Raves for Palomar Tommy

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 10 07:15:56 CST 2005

>From the North County Times at:

Ambitious Palomar production pays faithful homage to

By: RANDY DOTINGA - For the North County Times 

Back in 1969, "Tommy" was just a stunning double
album, a compilation of songs about a deaf, dumb blind
kid who played a mean pinball. Then the early rock
opera morphed into a symphony, a movie and a musical
(the La Jolla Playhouse-born "The Who's Tommy,"
becoming more spectacular in every incarnation until
it hit Broadway with more pyrotechnics than the

Amid all the fireworks, it might be easy to forget
Tommy, the character at the center of all the fuss.
But in a powerful and moving production of "The Who's
Tommy," which closes next weekend, an ambitious
Palomar College troupe keeps the focus where it
belongs ---- on a boy's remarkable journey. 

The appropriately named Tom Zohar, who drew raves last
year in the North Coast Repertory Theatre's
performance of "The Chosen," is perfect as the older
Tommy. Boasting an expressive face and eyes, Zohar
reveals himself to be both a capable singer and a
loose-bodied actor, adeptly switching from hip-shaking
pinball wizard to joyful escaped mind prisoner ("I'm
Free") to sexy rock star.

Two other actors also play Tommy, a British boy who
literally loses his senses after watching his father
shoot his mother's lover. The charming Jonas Mufson,
who just celebrated his eighth birthday, mostly
manages to keep a straight face while being manhandled
onstage, while Amy Roy brings an entrancing open-eyed
blankness to her portrayal of a catatonic 10-year-old
Tommy and holds her own on the singing front.

The three Tommys, along with a sprawling cast of 28
other actors, play out their roles on a colorful and
jam-packed, multiilevel stage. The choreography,
lighting and 1950s-era costumes are all fine, while
the top-notch band, conducted by Robert Gilson, rocks
the rafters of the Howard Brubeck Theatre during the
two-hour, 15-minute show.

Unfortunately, the performance was plagued by audio
problems last weekend, and many singing voices failed
to make themselves heard under the rock 'n' roll

Acting standouts include Greg Starkey, as Tommy's
mean-spirited cousin, and the very busy Donald McKee,
who hilariously loses his head ---- or at least his
wig ---- in a short but delightful performance as a
Gypsy in the famous "Acid Queen" scene. (Kudos to the
costume crew for the Gypsy outfits.)

Much of the credit for the success of "Tommy" belongs
to director Jennifer Young Sager, who had been
thinking about putting on "The Who's Tommy" for two
years and buried herself in books and other materials
to gain an understanding of the musical. In creating a
fresh vision, it probably helped that she didn't see
the 1993 Broadway version, created by Peter Townshend
and the La Jolla Playhouse's Des McAnuff. This "Tommy"
is big and proud, but manages ---- at least most of
the time ---- to avoid overreaching.

Sager put the cast through grueling rehearsals, as
many as 25 hours a week, but the huge smiles on the
exhausted faces of the actors and crew in an
after-show Q&A revealed that they wouldn't have missed
a minute of it. Considering their cohesiveness and
high morale, it's no wonder that "Tommy" succeeds.

"The Who's Tommy" 
When: 8 p.m. March 10-12; 2 p.m. March 13 
Where: Howard Brubeck Theatre, Palomar College, 1140
W. Mission Road, San Marcos 
Tickets: $14, general; $12, seniors; $10, students 
Info: (760) 744-1150, Ext. 2453

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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