The Who's Tommy | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Who's Tommy 

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The Who's Tommy, White Horse Theatre Company, at Raven Theatre. For those who grew up listening to the Who's 1969 album or who loved the 1975 film or mid-90s Broadway show, this White Horse production should be a welcome nostalgia trip, well sung by a cast backed by an excellent small band. For everyone else this might still be a decent show, though the night I attended the first act was reduced to pantomime because the guitar and keyboard drowned out almost all the actors. Tommy--often claimed to be the first rock opera--tells the story of a young boy, caged in his mind after witnessing an act of violence, who becomes a messiahlike figure to an America looking for easy answers.

Director Jeremy Morton shows little original vision, though he keeps the pace brisk. He does throw in some video projections (by Eric M. Bee) on the back wall. Sometimes this device is stunningly successful--as in the creepy scene of Uncle Ernie (a sharp Anthony Apodaca) raping Tommy--but more often it's muddled and distracting. Morton could also have used a choreographer, though the first-act closer, "Pinball Wizard," is thrilling: the ensemble--in general a dream of soaring voices in lush harmonies--swoops and twirls around Tommy as if they were pinballs themselves. Earplugs are offered at the door, but only the most sensitive ears will need them.

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