book, music & lyrics by Pete Townshend.
Greenwich Theatre Crooms Hill SE10 8ES To 23 August 2015.
Tue–Sun 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8858 7755.
Review: William Russell 31 July.
Very strong production may not be to everyone’s taste.
There are musicals which should be revived constantly, and musicals which should be resuscitated and musicals which are arguably better left alone.
Pete Townshend’s Tommy was originally a 1969 concept album, the first ever rock opera, which was then made into a film by Ken Russell in 1975, with all that that implies, before becoming a Broadway show in the early 1990s and winning awards there and later in London.
To be honest it probably now works best as a record although director Michael Strassen and a very hard working cast do their best to inject some reason for watching it live into this convoluted tale of a deaf and blind boy who grows up to be rock God and a pinball genius. That they succeed is due also to the fact that there is a terrific band under Kevin Oliver Jones who reproduce the sound of the sixties brilliantly.
There is a nice minimal set, the cast perform lots of athletic if meaningless choreography devised by Mark Smith rather well, they can all sing and as the deaf and blind Tommy, who undergoes a miraculous cure, Ashley Birchall sings and dances splendidly and has the necessary boy band good looks to convince he could become a rock idol. He must, however, learn to speak – those David Beckham tones do rather demolish the Rock God image.
Giovanni Spano makes a considerable impression as his nasty cousin Kevin, as does Miranda Wilford as his hapless mother.
Strassen keeps the action, which covers some 25 years, going brisKly and has conjured up enough with minimal resources to give the impression of something bigger than it really is. It is a pity about the lighting, however, which flattens the action on stage rather than flatters it. There is less to this evening than meets the eye although Mr Strassen seems to find depths to plumb somewhere or other about the meaning of life in it.
That said if you want to go to a rock concert rather than a musical this is a pretty good one.
Uncle Ernie: John Barr.
Tommy: Ashley Birchall.
Captain Walker: James Sinclair.
Cousin Kevin: Giovanni Spano.
Acid Queen: Carly Burns.
Sally Simpson: Carrie Sutton.
Mrs Walker: Miranda Wilford.
Company: Danny Becker, Alice Mogg, Scott Sutcliffe.
Director: Michael Strassen.
Designer/Costume: Mik Corrall.
Lighting: David Howe.
Musical Director: Kevin Oliver Jones.
Choreographer: Mark Smith.
Associate director: Paul Callen.