Tommy with the steak

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Fri Mar 4 18:09:18 CST 2005

>From the North County Times of San Diego:

Who's next?: Palomar takes on 'Tommy'

As a new member of Palomar College's drama department
adjunct faculty, Jennifer Young Sager began attending
staff meetings by sitting quietly in the back. Then
one day someone mentioned that it had been two years
since the college had produced a musical, and she
could no longer keep quiet.

"I said we needed to do one and that I would direct
it," said Sager, a Ramona resident. "I love musicals
because they enrich my life." 

Then came the twist ---- the show the department chose
was "The Who's Tommy," first performed at the La Jolla
Playhouse before going to Broadway.
"It's the show that many theaters in San Diego won't
touch because Des McAnuff's production was so
wonderful," she said. "But we're a department that
prides itself on taking risks. And this seemed like
the best show for this school at this time. It's
risky. It's controversial. I liked the idea of doing a
show that no one has the moxie to do."

"Tommy" is based on the 1969 rock album by the Who. In
the '90s, the Who's Pete Townshend and McAnuff crafted
a stage version of the album that bridges traditional
theater and the experimental world of rock. The
musical tells the story of a troubled boy in England
who witnesses a murder and becomes catatonic. He then
suffers abuse by sadistic family members. While his
parents try to draw him out of his silent world, it's
only when he discovers an incredible talent for
playing pinball that he finds himself once again.

"It's about forgiveness, redemption and loving people
even if they hurt you," Sager said. "It's about
looking in the mirror and facing facts. It's a musical
that just gets under your skin."

However, there are quite a few challenges in staging
the production, starting with the accents.

"They're high British, middle British and Cockney,"
she said. "Then there's the pyrotechnics, the
revolving stage, things that appear and disappear and
trapdoors. We have none of those. We have scaffolding
to put the band onstage, so it's like another

It helped that Sager had never seen a production of
the show.

"I'm a huge fan of Des and Pete Townshend, but I was
at USC when they did the show here," she said.

So she felt free to re-envision the look of the show.

"We want audiences to embrace a new telling of it.
This is our production, our retelling of it."

Adding to her excitement is having Palomar student Tom
Zohar in the title role. Zohar made his professional
debut in North Coast Repertory's "The Chosen."

"He's extra special," she said. "He's going places."

She feels the same way about this production.

"With other productions, people were blown away by the
pyrotechnics and the sizzle but wanted to know where
the steak was," she said. "I want this production to
move people, to get them closer to their spiritual
selves and forgive those who hurt them."

-Brian in Atlanta
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