“The Who’s Tommy”, the first musical work turned rock opera, takes its direction from the band’s fourth release Tommy, an album that tells the story of a kid who after witnessing his father kill his mother’s lover, turns deaf, dumb and blind. That traumatic episode witnessed by the young Tommy makes him turn inward into his own world where he only responds to his image in mirrors. He later becomes a pinball wizard and is admired by his peers, unexpectedly becoming the leader of a youth movement.
The album’s rock opera debuted in the late 60’s and has remained successful ever since with various Broadway and theatrical interpretations sprouting all over the world. I had the fortune of seeing the original “The Who’s Tommy” Broadway show as well as a version put on by a community theatre. Just recently I saw “The Who’s Tommy” at Doma Theatre in Hollywood and I have to say, I’ve seen better.
To begin, the musical aspect of the show lacked organization. The live, on-stage band was not able to capture the magic of The Who’s iconic album. The guitar, which is clearly one of the driving forces behind their music, was barely audible during the show. And when it could be heard, there were several chords played wrong. At some points, the guitar even came in out of time. The only positive aspect of the musical performances was the contributions of drummer Anjilla Piazza who delivered flawlessly and seemed to truly connect with the music.
As for the stage, the set design and lighting left a lot to be desired. Very often, actors were literally left in the dark during the performance of their songs, robbing the storyline from the force it could have otherwise delivered.
Aside from Piazza’s amazing control over the drums, the singing and acting was excellent as well. Max Sallinger as the young Tommy, Jess Ford as the older Tommy and Karl Maschek as Uncle Ernie honed the stage and their characters. However, it was unfortunate that the other elements of the performance did not follow through.
As much I would love to recommend anyone to see this musical as performed at the Doma Theatre, I would highly advise otherwise. Instead, I suggest purchasing the original Tommy album by The Who or the soundtrack of the 1993 Broadway production and experiencing this great music at home until the Broadway version of “The Who’s Tommy” comes to town, as it has been rumored.