October 28, 2020

2000-02-15 – The Los Angeles Times

2000 02 15 The_Los_Angeles_Times_Tue__Feb_15__2000_

A Hard- Working HTommy Misses Some of Original 5 Fire

W

By DARYL H. MILLER
TTMES STAFF WRITER

few years back. Pete Townshend revis-
Aited “Tommy," his double-album rock

opera about a pinball-playing prodigy,
and, with the assistance of theater director
Des McAnuff. turned it into a buzzing, flash-
ing pinball game of a musical.

The show blunted some of the story’s
-thomier issues and even seemed to embrace
traditional values, which came as a shock to
the generation that once rebelled by cranking
up the volume on the Who’s psychedelic 1969
recording. Still, it was a solid and, above all,
lively piece of theater—qualities it retains as it
now segues from McAnuff’s 1992 La lolla
Playhouse and 1993 Broadway stagings to
warmed-over remountings on the civic light
opera circuit.

The first of these to emerge locally is a
hard-working if not wholly successful effort
by the T heater League production group.
which opened over the weekend in Long
Beach and moves tonight to Thousand Oaks
for a week's run. Director Glenn Casale deliv-

ers a virtual by the- numbers re- -creation of

McAnuffs work. although. with many of the
original’s key scenic elements missing, this
often-baffling presentation doesn't catch fire
until the second half.

True. this story has always been hard to fol.
low on its journey into the altered awareness
of a child who has shut down his hearing,
speech and sight—his way of tuning out the
abusive world around him. The rethought
version irons out some of the plot and ends
on an especially positive note. as Tommy
emerges with a heightened sense of inner
strength, while embracing and, seemingly,
forgiving the family that hurt him.

Sorely missed from McAnuft‘s staging is
the headlong rush of music-video-style visu-
als (big-screen projections and live-feed
video). which helped to clarify time and
place. as well as the goings—on in Tommy's
mind.

Still, Casale delivers a fluid, faced-paced
show. which is driven along still more ur-
gently by a hard-rocking pit band under
Lloyd Cooper's supervision and mind-
altering, rock—concert-style lighting by Kim

Killingsworth.

As the oldest of three Tommys commin-
gling in time and space, Eric Kunze musters a
respectable rock falsetto (his “I'm Free" is es-
pecially groovy). though he has trouble sus-
taining it throughout the show. Looking and
sounding like Tina T umer in the Ken Russell
movie, Carla Williams wails the heck out of
“Acid Queen." And as Tommy’s parents, Ray
Benson and Tammy Amerson twine their
pure. high voices with exceptional beauty on
“1 Believe My Own Eyes," the new song that
Townshend wrote for Broadway.

0 "The Who’s Tommy,” Thousand Oaks Civic
Arts Plaza. 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. Today-
Friday. 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun-
day, 2 and 7 pm. Ends Sunday. $29.50-$38.50.
(805) 583-8700 or (213) 480—3232. Running
time: 2 hours.

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A Theater League ptoductnon. Musw and Iyncs by Pete Townshend:
additional musuc and lyrics by John Entwastle and Keith Moon. Book by
Townshend and Des McAnuff. Duected by Glenn CasaIe. Musncal anec-
tov Lloyd Cooper. Choreography Mark Esposuto. nghiS Kim Killingswonh.
Sound Mark Cowburn. Stage manager Robert R. Read.