it.”

He was cast from among 25 youngsters
who auditioned at the Playhouse in Janu-
ary based on his vocal quality and strength
and his poise, according to the producers.

“We were called in one at a time. We
were told to prepare a song to sing. I did
‘Where Is Love’ from ‘Oliver.’ And we had to
sing ‘See Me, Feel Me’ from the show. They
also talked with me some to get an idea of
my personality," Ramone says. “They
called the next day to say I got the part. I
was excited. My mother was really ex-

He is the middle child of Mike and Lisa

Ramone. He has a sister, Brittany, 12, and a
brother, N icholas, 7, who he says are al-
most as excited as he is. So, too, are his
fifth-grade classmates at the Independence
School in Pike Creek, he adds. “They were
all happy for me.”

He will perform in Wilmington and go
on in the role to Hartford, Conn; Boston,
Chicago and beyond. He will be tutored by
his mother during the day while on tour.

Williams says the best advice for Ra-
mone is to sing clearly.

“There’s not that much to sing, but what
he does sing is crucial to show how the
adult Tommy sees himself."

The role calls for Ramone to sing “See
Me, Feel Me” and fragments of other songs
while he remains on stage for most of the

The musical is about a boy who goes
blind and deaf afier witnessing a murder.
He eventually comes out of his shell when
he becomes a celebrity for his amazing pin-
ball-playing skills.

Ramone hasn’t seen the stage show
“Tommy" nor the 1975 movie version, but
he has been listening to The Who’s 1969
album of the songs —— which include “Pin-
ball Wizard” and “Go to the Mirror.”

“1 really like it,” he says. “The music is
neat and different. It’s not like anything
I’ve done before.”

The music is where director Worth
Gardner intends the audience’s focus to be.

“We can be more centered on the story,”
Gardner says. “This isn’t a bubblegum mu-
sical, but a more serious, less cartoony
work about the complex issue of the inter-
nal isolation felt by all of us. Keeping it un-
cluttered is important. The audience is
there to listen, not be distracted.”

The 1993 Tony Award-winning Broadway
version of the show fell into the distraction
trap, he says, with complicated sets, laser
light efiects and numerous costume changes.

“This isn’t about costume changes. We
won’t have the 400 they did in the first eight
minutes of the Broadway show,” he says.

Gardner’s set will be based on lights and

trusses “like the stage for a Who tour."
With the exception of the white-clad
Tommy, the cast will be dressed in basic
“but hip and glamorous" black.

Which makes the casting important.
“It is hard to find the right child for the

young Tommy [role]. It is more difficult a
part than doing an ‘Annie,’ ” Gardner says.
“To pull this off as an ensemble piece, the
little guy carries a lot of the burden.”

When he played the part, Williams ex-
plains, he had to do the opposite of what
other actors do on stage.

“Acting is all reacting to what is going
on around on," Williams says. “Because
Tommy is b ind and deaf, he can’t do that.
He has to act out what is inside him, not
react to others.”

Williams has no plans to be in the audi-
ence to see how well Ramone does in his
old role. However, Ramone’s parents.
brother and sister will see the show twice
in Wilmington — on opening night and
again March 25. “That’s his 11th birthday,"
father Mike Ramone says. “We’ll be there
and all the relatives will be there. We’ll
have a party afterward."

Young Ramone started rehearsing with
Gardner and the cast on Wednesday in
New York.

“I like singing in front of audiences,” he
says. “I’m really looking forward to this. I
think traveling around is going to be a lot
of fun.”

His father says, “Acting is really some-
thing he’s always loved and wanted to do.
Lisa and I figure he either will do this
[tour] and never again act or he'll become
an actor for life."

Depending on how he fares in “Tommy,”
the son agrees, may determine whether he
wants to be a Broadway star as an adult, or
a swimming coach. “I really like both per-
forming and swimming.”

He holds several national time rankings
in the breaststroke. He also sings in the
school choir.

Practicing for competitive swimming
takes up much of Ramone’s time, his father
says, but he's a very normal 10-year-old.

“He does his homework, plays with the
computer, hangs out with his friends. It
seems he has more girlfriends than
boyfriends, but everything is still at that
friends level.”

In addition to swimming, the future
Tommy is interested in painting and draw-

Williams always has had a more techni-
cal leaning. He is a ninth-grader studying
computer science and mathematics at the
Charter School of “Wilmington. While on
the road with “Tommy,” he made friends
with the technical crew and helped them.

He admits to missing being in “Tommy,”
but notes some of his tour earnings helped fi-
nance his passion for computers. “And I still
have the little, dinky la top I first bought
when I was in the show,” he says.