by Martin Brady
Tommy in Concert
When: Continues through Sunday, Feb. 26
Where: Street Theatre Company at 1933 Elm Hill Pike
Some of us are old enough to remember that moment when an older, musically hip sister placed a needle on a vinyl record and said, “Listen to this … ” That’s how I first heard the 1969 rock opera Tommy: a compelling drama driven solely by music — no video, no cable TV, no movie, no YouTube. The Who’s music alone was enough to drive the story of the “deaf, dumb and blind kid,” with Pete Townshend’s guitar work and Roger Daltrey’s blistering vocals electrifying a generation. Subsequent stage mountings and a 1975 Ken Russell film (from which we've pasted the notoriously insane clip above) helped to hype the Tommy franchise.
Nashville’s latest encounter with the work will be this concert version at Street Theatre Company, produced in what director Cathy Street calls the “neo-apocalyptic/steampunk arena.” (Steampunk, for those who aren’t into sci-fi or fantasy, is a somewhat broad literary subgenre where anachronistic technology merges with alternate historical periods. The speculative fiction of William Gibson is a likely progenitor.) So we can expect some kind of time-travel here in the story of the young pinball wizard.
As long as the music’s performed faithfully, the visual aspect may even be irrelevant: You can simply close your eyes and listen. The production features Holly Shepherd as Mrs. Walker, Ben Van Diepen as Capt. Walker and Michael Holder in the title role. We feel certain any of them will do better than this guy: