Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Who's rock opera Tommy opens Thursday by Laura Stradiotto of the Sudbury Star

Theatre Cambrian presents the first ever rock opera that captivated a generation and changed the musical landscape forever. 

Based on The Who's 1969 concept album, Tommy tells the story of a boy traumatized into catatonia after witnessing a murder and, despite years of abuse, goes on to become an international pinball star. 

The Who's Tommy runs Thursdays to Sundays Feb. 12 to 28. 

For its 30th anniversary Theatre Cambrian is revisiting some of the great musicals it produced over the years, including Tommy. 

"It's got the rock and roll vibe that you can't make up, and thankfully The Who has it," said director Mark Mannisto. "If it wasn't for this show, there would be no Jesus Christ Superstar, there would be no American Idiot or Rocky. This was the birth of the rock and roll opera." 

Mannisto enjoys directing rock operas because these types of shows create a natural connection with the audience. 

"It allows you to feel the full gamut of emotions when watching theatre," he said. 

The cast features Andrew Desabrais as Tommy, Jeff Burton as Mr. Walker, Elena Papillo-Martin as Mrs. Walker and Sylvie Gravelle as the Acid Queen. 

"The biggest challenge," said Mannisto, "is ensuring everyone takes something away from the show. It's rock and roll, but it isn't a fluffy, fun musical. It's really hard hitting." 

Mannisto said he wanted to stage scenes in a way that are true to the original production, but, at the same time, he didn't want to "cross the line." 

The same goes for the actors and the strides taken to create authentic characters, he said. 

"Most people saw the movie production of Tommy that came out in the late 70s," said Mannisto. "It was a bizarre film: you have Tina Turner as the Acid Queen, Elton John as the pinball wizard." 

But those over-the-top characters have to be genuine, he said. 

While Mannisto hasn't modernized the classic rock musical, he made it so it could take place anytime. 

Mannisto said that while the show is suitable for all audiences, he cautions people to become familiar with the story. 

"You're not coming to see Disney or something that is going to be light. If you are coming here to see a night of rock and roll and true theatre, then you're going to walk away extremely pleased." 

Theatre Cambrian presents The Who’s Tommy

 - Feb. 12-28
 - Showtimes are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
 - Sunday Feb. 15 is pay-what-you-can
 - For tickets, call the box office at 705-524-7317

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