Winter musical review: The Who’s “Tommy”

Rachel Chen, Copy Editor

Fog floated towards the audience as the band began its opening number. Before the show even began, the winter musical, The Who’s “Tommy,” looked fantastic. With a live band at two corners of the stage, a waterfall, accompanying stream and technicolored lights, the crew of “Tommy” has outdone themselves. The show – a musical, rock concert and a light show, plays from Jan. 16 through Jan. 18 at 7 p.m.

“Tommy is a rock show turned musical,” senior Shannon Mulvey, the actress for Mrs. Simpson, said. “They literally took The Who album and wrote a story for it. We’ve taken the musical and turned it back into a rock show.”

Although the opening number is slow and heavily instrumental based, the story of Tommy’s life over the years, portrayed by junior Taylor Hadsell’s  brother, 6-year-old Zachery Hadsell, 7th grader Sydney DiSabato and senior Daniel Duncan, eventually takes shape. Tommy’s then-pregnant mother Mrs. Walker, performed by junior Bridgette Pineau, finds out her husband, acted by junior Tanner Dillon whose voice clearly stood out, was caught in the war. She finds a new lover, played by senior Christian Berteau, but her husband is released later and shoots the lover as four-year-old Tommy, performed by Zachery, watches. From there Tommy becomes a deaf, dumb and blind kid who plays a mean pinball while his parents search desperately for a cure. The original production calls for a mirror, but in this version the waterfall and stream are used.

“We have water to add a new dimension in the show,” stage manager senior Chase Stryhal said. “It’s like a reflection of Tommy and his personality, how he is in a trance-like-state until it is finally shattered. The water is breaking up and so is he.”

The ensemble members give performances to watch for in “Pinball Wizard” featuring senior Stephanie Boone, senior Isaac Cruz and junior Preston White, and “Tommy, Can You Hear Me.” They are well coordinated with each other, whether they are wearing colorful street clothes or clad entirely in white. It is absolutely like a rock concert and the finale, although a bit confusing, is a sight to see.

Other notable performances are junior Taylor Stammen’s version of “Acid Queen,” senior Tom Mizell’s portrayal of Tommy’s horrible Uncle Ernie and Taylor Hadsell acting as teenage fan Sally Simpson. Although the risqué parts of “Acid Queen” were toned down, Stammen’s voice is anything but and shows great promise. On the other end, Mizell’s acting stood out in his solo number “Tommy’s Holiday Camp.” Taylor Hasdell’s role was perfect for her – she was sweet without sounding obnoxious and was convincing as a fan of Tommy’s without overdoing their relationship.

Of course, the show could not be complete without the performance of all three Tommys. Zachery does a great job acting out Tommy’s isolation and DiSabato has remarkable control over her voice despite their ages. Duncan shows Tommy’s progression from isolated child to humble superstar well and does a brilliant job expressing Tommy’s reactions in “I’m Free.”

With the lights scanning the stage and occasionally the ceiling constantly, “Tommy” is an active musical for the senses and audience members will struggle to as they attempt to let everything sink in. Scenes happen simultaneously with each other and the music and lights are continuous throughout the musical. Overall, the plot of the show was not very intriguing, but the incredible choreography combined with the psychedelic light show and upbeat music made it worth the watch.