Advance Weekly Entertainment (AWE) section
October 15, 2009
WAGNER SEES, FEELS THE WHO'S 'TOMMY'
By Jodi Lee Reifer, Advance Theater Writer
Advance photo by Michael McWeeney:
Christopher DeRosa and Stephanie Gaertner in a scene from Wagner College's production of The Who's "Tommy."
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The Who’s angst-driven rock opera “Tommy” was born to electrify stages.
In director Scott Barnhardt’s capable hands, the Wagner College production currently on its Main Stage, does nothing less.
The musical based on the Who’s album inspired an Oscar-nominated film adaptation in 1975, but it didn’t open on Broadway until 1993. It ran for 928 performances with music and lyrics by Pete Townsend and a book by Des McAnuff.
The show’s namesake central figure is a deaf, dumb and blind boy tormented by cruel teenagers and an abusive uncle. His mother and her lover have asked Tommy to keep quiet about his father’s murder, spurring him into a catatonic state. Becoming a pinball wizard allows him to break free of his catatonia, essentially saving his life. While senior theatre majors Stephanie Gaertner, as the mother, and Christopher DeRosa, as her lover, are particularly solid vocalists and actors, the strength in this production lies in its cumulative effect.
From the immersive lighting by Vicki Neal to the sharp choreography by Michael A. Blackmon to the perfectly timed musical direction by Lauri Young, the production simply rocks.
Rarely did the band overpower the microphoned actors, despite some technical problems with the sound on opening night. Gaertner and DeRosa’s voices blend in sweet harmonies. Many of the ensemble members shine in solos on the rousing “Tommy Can You Hear Me?” and the pulsating “Pinball Wizard.”
The younger actors who play the title character, Dominique Antonia Treglia (wearing an impressive wig to transform herself into a 4-year-old boy) and Michael Perugglia as 10-year-old Tommy, do an admirable job of portraying the character in his mental isolation. They never drop their blank faces until their solos on the “See Me, Feel Me” reprise in the second act. As the adult Tommy, Jason Garrison, also a senior theatre major, easily pulls off the physical exuberance called for by the part.
Also of note is the set. Like many Broadway shows of late, the Wagner production unfolds on various levels of scaffolding. Even the pinball machine is made of scaffolding, which works particularly well when the typical-sized machine is swapped for a larger-version that served as a staircase in previous scenes. Difficult to imagine?
Don’t imagine. See the show. If the contagious beats and high production values don’t pull you in, the cheering audience will.
When: 8 p.m. Oct.14-17; 2 p.m. Oct. 17-18
Where: Main Stage, Wagner College, 631 Howard Ave., Grymes Hill
Tickets: $14-$27. Call the box office at 718-390-3259
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