The Who’s TOMMY

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

01/10/2009 - 07/10/2009

Production Details

Stage Two Productions & Theatre of Love Present
A Rock Opera by THE WHO

See me, feel me, heal me… from the legendary band ‘The Who’ comes the outrageously entertaining rock musical TOMMY. Directed by James Wenley in conjunction with The University of Auckland’s Stage Two Productions and Theatre of Love, this exciting explosion of dance, music and colour bursts onto the Musgrove stage this September/October.

Showcasing local young talent Chanel Turner, Phillip White, Omar Al-Sobky, Paul Fagamalo, and up and coming singing sensation Sam Verlinden as young Tommy, who, after witnessing a tragic event becomes deaf, dumb and blind before his transformation into a pinball champion and rockstar celebrity.

Based on The Who’s classic 1969 album and 1975 film, the musical features the timeless hits "Pinball Wizard", "Eyesight to the Blind", "Sensation", "I’m Free", "Listening to You" and "Acid Queen".

Accompanied by Tommy’s wicked Cousin Kevin, fiddling Uncle Ernie, the Gypsy Acid Queen, the Pinball Wizard, and little Sally Simpson, travel with us on an amazing journey from WWII Britain to the swinging sixties and be reawakened!

Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre
Wed 30th  September until Wed 7th October  8pm.
2pm Matinee & 6:30pm shows on Sunday 4th Oct.
Students: $20, Adults $30

Originally produced on Broadway by Pace Theatrical Group & Dodger Productions with Kardana Productions Inc
by arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd Exclusive agent for Music Theatre International (NY)

Tommy: Paul Fagamalo
Young Tommy: Sam Verlinden
Mrs Walker: Chanel Turner
Captain Walker: Phillip White
Uncle Ernie: Omar Al-Sobky
Cousin Kevin: Oliver Page
Pinball Wizard/Officer/Company: Cam Nealie
Gypsy Queen/Company: Rhiann Munro
Sally Simpson/Company: Kristina Hard
Hawker/Officer/Company: Jarrod Lee
Lover/Company: Nick Gray
Specialist/Judge/Vendor/Company: Tama Boyle
Specialist Assistant/Nurse/Company: Caitlin Bennet
Minister/Mr Simpson/Company: Jonathan Riley
Minister's Wife/Mrs Simpson/Company: Elizabeth Gill
Nurse/Company: Sian Ellet
Physiatrist/Barrister/Company: Jane Hargis
Reporter/ Physiatrist  Assistant/Company: Jessica Mathews
Officer/Barrister/Company: Jack Woon

Conductor: Oliver Gilmour
Keyboard One: Shaun Li / Mary Lin
Keyboard Two: Jesse Hart
Keyboard Three: Brendan Zwaan
Guitar One: Devlin Sakey
Guitar Two: James Ruddell
Bass Guitar: Bryan Holden
Horn: Seiko Shirai
Percussion: Glen Rodgers

Associate Producer: Leigh Fitzjames
Assistant Choreographer: Emma Lucas
Costume Design: Nadine Gibson
Makeup Design: Lou Draper
Lighting/Sound: Showtec Entertainment
Lighting Operator: Ashley Milne
Publicity: Kristina Hard
Set Design: Milli Jannides
Stage Manager: Rosie Elder

Hard to empathise

Review by Candice Lewis 02nd Oct 2009

Tommy is a Rock Opera featuring the music of The Who. It was first performed in 1969, and is now enthusiastically taken on by Stage Two Productions.

I have never seen Tommy before, but I really like The Who, and hope this is enough of a pre-requisite to appreciate the show. 

The Musgrove Theatre has extremely limiting stage room, and packed into the corner is a lovely little live orchestra complete with conductor. The guitar playing is fantastic. 

So begins the story of a young boy so traumatised after witnessing a murder and his parents encouragement to "see nothing, hear nothing", that he becomes deaf, dumb and blind. Young Tommy is played beautifully by Sam Verlinden, and required to be completely unresponsive even when a balloon is popped in his face.

Themes of isolation and illusion permeate the show. A mirror stands in the corner as a witness to Tommy’s reinvention of himself on the day of the murder. He has no allies; it is only his ability to play pinball that helps ‘save’ him.

Tommy is left in the ‘care’ of Paedophile Uncle Ernie (Omar Al-Sobky) or his nasty cousin, yet even they are just another mirror for his own inexpressible pain. Strangely, I am not feeling as much empathy as I think I am meant to.

As a taste barometer, I like exactly four musicals in this order; The Rocky Horror Show, Grease, Cabaret and Little Shop of Horrors. The uniting factor in these shows is a reasonable amount of dialogue aside from the singing, and each one is imbued with humour and ways to identify with the characters.

Story-wise, Tommy is pretty hard-core. Performance-wise, it is difficult to truly connect with anyone. Tommy is the one we need to ‘see, feel, touch’, but the only times I feel close to this is when both ‘Tommys’ sing together in harmony. In fact, harmonies and the more chorus focused numbers are the ones that pack more emotional power.

Fagamalo (Tommy grown up) appears from the time that the young Tommy is divorced from his senses. He serves as a voice of hope, an almost angelic presence. Fagamalo does have a lovely voice but seems to be losing it towards the end of the show. Lemon and honey for that young man please.

The singers with consistent voices are Tommy’s mother, Mrs Walker (Chanel Turner), Mr Walker (Phillip White), Pinball Wizard (Cam Nealie) and the delightful Pimp/Hawker, Jarrod Lee.

Lee’s performance really stands out. Physically, he is not a tall guy, but when he sings he radiates this amazing charisma which makes him tower above everyone else. I would pay to go and see him sing old tunes, especially if he keeps the fur coat on. 

Tama Boyle also has a good voice, as does Jonathan Riley, and you can see everyone on stage is enthusiastic and having a great time.

Tommy is an ambitious undertaking, perhaps needing to be reworked in order to fit a small stage. In the cramped Musgrove theatre, it feels crowded and overblown and could be edited down to an hour and a half to prevent any dragging.

The set is an ongoing whirlwind, pieces being wheeled on and off, sometimes with difficulty. At one point I hold my breath, thinking the actors are going to fall backwards into the orchestra.

The orchestra is great, keeping good time and showcasing a variety of skills: one of the best things about this show.

Tommy therefore, is not a musical you will necessarily enjoy just because you like The Who. If you are already a Tommy fan, or are partial to song and dance routines then it is definitely worth taking a look.
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