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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Tommy’ is a sensory experience

    I’ll admit that the only real familiarity that I have with The Who is the song “”Who Are You?”” by Pete Townshend, the theme song to “”C.S.I.”” But as most other people already know, Townshend’s talents do not stop at making hit songs. Townshend also wrote the music and story of “”Tommy,”” a play that takes you through the life of one boy who experiences more ups and downs than a soap opera.

    “”The Who’s Tommy,”” playing at UA’s Tornabene Theatre through April 29, tells the story of a little boy who becomes deaf, dumb and blind after witnessing a murder. In 1940, Tommy’s father returns home from World War II and finds his wife in the arms of another man. The father kills the man and then sings to Tommy, “”You didn’t hear it/You didn’t see it/You never heard it, not a word of it/You won’t say nothing to no one.””

    From then on until almost the end of the play, Tommy can neither see, nor talk or hear, but ironically spends most of his time staring into a mirror.

    Through various photo montages and words projected onto screens, the setting and actions of the actors are explained. The screens help because the play is quick-paced and often seems disjointed.

    Arizona Repertory Theatre presents “”Tommy”” to the audience as a packaged deal. While Kyle Harris does a good job as the lead character of the adult Tommy, the main attraction is how the entire cast works together through choreographed stage movements that intertwine with the music.

    The orchestra does a fantastic job as well, playing almost constantly as the highlight of the show. The musicians are like puppet masters for the actors, who dance and sing; albeit, their voices are mostly drowned out by the music. In fact, the lyrics to the songs often don’t even seem important (which is good because technical difficulties often make the words hard to decipher). The point seems to be the visual experience of music and choreography, sometimes with flashy props to add flair to the stage.

    The Tornabene Theatre probably isn’t the easiest theater to work with, as the stage is on the same level as the audience and in the center of the room. Still, there is an excellent use of space, especially in the first act when an open balcony doubles as the floor of an airplane, with actors jumping through an open board as if they’re parachuting.

    The performance as a whole works well. It takes the audience through a sensory experience that is unimaginable and unique, but with no real stand-out performances, except maybe from Alexandra Cockrell as 10-year-old Tommy and James Cockrell as 4-year-old Tommy. However, they hardly utter any dialogue. The play as a whole seems to take a giant leap, but fails to land flat on its feet at the edge of the crevice.

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