After the success of last year’s Brock musical “American Idiot”, Brock Musical Theatre (BMT) brings to its stage the legendary rock opera from one of the greatest bands of all time: The Who’s Tommy. With impressive acting, tight harmonies and killer music, this show was something special.
“Tommy was a choice my creative team and I thought long and hard about,” said Evan Vatri, President of Brock Musical Theatre. “Essentially, Tommy is a story about a child with a disability more or less overcoming his problems in a way that changes his life and his family’s lives forever.”
Tommy was first released as a concept album in 1969 before becoming a film and eventually a musical, with words and music written by The Who’s guitarist Pete Townshend.
In the rock opera, Tommy witnesses his mother’s boyfriend being murdered by the biological father Tommy didn’t know he had, and is then sexually assaulted by his uncle when his parents leave them alone together. Since witnessing this murder, he loses the ability to see, hear and speak. After being bullied by his cousin and the kids at school, his parents take him to several doctors that can’t find what is wrong with him and they take him to a gypsy that ‘makes him a man’ so to speak. Even this cannot free him from his traumatic state.
Eventually, he is freed by staring into his own reflection in a mirror that his mother breaks in frustration. His new found perspective attracts followers which eventually reject him and he returns to his former state.
The music in this show is incredible. The pit band for the rock opera includes drums, bass, two guitarists, piano, synth and violin. I caught up with one of the guitarists, Quentin Wilson, before the show.
“The whole musical is constructed from the perspective of a guitarist, it’s Pete Townshend, so the whole thing kind of appeals to me that way,” said Wilson.
In this show, the band is not simply adding filler. The band is just as important as the cast, and they delivered spectacularly. From sensitive piano and violin numbers, to hard hitting drums and distorted guitar power anthems, the music in this show has everything you’d expect from The Who.
Even more impressive was how in tune the cast and band were considering they were separated by a wall. Sudden stops and starts, shifting time signatures and abrupt changes in tempo seemed to happen on a dime and both the cast and the band were all on board.
“The way the band ties in, it ties in everywhere,” Quentin said. “We’re all the sound effects and everything, all the cues start with the band except literally one…the band is integral.”
The harmonies in this musical were on point. The harmonies were complicated but everyone, down to the youngest actors on stage, pulled it off and achieved a very full sound.
“We got the scores and learned all of the music in one weekend,” says Vocal Director Mason Micevskim. “A lot of [it] actually was reworking the breakdown of the harmonies in the score. A lot of the time it was written basically but very aggressive for the singers. Everything was way too high … as [it was] written.” This did not show at all. Every part seemed perfect for each singer and every part of each harmony came together well.
In terms of acting, I was very impressed. Vatri said “this year we had young children in the show, so that’s a first for BMT and we’re very proud of that. We’re branching out, not only in our university community but the community at large.
As president that’s something that I wanted to stress, I wanted to say that we’re not just here to produce an excellent show. We’re also here for community engagement and getting people from a younger age interested in theatre, also maybe even interested in Brock later down the road.”
The younger actors performed seamlessly with the rest of the cast and it was refreshing to see people of different ages in a university production.
Across the board, the audience seemed to have a ball. BMT should be proud of a great production such as this.
-Luke Webster, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor