Tue. Feb 25th, 2020

2016-12-09 – South Florida Sun Sentinel

2016 12 09 South_Florida_Sun_Sentinel_Fri__Dec_9__2016_

The company
presents an intimate
version of The Who’s
‘Tommy’ at Showtime
Performing Arts
Theatre in Boca
Raton

By Christine Dolen
CORRESPON DENT

“Iconic” is a vastly overused
adjective these days, but in the case
of the Who’s 1969 rock opera
“Tommy,” the description holds
up. Written largely by guitarist Pete
Townshend, whose thrilling intro
to “Pinball Wizard” establishes the
hit song’s intensity before lead
singer Roger Daltrey utters a word,
the concept album would inspire
multiple artistic interpretations.

A Montreal ballet company, the
Seattle Opera, the London Sym-
phony, filmmaker Ken Russell and,
most recently, a bluegrass band
have all taken on the story of a
“deaf, dumb and blind kid” who
becomes a pinball champion. In
1993, after a regional theater tryout
and perhaps inevitably, “Tommy”
went to Broadway as a musical
created by Townshend and direc—
tor Des McAnuff.

It’s that version of “Tommy” that
the Outré Theatre Company is
now presenting in Boca Raton’s
cozy Showtime Performing Arts
Theatre space. The change in scale
from a Broadway—size musical to
an intimate one presents chal-
lenges and opportunities, advan-
tages and disadvantages.

Director Skye Whitcomb and
choreographer Jerel Brown have
to fit13 singing, dancing actors on a
small stage, so production designer

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Guy Haubrich has created more
space with stairs and a runway
extending into the audience. A
screen above the playing area
allows for projections that chroni—
cle the passage of time, fiom
Tommy’s birth in 1940 to his
celebrity in the ’60s, along with
images that help tell the story.
With musical direction by Caryl
Fantel, the production features
impressive South Florida talent,
including Carbonell Award nomi—
nee and Silver Palm Award winner
Mike Westrich as the adult
Tommy and Carbonell/Silver Palm
winner Clay Cartland as Tommy’s
dad, Captain Walker. Although
there were multiple sound issues
on the night I saw the show, with
mikes cutting in and out, it is

Outre Theatre Comp any creates

nonetheless thrilling to watch a
rock—raspy Westrich perform as
he’s standing two feet away from
you.

The story of “Tommy,” you may
remember, is as unsettlmg as its
music is unforgettable. Mrs.
Walker (Victoria Lauzun) and her
valiant husband (Cartland) are
married just before he is sent to
war in Nazi Germany. After Cap—
tain Walker is captured, then
presumed dead, his wife gives
birth to a healthy baby boy she
names Tommy. By the end of the
war, she has taken up with a
boyfriend, only to have her hus-
band reappear. When Captain
Walker shoots and kills the other
man, a traumatized young Tommy
(Carsten Kjaerulff) witnesses the

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SHANNON OUELLETTE/COURTESY
Kimmi Johnson, Mike Westrick, Eytan Deray and Erica Dade surround Carsten Kjaerulff as young Tommy in
Outre Theatre's “Tommy."

crime and retreats into a catatonic
state, seemingly unable to hear,
speak or see.

As his parents continue to search
for a cure, Tommy is subjected to
bullying and outright abuse, from
his drunken Uncle Ernie (Ben
Prayz), his nasty Cousin Kevin
(Eytan Deray) and assorted thugs.
The kid becomes famous for his
incomparable skill at pinball, and
after a second trauma in young
adulthood reverses his condition,
Tommy becomes the equivalent of
a cultish rock god with obsessed
followers. Although other versions
of “Tommy” don’t end happily, the
musical does.

The voices of its talented cast are
Outré’s strongest asset. Westrich is
a charismatic, compelling Tommy,

sparks

“Tommy”

Where: Showtime Performing
Arts Theatre, 503 SE Mizner Blvd.,
in Boca Raton.

When: Through Dec. 18.
Showtimes are 8 pm.
Thursday—Saturday and 2 pm.
Sunday.

Cost: Tickets cost $40 ($30
seniors, $20 students).
Contact: 866-811—4111 or
OutreTheatreCompany.com.

and though Kjaerulff does sing at
some points in the show, he is
remarkably still and focused as life
swirls around the unresponsive
young Tommy.

Cartland and Lauzun sing beau—
tifully as Tommy’s anguished par-
ents (though she’s sometimes hard
to hear). Looking more like a
dedicated drug user than the
movie version’s glam Tina Turner,
Sandi Stock belts “The Acid
Queen” Prayz is mild-mannered
yet deeply creepy as Uncle Ernie,
and Deray uses his big voice to
bully as Cousin Kevin. Mallory
Newbrough as the Tommy—be—
sotted Sally Simpson, and en—
semble members Erica Rose Dade,
Kat Gold, Kimmi Johnson, Hugo
Moreno and Phillip Andrew Santi-
ago easily fill the Showtime space
with their powerful sound.

Physically, “Tommy” is better
suited to a larger space, one that
would accommodate a bigger set
and a live band. But if you love the
Who’s iconic rock opera — and
judging from the number of audi—
ence members who rock out in
their seats or mouth the words,
many do — experiencing a well-
sung, scaled— down version of Tom-
my’s amazing journey may be an
appealing escape from the hustle
and bustle of the holidays.