-Review by Britt Santowski, SPN
It’s more than obvious that an incredible amount of work went into the Sooke production of The Who’s TOMMY. The result is this must-see magical, musical extravaganza.
This Sooke Harbour Players production deviates slightly from the original in two ways.
First, there is the traumatic event that causes Tommy Walker to go into a catatonic state. In the original, it is Mrs. Walker’s lover who kills Tommy’s father; in this production, father Captain Walker (Mike Kelley) kills the lover. This shift is just an interesting observation and doesn’t interfere with the plot development at all.
Second, in casting Cousin Kevin (the peer bully), this Sooke production goes female: “Kevin” is played by Megan Einarsen. This casting makes perfect sense once you see her: Einarsen is instantaneously magnetic the second she appears on stage. An excellent choice.
Other characters that stood out included, Jennifer Wilde (Mrs. Walker) and the two younger Tommies, Theo Stolth and Nate Holmes. Besides being a strong singer, Wilde evoked empathy in her emotional journey as a young bride, a new mother and eventually, a worn soul. The youngest cast member at just seven, Stolth carried the transition from a playfully engaged Tommy to the catatonic shadow with clarity and ease. And Holmes stayed steady in his externally dis-engaged physical being, throughout the turbulent trials of sexual abuse, bullying and sexual enticement.
Dwayne Gordon who plays the lead role of Tommy has an incredibly rich voice. Gordon portrays the inner emotional life of the catatonic Tommy, and later very much alive cult-like superstar Tommy, with great power and projection.
Too many to mention individually (over 30 actors in all), the entire cast did an incredible job. From Captain Walker, Uncle Ernie and the Acid Queen to the soldiers, doctors, nurses, ladies of the evening, classmates and community members at large, there was not one singular performer who disappointed. Nevermind the solid two hours of music performed by the nine musicians, tucked in the corner but continually present throughout the entire performance. Those behind the scenes (including set design and costumes) worked hard to keep the sense of magic flowing seamlessly.
Two words of warning:[sam id=”15″ codes=”true”]First, be prepared for very, very loud music. At times, the music drowns out the vocals, even for strong singers like Jennifer Wilde. Dwayne Gordon, (adult Tommy) has incredible vocal projection, and he was the only singer able to sing consistently above the band. As wonderful as it was to have a live band performing, the space containing the sound seemed not quite big enough to hold it all, comfortably. At times, the band’s big sound was at the cost of characters’ vocals—especially when it came to the two younger Tommies.
Second, wear a sweater. No, make that two. That auditorium gets cold.
Ultimately, the presence of a full nine-person band, the talent of ALL 30+ players, and the hard work of the many behind the scenes more than compensates for these two small bothers. Truly, The Who’s TOMMY by the Sooke Harbour Players is an incredible amalgamation of talents from direction, music and choregraphy to top-notch acting, singing and dancing.
A memorable evening, guaranteed.
The show’s details
This rock opera next plays at the Edward Milne Theater:
- November 13 and 14 (7:00 p.m.)
- November 15 (2:00 p.m.)
- November 20 and 21 (7:00 p.m.)
Tickets available online at eventbrite.ca or at Shoppers Drug Mart and The Stick ($20/$16 for Seniors).
Also, bring your loonies! The concession stand is run in part by the Sooke Dance Studio and they are raising funds to get to Disneyland.