Visit our social channels!
April 10, 2024
See Me, Feel Me
The Who’s Tommy

“The Who’s Tommy”

The music from “The Who’s Tommy” is part of the fabric of my life. I grew up singing it, hearing it and loving it. Snatches of songs immediately evoke images and remind me of my college years.

Although I’ve seen the show and the movie before, I honestly thought little about the story that tied the songs together. I never wondered whether the story made sense or whether or not the songs were connected; "Tommy" was always about the music.

Three decades later, the exhilarating revival of The Who’s Tommy at the Nederlander Theatre feels different. And that’s not a bad thing. With a book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff, the show is based on the 1969 rock opera Tommy by The Who. The revival of Tommy directed by McAnuff, who directed the original 30 years ago, feels new and fresh.

When a former POW, Captain Walker (Adam Jacobs,) unexpectedly returns from the war to his wife (excellent Alison Luff,) he winds up killing her loutish lover in self-defense. Young Tommy witnesses the traumatic event and to make sure Tommy doesn’t tell anyone , they admonish him singing, “you didn't see it, you didn't hear it,You never heard it, not a word of it. You won't say nothing to no one.”

The shocked boy doesn't speak again. Played during matinees by 4 year old Cecilia Ann Popp, the child appears to be almost comatose. Later as a ten year old, he is played by Quinten Kusheba, retaining the telltale unruly mop of dark curly hair. Totally uncommunicative and unresponsive, the ten year old rocks back and forth, in symptoms commonly seen by parents of severely autistic children His distraught parents seek remedies. Unable to communicate, Tommy becomes a victim. First abused by Uncle Ernie ( good John Ambrosino) who sings “Fiddle About” and later mistreated by his sadistic older ”Cousin Kevin” (Bobby Conte) “We’re alone, cousin, on our own,cousin. Let's think of a game we can play, now the grownups have all gone away .”

Tommy is carelessly tossed around like a plaything. The young child actors, being thrown and flung about are wonderful, never breaking character and always maintaining their blank expression Yet we know how Tommy feels through the wonderful voice of Ali Louis Bourzgui, making an impressive Broadway debut. “See Me, Feel Me,” expresses all his unspoken emotions. Bourzgui is passionate and intense with a voice that goes through you.

The “deaf, dumb and blind kid,” Tommy wanders over to a pinball machine and shows an amazing ability and the kids refer to him as the “Pinball Wizard.” The stylistic box frame of the pinball machine is all that’s necessary for the audience to feel the excitement of his playing(set design by David Korins.)

Townshend added a new song called ""I Believe My Own Eyes" which Tommy’s parents sing as they resign themselves to accepting Tommy's condition. Then the storyline takes a different turn. Staring at a full length mirror, Tommy shifts direction when his frustrated mother takes a chair and smashes the mirror. ("Smash the Mirror.") Tommy suddenly becomes communicative, singing, “I’m Free.”

There are two senses on overload in the show-sound and sight, and, in some ways, the show still feels like a rock concert. Although “The Who’s Tommy” is a revival, it feels new and electric with projections, flashing lights and a great band. The energy starts from the beginning and rarely lets down. The ensemble is always in motion, running, jumping, moving constantly. The dancers dressed in shiny metallic looking costumes give the show a futuristic flavor. (Serafina Bush - costume design.)

Tommy isn't a typical Broadway musical. The story might not flow logically but who the heck cares. Those who know the score and see it because of that will love the vitalization of the music. Those new to the show will find themselves new fans of Townshend and devotees of Tommy.

Nederlander Theatre
208 West 41st. Street
New York, NY

Click for link
Share this post to Social Media
Written by: Elyse Trevers
More articles by this author:

Other Interesting Posts


Or instantly Log In with Facebook