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Tommy review at New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich – ‘a revelatory staging’

The Who’s Tommy – the original rock opera – is a sprawling, kaleidoscopic storytelling experience. So it makes sense for Kerry Michael’s staging – a co-production between the New Wolsey Theatre and disabled theatre consortium Ramps on the Moon – to be sprawling and kaleidoscopic too. And, brilliantly, liberatingly, it is.

The concept is inspired. A musical about a young child shocked into “deafness, dumbness and blindness” by the death of his dapper RAF dad, staged by disabled and non-disabled performers. Michael’s cast – some in wheelchairs, some with hearing aids, some voiced by back-up singers – knock the stuffing out of Pete Townshend’s score, finding layer upon layer of parallelism without ever sacrificing drama or drive.

William Grint is remarkable in the title role, investing the traumatised Tommy with oceans of emotion yet barely saying a word. Max Runham is equally good as the charismatic, compassionate ghost of his father, as is Alim Jayda as his weaselly stepdad, Frank. Sublime voices abound, particularly from Runham, from Shekinah McFarlane, who voices Donna Mullings’ Nora, and from original cast member Peter Straker, who’s Acid Queen – a jaded, over-the-hill drag act – is revelatory.

It’s all brought together in spectacular style on Neil Irish’s folding, projection-splashed, metallic set, with Mark Smith’s choreography – an exuberant extrapolation of sign language – ensuring accessibility for all. An eye-opening, awe-inspiring, extraordinary evening.

 

Verdict
An exuberant, inclusive and revelatory staging of Pete Townshend's classic rock opera 

Production

Production
Tommy
Venue
New Wolsey Theatre
City
Ipswich
Starts
March 30, 3017
Ends
April 15, 2017, then touring until July 1
Press night
April 4, 2017
Book
Pete Townshend, Des McAnuff
Music
Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Keith Moon
Lyrics
Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Keith Moon
Director
Kerry Michael
Musical director
Robert Hyman
Choreographer
Mark Smith
Set
Neil Irish
Lighting
Arnim Friess
Sound
Andrew Johnson
Video
Arnim Friess
Technical
Paul Sirett (dramaturg), Jeni Draper, Daryl Jackson (BSL creative consultants), Bret Yount (fight director), David Young (creative assistant), Nikki Charlesworth (creative design assistant)
Cast includes
Lukus Alexander, Becky Barry, Julian Capolei, Amelia Cavallo, Stacey Ghent, William Grint, Robert Hyman, Matthew Jacobs-Morgan, Alim Jayda, Natasha Julien, Adam Langstaff, Natasha Lewis, Shekinah McFarlane, Donna Mullings, Tony Qunta, Garry Robson, Max Runham, Hearns Sebuado, Steve Simmons, Anthony Snowden, Peter Straker, Amy Trigg
Casting
Polly Jerrold
Producer
New Wolsey Theatre, Ramps on the Moon
Running time
2hrs 20mins