TOMMY: Music & Lyrics Pete Townsend, Book Pete Townsend & Des McAnon
Birmingham Rep: The House, and Touring
Runs 2h 40m, on interval. To 27 May (B’ham Rep) and Touring
BO: 0121 236 4455
Review: Rod Dungate 2o May, 2017
I didn’t want it to stop.
The star of the show is still, as it ever was, Pete Townsend’s pounding music. It drives this show along in thrilling style, but cleverly, Townsend builds in breathers. I have no doubt they’re called ‘riffs’ but if it were Wagner, would go by the name ‘leitmotifs’. The main one takes us right to the heart of the show ‘See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.’ It’s haunting an unforgettable.
Townsend’s show hit the cinemas in 1975; there are two things I remember, Elton John’s boots and specs, and the sniffy conversations about whether it called be called an ‘opera’ or not. For Elton John’s outfits, the boots can be seen in Nottingham, for the ‘opera’ bit, who now gives a damn? This Ipswich Wolsey-Ramps on the Moon production is thrilling, it drags you in and refuses to let you go. For my part (I may be alone in this) I wished it had no interval, I wanted it to keep going.
Tommy is a deaf-blind-dumb young man who discovers he is a champion pin-ball machine player; through this he achieves fame, and eventually finds himself. The connecting themes of the play are disability, oppression, celebrity, exploitation, and hangers-on. The bonus of this production with Ramps on the Moon, is that the disability-diversity lens is centre stage.
Terrific performances all round. A touching Tommy from William Grint, , great singing from Pete Straker as the Acid Queen, and a wonderfully seedy performance from Garry Bogson and Uncle Ernie.
I waited and waited for the acting space to light up as a pinball machine; when it happened it’s spectacular. Townsend’s music is superbly played, as powerful now as it was then. Terrific.