Tommy Rolls into Boston with Raves
for the December 17, 1993 Everett Advocate
Originally published in the Everett Advocate on December 17, 1993, this was my first entry in print. My notes indicate that publication of the review was held up for a week to allow a staff photographer to snap some shots for inclusion, but the photographs never materialized, and the story was published as is.
The Who’s rock opera, Tommy opened this Friday at the Colonial Theatre after technical difficulties. The wait was definitely worth it.
This production packs a high tech punch that knock you off your feet. It does this with clever use of rear screen and scrim projections, and video monitors bordering the stage in a multimedia blitz that excites the senses. Computer controlled sets, lights and sound perform in a choreographed dance so dazzling it makes the Nutcracker look like a waltz. All of these elements combine to create scenes stylistically ranging from cinema to rock video.
But under all the electronic hoopla lays the story of the blind, deaf, and dumb Tommy, played by Steve Isaacs, of MTV fame. Isaacs brings a subdued energy to the title that erupts in act two with a phenomenal rendition of “I’m Free.“ A certain magical feel is added to the performance as Isaacs appears out of nowhere several times during the first act, and disappears just as suddenly.
William Youman’s portrayal of Uncle Ernie is flawlessly twisted. His exploitation of Tommy leads up to “Tommy’s Holiday Camp,” which stopped the show. Other memorable performances were rendered by Kenya Ramsey, who as the Gypsy sent shivers up and down the spine, and Roger Bart who created a Cousin Kevin that was both fascinatingly attractive and despicable at the same time.
Tommy also leaves the audience with memorable scenes: a psychiatric clinic in which the set dances with the actors; a church complete with stained glass eyes; and a concert set that places the audience backstage overlooking another audience.
The score for Tommy is phenomenal by itself. Enhanced by this productions eight-pice orchestra, conducted by Wendy Bobbitt, it reaches symphonic heights. Thanks to some superb sound engineering, the show can be heard clearly throughout the whole theater, and even the highest balcony seats afford a great view.
The production leaves the audience with a sense of what Tommy experiences. It creates an exquisite sensory overload that leaves one blinded by its glitz, deafened by its harmonics, and dumbfounded to describe it all.
Tommy is playing now through January 15. For more information, call the Colonial Theatre box office at 426-9366.
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