I’d heard good things about The Who’s Tommy and after a flurry of five star reviews I was excited to see the show at the Greenwich Theatre. Produced by Aria Entertainment, Tommy is a rock opera based on The Who’s 1969 double album of the same name.
Tommy becomes deaf, dumb and blind after seeing his father shoot dead another man in a mirror. His quiet lonely life is fraught with horror, being abused by his uncle and bullied by his cousin, but he finds an outlet in pinball becoming a local champion and celebrity.
The thing that I found most striking about this production was the honesty and seriousness in its art. There was a feel of respect for the story and the cast flourished. There’s some difficult characterisation and symbolism here and the cast not only act and sing but also dance superbly. I wasn’t expecting the amount of movement and choreography the production had but I loved it.
Tommy rarely leaves the stage pulling the story around him and Ashley Birchall does this brilliantly. I like that they didn’t use a different child actor as the younger Tommy – you grew with the character and Ashley achieved an emotional connection, he’s a true acting talent. John Barr is a fantastically haunting Uncle Ernie, handling the role with care but also pushing the boundaries.
A real standout performer for me was Giovanni Spano as Cousin Kevin. He truly personified the bully of his character to the point where I felt he was staring me out even in the audience. He’s also a strong dancer – I was really impressed with his moves.
The music is outstanding, the band being on stage throughout wonderfully led by Kevin Oliver Jones. The score runs constantly which is frustrating when you want to applaud more than just at the end of each act, but there is such a respect for the piece that you don’t dare interrupt it. Very few performances can create this kind of atmosphere with an audience which is credit to not only the band but also the cast and creative team, particularly Michael Strassen.
I enjoyed watching this production at Greenwich. It’s a struggle as you feel this stunning version of the show deserves more than a couple of weeks at a regional theatre, but I can’t imagine it anywhere else. The staging works and the intimate surroundings involve and consume you in a complicated and difficult story.
This is an outstanding, thrilling and electrifying production and I’d highly recommend catching it before it’s last performance. You really need to see and feel this!