I confess, I have a big warm fuzzy spot in my heart for “The Who’s Tommy”. For me, “Tommy” is like pizza and….pizza and….well, pizza and something else, in that I’ve never had one I didn’t like.
The album “Tommy” by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff, with some help from John Entwistle and Keith Moon was released in 1969. It was the first in a series of top ten albums that the band would enjoy. A concert version of the album was originally staged in 1971 at the Seattle Opera with Bette Midler blowing off the roof double-cast as Mrs. Walker and the Acid Queen.
The Who performed Tommy during their 1989 reunion tour at the Universal Amphitheater with Phil Collins as Uncle Ernie, Elton John himself as The Pinball Wizard and Billy Idol, who stole the show with his manic Cousin Kevin.
But it wasn’t until 1992 that the stage version appeared with its world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. This version is much more faithful to the ’69 album. And if you’re only familiar with “Tommy” from the 1975 Ken Russell film, then there are some surprises. I would ruin them by telling you what they are.
“Tommy” is an iconic show, which has seen iconic stars perform it: Rod Stewart, Richie Havens, Ringo Star, Elton John, Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle and Ann-Margret for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. So it takes chutzpa for a company of young performers in a small theatre off Western Avenue to consider undertaking it – that alone deserves praise.
The cast throws themselves into the show. Jess Ford as Tommy has the presence and panache that the role demands, as well as a set of pipes equal to the task. Geoffrey Going is grandly grim-visaged as Captain Walker and brings a striking sense of angst to his performance. Karl Maschek is the very picture of an Amber Alert as the fiddling Uncle Ernie, and his “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” gives the show one of its standout moments when it puts you back on your heels. As Cousin Kevin, Andy Scott Harris is very nicely nasty. There are a good number of talented folks who support this production exceedingly well – Nik Roybal, Matt O’Neill, Samantha Mills, Chris Kerrigan and Brittany Rodin among them.
Marco Gomez and Dolf Romas of the Doma Theatre Company are doing L.A. a great service twice over. First by giving “up-and-coming talent” a chance to earn their chops (part of their mission statement), and also by extending the city the opportunity of experiencing some great musicals they’d otherwise might not have a chance to see.
It’s a great show, and this is a fine production. So smile L.A., “Tommy” is back in town with all the groovy tunes. Now if we could get bell bottoms and free love to return that would be like outta sight!
The Who’s Tommy
DOMA Theatre Co. @ The MET Theatre
1089 N. Oxford Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90029
Fridays @ 8 pm: April 6, 13
Saturdays @ 8 pm: April 7, 14
Sundays @ 3 pm: April 1, 8, 15
General Admission: $30
VIP: $34.99 (includes preferred seating plus one snack and one drink)
Seniors and students with ID: $20
Secure, on-site parking: $5