The Who’s "Tommy"
Entr’Acte Theatrix is presenting "The Who’s Tommy" as their second offering at the Crest Theater at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts.
"Tommy" began in 1969 as a concept album by The Who and has evolved over the years into its current stage version which was originally presented on Broadway in 1991. Under normal circumstances, it is a moving rock opera that can take the audience through a lot of different emotions as it tells its story of an emotionally scarred child who grows up deaf, dumb and blind but eventually breaks free from the terrors that scarred him and becomes a pinball champion.
This production of this groundbreaking work, however, is diappointing. Entr’Acte’s mission statement is to combine young high school age performers with theatrical professionals to serve as a bridge from "classroom to career." But as it played last Friday night, they have a lot of work to do to get to the professional levels.
Because of the numerous technical issues, it is difficult to evaluate the performances of the actors. The stage monitors were either not working or in the wrong positions because the evening was filled with off-key singing that can only be explained by the actors not being able to hear the pit band. This, combined with microphones going in and out throughout the course of the evening and a very poor mix of sound fed through the speakers to the audience, made the show also mostly unintelligible.
Alexander Zenoz in the role of Tommy, Alexa Baray in the role of Mrs. Walker and Sean Dorazio in the role of Captain Walker had strong voices. They were the most accurate throughout the evening, although by the end of the evening Zenoz’s voice was showing noticeable signs of strain.
David Lamphier gave the audience a rather unmemorable Uncle Ernie. Ashley Gravlin tried her best with the Acid Queen but her performance of this classic song was hampered by a wig that made her look more like Cousin It than a prostitute.
Brady Miller’s sound design and the microphones were a serious problem throughout the evening. The sound quality at its best was mushy with words, even during spoken dialogue, being difficult to understand. The actors neglected the cardinal rule, which is ’If you are wearing a body mic, assume that it is on and live.’ In Act One at the end of a big number that ended in a blackout, a performer had a mishap coming off stage and the audience heard someone (not the performer in question) say, clearly, ’Oh, shit!’, which of course caused the audience to laugh.
Then in Act Two, during an emotionally charged scene, someone off stage with a live mic decided to give notes to another actor which came out loud and clear over the speakers; louder in fact than the dialogue that was happening on stage.
Musical director Roger Blankenship led the six-piece combo band in a rendition of this rock opera that was closer to lounge music than either rock and roll or opera. The tempos had no drive and the pacing overall seemed slow.
Stage director Kevin Black was also responsible for the choreography and scenic design, all of which looked mostly identical to the 1991 Broadway version and several other productions that are available to watch on YouTube. The production made use of rented projections, which is fine, but over all there was no cohesive concept for the show and frequently the cast seemed encumbered by the numerous doors and other pieces of scenery that floated on and off stage.
There was a particularly memorable moment in Act One when one of the stage doors that was to represent the Walker household was determined to stay open, much to the chagrin of the actors on stage.
The program lists no costume designer and this is obvious when looking at the actors. Pants with hems too high, pants with hems too long and dragging the floor and a mishmash of styles that made no sense are just a few examples of what the audiences were treated to. Several of the women looked attractive, but overall there was, once again, no cohesion to the design process.
As a theater professional, if you desire to teach young people to love working in the theater, it is your responsibility to make sure that you teach them to do things the right way. If this is an example of what Entr’Acte Theatrix strives to teach, then the audiences of South Florida are in for some serious trouble and these youngsters are going to get a shock if they ever end up performing with a professional company.
"The Who’s Tommy" runs through Oct. 27 at the Crest Theater at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts 51 N Swinton Ave in Delray Beach, FL 33444. For tickets and information, call 561-243-7922 or visit www.entractetheatrix.org.