Uncle Randy Productions
Tommy: A Rock Opera
Theatre, North Vancouver
Reviewer: John Jane
When "The Who" released their seminal concept album in 1969, Pete Townshend, its originator could not have imagined that his now famous rock opera would eventually spawn a movie, a Broadway style show and even a ballet performed by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal.
Tommy's story is set in post-Second World War England. When young Tommy Walker witnesses his mother's lover's death at the hands of his father, the experience causes an irreversible trauma, leaving the boy deaf, dumb and blind but conditions the heightening of his sense of feel.
Compared with Ken Russell's larger-than-life 1973 film, this production is low-key, but nonetheless entertaining. The attempted surrealist theme challenges the audience to experience the journey through Tommy's "eyes."
Tommy follows very much in the fine tradition of other Uncle Randy Productions seen at the cozy Centennial Theatre. With a talented local cast, headed by Neil Minor who looks and sounds like he was born to play Tommy. He acquitted himself extremely well in an agile performance, and was capably supported by his two young performers, Ryan Keogh who portrayed Tommy as a ten-year-old child, and Sam Charles as four-year old Tommy who almost stole the show in this his stage debut.
As Tommy's antagonists, Uncle Ernie and Cousin Kevin appear thankfully cartoonish rather than sinister and tended to offer some comic balance to the show. In particular, disabled cast member James Sanders, was very effective in the part of Uncle Ernie, and took advantage of his stage mobility to add further surrealism. The choreography was at times uneven, and perhaps a little under rehearsed. Another couple of performances will no doubt have everything clicking.
The clever use of minimum resources with set and costume design produced the intended effect of incongruous imagery.
Tommy contains some of "The Who's" best known songs including "Pinball Wizard" and "Acid Queen." There is also a bonus song not in the original score, a show tune named "I Believe My Own Eyes" performed by Alison Golosky and Roger Haskett (Tommy's parents).
At the end of the evening's performance, the cast received a deserved standing ovation for what was a combination of a stage musical and a rock concert.
© 2002, John Jane