Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 12, 2010

The Who's "Tommy"

Greene Room Productions
Academy of Music, Northampton, MA
through November 13, 2010
by Eric Sutter

Greene Room's production of The Who's "Tommy" brings to life the progressive rock opera that pushed boundaries of traditional rock and pop back in the Woodstock era.

Producer/Director Erin Greene's successful has accomplished exactly what is required to make it a success. The opening scene of "Tommy" begins with the marriage of Mrs. Walker (Stephanie Devine) and Mr. Walker (Michael Holt) during "Overture." The scenes change at a rock pace with years flashed on the backdrop to keep the story moving. "It's A Boy" introduces the young Tommy (Michaela Guthrie). Many of the songs are complex group ensemble arrangements like "Amazing Journey," which showcases a strong solo voice answered by a choral group singing. "See Me Feel Me" is sandwiched between the dark themed abuse of "Fiddle About" by babysitter Uncle Ernie (Andrew Gilbert) and the bully "Cousin Kevin" (Paul Adzima). Adzima, by the way, is also a fantastic dancer.

The set is simple with the emphasis on the great music. At times, some voices sound weak, but when the ensemble sings it is glorious. "Eyesight To The Blind" brings more misery to adolescent Tommy (Normand Caissie) in the form of temptation by a pimp and prostitutes. Enter "The Acid Queen" (Kait Rankins) to pump him full of LSD and strap him to a circular lighted wheel for a spin! Poor Tommy... he becomes the idolic "Pinball Wizard" to end Act 1.

The underlying theme of oppression follows him into adulthood in Act 2. He is mercilessly bullied in  "Tommy Can You Hear Me?" by his outlaw in-laws. He seeks help from the Specialist (Jarett Greene) who has a strong moment with "Go To The Mirror Boy." After "Smash The Mirror," Tommy at 20 (Josiah Durham) soars in song with "I'm Free." The theme of idol worship is expanded upon in a song trilogy including "Sensation" in which Tommy became messianic. "Sally Simpson" add more dramatic tension to release with the ensemble's shout of "We're Not Gonna Take It" with French horn accompaniment by Margaret Reidy. Kudos to music director Devon Bakum, choreographer David Wallace, and the entire band. Listen for the special finale featuring Josiah Durham's mighty voice -- it is haunting.