October 27, 2020

2001-04-22 – The Des Moines Register

2001 04 22 The_Des_Moines_Register_Sun__Apr_22__2001_



n 1968, Pete Townshend of

The Who had an idea for a

little rock opera called

“Tommy.” The double
album spawned such hits as
“Pinball Wizard” and “See Me,
Feel Me.”

“Tommy” was released as a
motion picture in 1976, and
later as a Broadway musical.
Today, many theatergoers
would be hard-pressed not to
have seen some version of the
show, whether on stage or on
the silver screen.

Starting Friday, audiences
will get a taste of the high-
energy production as it opens
for a nearly month-long
engagement at the Des
Moines Playhouse.

“Tommy” is anything but a
typical Broadway show. The
traditional musical score with
a multitude of choreographed
dance numbers is absent, but
in its place remains a unique
tale of boy caught between
worlds in a “deaf, dumb, and
blind” state after witnessing
the murder of his mother’s
lover at the hands of his own
father. Pinball becomes his
only outlet for expression.

The Playhouse version
strays little from the original
Broadway format released in

1993. The mostly sung dia-
logue is there, as well as a host

of multimedia elements
including filmed footage,

slides, Powerpoint and pyto- ‘

technics thrown into the mix.

Ron Ziegler, associate
director for the Des Moines
Playhouse and director of the
show. expects the show will
bridge the gap between the

rock opera’s original audience
and the youth of today with
striking visual elements and a
strong rock ’n’ roll score.
“Our main audience for
Tommy is aging,” he said. “W e
expect to see those people that
remember The Who’s music,
but also those people who will
be attracted by the live cam,
the lighting, the pyrotechnics
and the music. It’s just an

.'. V
J’ _ '»

Demanding: “This is avery
intense role,” Spahr says.

incredibly vibrant show.”

Ziegler said the cast of 23
includes many veteran per-
formers with extensive vocal
talents who will perform the
show’s rock ’n’ roll score with

“This is the strongest vocal
ensemble I’ve ever worked
with,” Ziegler said.

Brett Spahr leads the way as

Tommy. Spahr most recently
performed the role of Rooster

in the Playhouse’s version of

Classically trained vocally.
Spahr said the show, by
design, demands a strong
voice and stamina to perform
in the leading role.

“This is a very intense role.
There’s a lot of singing,” he
said. “Tommy takes an inter-
esting trip. I think the first
song, ‘Amazing Journey‘
sums it all up. It’s such a

Spahr, 31, admits he‘s no
Roger Daltrey (who played
Tommy in the movie) but said
he hopes audiences are able to


Pinball wizard: Brett Spahr plays Tommy at The Des Moines Playhouse.

What: The Who‘s “Tommy"

Where: The Des Moines

When: April 27 through
May 20

Details: Tickets are $12 to
$24 and can be bought by
phone at 277-6261 , fax at
277-8019 or online at

see the difference on stage.

“It’s not the movie.” he said.
“There’s so much more to it. I
can't say it’s more mellow. but
there's more depth to the stage
version than what a lot of
people think."

Playhouse representatives
warn that “Tommy“ may
contain mature themes and
language that some audiences
may find offensive.

Reporter Jody Crossman can he
reached at (515) 284-8266 or