Another review for Washington Tommy

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Mon Jul 26 06:45:13 CDT 2004

And a pretty funny one from The Washington Times at:

No rock or roll in flat 'Tommy'
By Jayne Blanchard

Ever wondered what "The Who's Tommy" would be like
performed by the New Christy Minstrels? Look no
further than the Studio Theatre's production, which
has all the grit and street cred of an Aaron Carter
appearance at the mall. 
    It's not an ice cream social by the Sweet
Adelines, for pity's sake; it's a rock musical, one
that blazed out of the imagination of Pete Townshend
in 1969 and redefined what rock 'n' roll could
achieve. Many have toyed with the rock-musical format,
but few have reached the transcendent heights of
"Tommy" and Mr. Townshend's other work,

    The musical tells the story of Tommy (Yuval
Samburski), who is shocked into an autistic state
after witnessing his father, Captain Walker (Larry
Baldine), shoot his mother's lover in cold blood.
Seemingly deaf, dumb and blind, Tommy is unreachable
even by his mother (Maddy Wyatt). Everything —
doctors, sex, drugs — is tried until his affinity for
pinball and his reflection in the mirror lead him to
freedom and fame. 
    For the 35th anniversary of "Tommy," which was
made into a Tony-winning stage musical in 1993 (and a
hallucinatory movie by Ken Russell in 1975 that
featured the sight of a singing Jack Nicholson and Ann
Margaret wallowing around in a vat of baked beans),
Studio has put the Pinball Wizard in a pair of
Depends, traded in the Acid Queen's potion for a can
of Ensure, and rendered Cousin Kevin in dire need of
some Centrum Silver. 
    In short, this is the AARP version of "Tommy,"
weird when you consider that the production features a
cast so young they probably wouldn't know Roger
Daltrey from Roger Clemens. 
    The normally bombastic score, played by a
five-piece group that puts you in mind of a wimpy '70s
cover band booked at Jaxx in Springfield, is played so
tentatively and at a lite-rock pace you keep waiting
for Zamfir to stroll in and play "We're Not Gonna Take
It" on the pan flute. 
    Crank up the volume, get some momentum going,
    The cast and chorus, clad in squeaky-clean
sportswear that fairly screams "Gap," take their cues
from the band, performing with all the sizzle of the
Whiffenpoofs singing every chorus of "Grandma's
Feather Bed." When not exhibiting the robotic pep you
usually associate with theme park entertainment, they
execute choreography that lends considerable credence
to the stereotype that Caucasians are rhythm-impaired.

    Director Keith Alan Baker has stripped "Tommy"
down to the music and some flashing white lights (the
set, however, by Giorgos Tsappas, recalls Andy
Warhol's Factory with its blinding white Plexiglas
-and-silver-disc decor) and in the process, reduced it
to a lackluster oldies show. None of the electricity
and anarchic energy of the original "Tommy" is evident
in Studio's production. 
    There is a general lack of charisma throughout,
but the actor playing Tommy is noticeably wan, despite
the fact that he has the dewy, doe-eyed look of the
pop star Prince in his "Purple Rain" days. Mr.
Samburski has projection and pitch problems, as do
many cast members. 
    "Tommy" briefly sputters to life in the Sally
Simpson number, in which Maya Lynn Robinson and
Jeffery Peterson display some much-needed attitude and
spunk. But it's too little, too late. "Tommy" may be
deaf, dumb, and blind, but he isn't a gum-puss. 
    WHAT: "The Who's Tommy," by Pete Townshend and Des
    WHERE: Studio Theatre, 1333 P Street NW 
    WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 7:30
p.m. Sundays. Through Aug. 8. 
    TICKETS: $30 
    PHONE: 202/332-3300 

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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