REVIEW: Tommy, New Wolsey Theatre ✭✭✭✭✭

Tommy UK Tour

Julian Capolei, William Grint and Matthew Jacobs Morgan in Tommy.

Tommy
New Wolsey Theatre
4 April 2017
5 Stars
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Ramps on the Moon is a large-scale national project grown from a long collaboration between the new Wolsey Theatre and Graeae, a disabled-led theatre company. I still have fond memories of their archaic Threepenny Opera at this venue a few years ago, and Tommy does not disappoint. The story of the deaf, dumb and blind boy who sure plays a mean pinball is perfect for this company, who storm the Wolsey stage and electrify the atmosphere! With a tremendous band and excellent singing, the production is superbly directed by Kerry Michael, and the set design by Neil Irish is astonishing, revealing delights as the play goes on, one highlight being a huge pinball machine created out of chairs.

Tommy UK Tour

Shekinah McFarlane, Lukus Alexander, Julian Capolei and Natasha Julien in Tommy

Tommy is traumatised by witnessing the murder of his father by his stepfather when he was a child, and locks himself away in a non- speaking and non hearing world until the mirror is smashed, and he becomes free to be the Pinball Wizard. As Tommy, William Grint is by turns poignantly heart breaking and then a strong leader, beautifully responding to the abuse and horrors he experiences. As Captain Walker, Max Runham has a superb voice, and the connection between him and Tommy is incredibly strong. Standout performances come from Donna Mullings as Nora and Shekinah McFarlane as the voice of Nora, (spine tingling vocals), and Alim Jayda as Frank, and Garry Robson a suitably sleazy Uncle Ernie! Just when you are loving the terrific ensemble, on struts Peter Straker as the Acid Queen and tears the house up!

Tommy UK Tour

Max Runham as Captain Walker and the company of Tommy.

The pace is excellent, and, although the musical itself dips a little in the second half, and perhaps doesn’t have the emotional punch of other shows, the rise and fall of Tommy as a guru and Christ figure is handled very well.  On press night some technical aspects hadn’t quite caught up with the energy of the cast, but this will be seamless very soon! The show begins with a montage of images of life for disabled people now, including Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter and the effects of the Tories devastating benefit cuts, back through time and attitudes. We are going to have to find a new word for disabled, as this company rubs the President’s face in that word. This is a wonderful production- feel it, hear it, but, above all, SEE IT!

Photos: Mike Kwasniak

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