Sunday, July 26, 2009

A tale of two Tommys

What the Dickens? How strange is it that two local productions of the old (ok, 17-year old) warhorse would have simultaneous runs in the same city? Well, truth is stranger than theater, and your intrepid reviewer made his inaugural visit to both houses, a week and less than a mile apart.

The City Lights version was really a bare bones affair, in an intimate, 108-seat venue. With a Union Jack backdrop on a minimalist stage, the cast was less than a couple of dozen. The standout of the evening was Isaac Benelli's "old" Tommy. He had a very athletic stage presence and handled the vocal duties with aplomb. However, the band left much to be desired--a weak performance punctuated by cringe-inducing bum notes throughout the show. Overall, the TSG assesment? Not bad.

What a difference a week made! The Children's Musical Theater production was more in the spirit of the original that TSG attended at the La Jolla Playhouse back in 1992. (which went on to Broadway and Tony recognition)

Despite the impression lent by the photo here, the opening night show played to a nearly full house. The atmosphere was completely different from the laid-back sense of "having seen it all before" crowd at City Lights. The patrons at the Montgomery Theater were excited to be there, and there was a definite buzz in the air.

TSG wasn't sure what to expect, but the under-18 cast put on one helluva show. It's a bit unfair to compare the two productions, but the CMT show stood head and shoulders above the version I saw the week before. The cast was uniformly excellent, and the orchestra was GOOD and LOUD. The staging effects were excellent, with the requisite rear projections, trap door appearances/disappearances, video feeds, and kaleidoscopic wardrobe changes facilitated by sliding screens. The TSG assessment: FANTASTIC!

1 comment:

Parm said...

An interesting peek into a sub-sub-sub genre of the theater - Tommy productions! Your biased reviews are always welcome, in part, because you wear your biases where all can see and hence allow others to calibrate your comments to something they might hold more akin to themselves. Thanks for the well-written insights and preceptions.