Missouri Street Theatre is now unquestionably the theatrical gold standard in Solano County. Their current production, “The Who’s Tommy” joins a long list of killer shows including “Les Miserables,” “Chess in Concert,” and “Legally Blonde the Musical,” to name a few.
“Tommy” began as a double album in 1969 by British rockers The Who and was the first recorded rock opera. In 1975 a film based on the album was released and in 1992 it was adapted into a Broadway show that won numerous awards including five Tonys.
Missouri Street Theatre’s production from start to finish is a rockin’ triumph.
The story is basically about a “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who got that way through post traumatic stress and how he then relates to the world around him.
The overture kicked off the show and the nine-piece orchestra absolutely nailed it. In my review of Missouri Street Theatre’s “Peter Pan” a couple of months ago, I bade conductor Cynthia Cook-Heath a fond farewell as that was to be her last show, but she was thankfully back doing the current one. It is fitting as The Who had a farewell tour in 1982 and are having another one next year.
Director Dae Spering (with assistant director Courtney King) masterfully wove together the diverse elements of the show by relying on very talented people including Staci Arriaga (choreography), Jeff Bristow (stage manager), Gina Coyle (costume design), Craig Scharfen (lighting design) and many more, too numerous to list.
In lesser hands, such a tricky production could have been a disaster, but the seamless show that the audience experienced is evidence of talented seamstresses.
Billed as Soundy McMicrophone in the program, Mike Meszaros, gets a standing O for the sound design. It is due not only for balancing so many different microphoned performers and musicians, but also deftly incorporating incredibly layered sound effects which, when coupled with the onstage action and music, sucked in the audience completely from the moment the curtain rose.
I have come to expect a strong cast in Missouri Street Theatre productions and have never been disappointed. In addition to performers I have enjoyed in past shows, including the ever-awesome Scott Woodard (Captain Walker), versatile Curt Thompson (Lover, Hawker), energetic Ethan Thomas Bell (Cousin Kevin), and, of course, effervescent Dae Spering herself (Mrs. Walker), there were new talented faces gracing the stage.
Jim Nassef, who plays the adult Tommy/Narrator, was one most welcome new face and voice. Spoiler alert – the narrator flies in several times in the beginning of the show (kudos to flight crew Charlie Snow and Anthony Lucido) and while I have heard some amazing singing on that stage, I have never heard amazing singing while someone is being suspended by cables several feet off the ground and spinning as Nassef pulled off in “Amazing Journey.” He gave a splendid performance as did the two younger versions of Tommy played by Tatum Newell and Roses Newell.
Kate Richardson killed it as the Queen in Missouri Street Theatre’s “Once Upon a Mattress” in December and was back singing “The Acid Queen” as The Gypsy in the current show. I can try to describe the miles of flaming hair and the steamy black and purple outfit accessorized with thigh-high white leather boots she wore while belting out her lone song, but you kinda have to see it to appreciate what a commanding figure she cut.
The entire cast from leads to ensemble presented the tale of the catatonic gamer through superb singing, exquisite costumes (nurses, soldiers, choirs, oh my!) and lively, exuberant dancing. Having so many well-known songs such as “See Me, Feel Me,” “I’m Free” and of course “Pinball Wizard” helps, but it is all about seizing that live moment and delivering, and they did.
Whether you are old enough to have seen the actual The Who perform the songs from “Tommy” at Woodstock or you only know The Who songs as the themes of various incarnations of “CSI” – be prepared to have your socks rocked off.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Who’s Tommy”
Missouri Street Theatre production
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 8-9, Aug. 15-16
6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10 and Aug. 17
Fairfield Center for Creative Arts, 1035 Texas St.
four stars out of four