★★★★ thrilling and emotional
One of the most influential UK rock and roll bands, The Who were formed in 1964 in Shepherd’s Bush, London. In 1969 The Who created a unique concept album called Tommy, and it quickly became a cultural fete. In 1975, Ken Russell adapted the album into one of the best and biggest films with an all-star cast starring Tina Turner, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Jack Nicholson, and more.
New Wolsey Theatre and Ramps on the Moon collaborated to bring to life Tommy The Musical to the main stage as a daring musical. The Who’s Tommy musical was a sad, gritty and powerful tale about a boy who is ‘deaf, blind and dumb’ and at the mercy of Uncle Ernie (Garry Robson) who ‘fiddled about’ with him at night; Cousin Kevin (Lukus Alexander) who bullied and taunted Tommy, and a thug of a stepdad Frank (Alim Jayda), relentlessly trying to ‘solve’ Tommy’s disabilities.
Tommy The Musical, directed by Kerry Michael, was extra special for it allowed the opportunity for actors who are D/deaf, disabled and non-disabled to work together to produce an eerie and fantastic production with all-audience accessibility. Through embedded audio description, creative captioning and integrated British Sign Language, everyone could engage and be a part of the musical.
Tommy (William Grint) was phenomenal. William really brought to life the chronicles of Tommy’s life and was sublime in the delivery. What Tommy went through, was hard and gruelling, and William did an amazing job showcasing the outcomes of so much abuse. His two voices (Julian Capolei and Matthew Jacobs-Morgan) were perfect for Tommy’s voice, in particular, Julian’s voice, which was so powerful and pleasing to the ear. Tommy’s mother, Nora (Donna Mullings) was also formidable, really conveying emotion without speaking a lot, and when she did, it was potent and emotionally charged. The best voice in the production was the actor playing Nora’s voice (Shekinah McFarlane).
The outstanding performer of The Who’s Tommy was Acid Queen (Peter Straker). In the film, Acid Queen is played Tina Turner, and for this production, it was a man dressed in drag, which was a very progressive touch to the production. Peter’s voice was stunning and his overall performance was commanding – this was the highlight for me.
This is an excellent idea, and we need to see more theatre productions reflecting stories through actors who are physically affected by the context of the plays.