How many times have I seen “The Who’s Tommy”? Too many times to count using both hands. So what’s the big deal about the Seven Angels production? It’s definitive, it’s alive, it’s fresh, it’s amazing. So beautifully directed and choreographed with an emphasis on clarity by Janine Molinari that there’s never any confusion or question of what is happening. It’s so good that audiences don’t want this musical to end.
That has a lot to do with this cast of “sensation” actors, singers, and dancers. It takes three actors to portray Tommy and each one excels. RJ Vercellone plays 4-year-old Tommy and he plays it convincingly as if he were a rag doll, which is not easy for a young lad who plays hockey. Brendan Harris plays 10-year-old Tommy and takes on more of a mannequin stance, which is just as effective and just as emotionless. Finally, Garrison Carpenter, who has consistently played the narrator steps into the adult Tommy character and I swear some in the audience, swooned over his powerful vocals. One woman in the audience mouthed every word Carpenter sang. With huge ladders flanking the stage, there were times when Carpenter was just about hanging from the rafters and he still managed to sing flawlessly and passionately, especially when he becomes the freed pinball wizard.
This is an action-filled, sung-through rock opera which had young and old alike filling the Seven Angels seats. It starts during WWII. Tommy’s parents get married when his dad is called to serve and then is reported missing in action. Mom has Tommy, but as the years go by, she eventually falls in love with another man. Surprise, Tommy’s father returns home; finds the other man in his house with his wife and kills the other man. Now mom and dad convince young Tommy that he has not heard or seen any of this, resulting in a psychologically traumatized deaf, dumb, and mute son. What they don’t know is that Tommy saw the whole thing through a mirror.
Ryan Bauer-Walsh as Captain Walker is absolutely mesmerizing. What a voice. As if it’s not enough to have two powerhouses on stage, Jillian Jarrett as Mrs. Walker chimes in and sweetens the sound. Jackson Mattek as Cousin Kevin and Adam Ross Glickman as Uncle Ernie also stand out. There are several ensembles that include: Keisha Gilles, Will Carey, Rachel Oremland, Ryan Borgo, Eileen Cannon, Dean Cestari, Bobby Henry, Tony LaLonde, Peter Lambert, Diane Magas, Robert Melendez, Brittany Mulcahy, Patti Paganucci, Kevin L. Scarlett, Madeleine Tommins, and Justin Torres. There are no weak links here thanks to music director Brent Crawford Mauldin who also conducts the outrageously talented band.
This production is a complete success with Doug Harry’s lighting design, Daniel Husvar’s smooth scenic design, Matt Martin’s usual spot-on sound design, and Ethan Henry’s costume design. Pete Townshend’s music and lyrics and his book with Des McAnuff is based on The Who’s 1969 rock opera. It is one show you don’t want to miss.
Playing through May 19, call the box office: 203-757-4676.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.