That Deaf Dumb and Blind Kid Sure Plays a Mean Pinball

Michael K. Lee asTommy

Last night, I got to see the final dress rehearsal of The Who’s TOMMY at the Village Theater in Issaquah. My mother-in-law got a couple of free passes because she’s working with the director on a separate project. There was no way to get a babysitter on such short notice, so that meant either Jules or I got to go. She’s not as big a Who fan as I am plus the theater is five minutes from my office, so I got to go.

Most people who know the show have either heard the album, seen the movie or both. Pete Townsend adapted it for Broadway in the early 90′s and I got to see it as it came through Washington DC on it’s way to New York. Suffice to say that the movie is very different from the stage show. It’s so different that the Village Theater specifically “does not recommend the film for previewing to gain an understanding of the stage version.”

If I had to pick, I like movie version more than the stage version. The stage arrangement of the music is orchestral, which I feels waters down the power of the music. This is most obvious on Eyesight to the Blind which was performed in the movie by Eric Clapton. The orchestral arrangement is barely recognizable as the same song in my opinion. The stage version also adds a new song – I Believe My Own Eyes – which I don’t very much.

However, if you look at it on it’s own, The Who’s TOMMY is a good show. It’s over the top, but for this show that works. Tommy’s journey from “deaf, dumb and blind kid” to “new Messiah” is even more appropriate today than it was in 1993 when the Broadway version premiered. At the time, Townsend got a lot of flak for the changes the show, but as he said “what’s actually changed is the times”.

While the show itself is over the top, this production is even more so. To quote from the flyer (which I can’t find online) everything is in nearly constant motion. Actors, set pieces and a huge video screen that dominates the stage. Again, given the show, it works. The cast was good – Michael Lee (pictured above) as Tommy was a particular stand out. There were a few rough spots in the large chorus numbers, but that’s to be expected in a dress rehearsal, right?

Bottom line, it’s a good show so if you live within driving distance of Issaquah, you should check it out. If you’re already Who fan, just be aware that it’s not supposed to be just like the movie…