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Tommy review at Kings Theatre Glasgow

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Crowd-pleasing and well aware of its strengths, the latest incarnation of the Who’s rock opera is looking its age, despite a cracking ensemble cast and design from Andy Walmsley which provides all the right suggestions while letting the plot move along at pace.

The ageing effect is firstly down to the writing. For almost an hour the production whizzes along so fast that it all seems like an introduction. Which, when you hear Pinball Wizard for the first time, you realise it is. Yet it is still screaming out for someone to let rip with a big, bombastic rock aria long before the Wizard chords are finally heard in full.

The real problem is the casting of Jonathan Wilkes in the title role. A consummate performer who can lift a crowd, he might be but despite his ability to engage as a nervy Christ-figure, his creation of the catatonic Tommy pre-pinball lacks any edge. Indeed, Brian Joseph McCann as Tommy age ten has a better take on this – and a better voice for it.

The storytelling is at least clear. Vivienne Carlyle as Mrs Walker, Damien Edwards as Captain Walker and Tom Newman as vile Uncle Ernie all create and sustain strong characters right to the end. Andy Crawford is rather less successful as Cousin Kevin, never really getting his teeth into this juicy role.

It is great to hear The Who’s music played live. But this Tommy is not nearly raw enough. And it needs to be at least ten decibels louder.

Production Information

King’s Theatre, Glasgow, March 28-April 2, then touring

Music and Lyrics
Pete Townshend
Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
Guy Retallack and Keith Strachan
Bill Kenwright
Jonathan Wilkes, Vivienne Carlyle, Damien Edwards, Tom Newman, Brian Joseph McCann
Running Time
2hrs 5mins

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