October 25, 2020

2005-03-18 – The Philadelphia Inquirer

2005 03 18 The_Philadelphia_Inquirer_Fri__Mar_18__2005_

Rock opera lacks the tequisite dazzle

By Douglas J. Keating
INQUIRER THEATER CRITIC

hile it is usually referred
Wto simply as Tommy, the
official name of the show
at the Media Theatre is The
Who’s Tommy. The full title says

much about the piece.
This is a musical-theater work

with music and lyrics written

mainly by Pete
Townshend to be
The_ater performed by his im-
ReVIeW mensely popular,

— seminal rock band,
The Who, on a concept album re-
leased in 1969. It was turned into
a musical in 1993, and though it
won five Tony Awards in that
form, Tommy still comes across
very much as a rock concert.

In fact, the usual staging for
Tommy is designed to connect
the piece to the rock—concert for-
mat. Large, movable light towers
punctuate the playing area,
which features background Visu-
als and sophisticated lighting cal-
culated for maximum visual im-
pact. Special effects are outland-
ishly flashy, designed more to
wow an audience than serve the

A doctor (Robert Koutras) talks to young Tommy (Matthew Gehr) as his
mother and father (Stephanie Girard and Rob Richardson) watch.

story.
Although the Media production

seeks to replicate this rock-show
dazzle, the theater can’t muster

the technical equipment, perfor-
mance facility or money. Al-
though director Jesse Cline and
his designers manage to bring off

The Who’s Tommy

Music and lyrics by Pete Townshend
with the aid of John Entwistle and
Keith Moon, book by Townshend
and Des McAnuff, directed by Jesse
Cline, music direction by Christopher
Ertelt, choreography by Richard
Amelius, settings by Thom
Bumblauskas, lighting by Josh
Weisgrau, costumes by Rob Paluso,
sound by Glenn Hall.

The cast: Dan Domenech, Stephanie
Girard, Rob Richardson, Colin E.
Liander, David Sattler, Jeanine T.
Lopardo, others.

Playing at: Media Theatre, 104 E.
State St, Media, through April 3.
Tickets are $35 adults, $22 children.
Information: 610-891-0100 or
www.mediatheatre.com.

some decent effects, on the
whole this is a cheap—looking, pal-
lid version of Tommy.

Too bad, because without the
flash and dazzle, Tommy’s story
comes across as more egregious-
ly silly and pretentious than it
usually does. The title character
of Townshend’s fabulist tale is a
lad — blind, deaf and mute from

the trauma of witnessing a vio-
lent domestic incident at the age
of 4 — who becomes a renowned
pinball wizard. His sight, hearing
and voice are then miraculously
restored, and he is hailed as a
kind of messiah, a role he must
decide either to embrace or re-
nounce in order to lead a normal
life.

Although the Media production
lacks the impressive theatricality
that is half of what Tommy has to
offer, the rest of the show is ade-
quately served. Most of the cast
members, particularly Dan Dome-
nech as the grown—up Tommy,
sing well and find personalities
for Townshend’s stick—figure char-
acters. The eight-piece band does
a fine job with The Who’s hard-
driving rock, and that’s impor-
tant. The music remains the best
part of this rock concert in the
form of an opera in the disguise
of a stage musical.

Contact theater critic Douglas J.
Keating at 215-854-5609 or
dkeating@phillynews.com. Read his
recent work at
http://go.philly.com/dougkeating.