Few Broadway musicals have followed the route to ‘the great white way’ that The Who’s Tommy has, beginning as a rock band’s concept album and ending as a Tony Award-winning musical.  Since the initial La Jolla Playhouse run, and subsequent Broadway stage stint, professional and community theatre companies around the country have taken stabs at their own productions with mixed results. Rarely, if ever, does one see a ‘children’s theatre’ attack this complicated and mature piece, however,  I had the pleasure of being in attendance for the opening night performance of the third installment at the legendary Children’s Musical Theatre San Jose.  Not only did the young and energetic cast embody the spirit and heart of the show, but they made it clear to the audience why Artistic Director, and production Director/Choreographer, Kevin Hauge, would choose to make this show a staple with his company. 

I remember telling my high school drama teacher that I was set to see the original production when it was on tour in the mid-nineties and him responding that “I would learn more about technical theatre in the first twenty minutes of the show than I would in his class the entire year.”  Not only was that true for the original production, but also for the 2009 SJCMT production. The performance blended incredible rock and roll lights (designed by Ethan Hoerneman), innovative use of a moving set (designed by Jim Culley) and, reminiscent of the original production, brilliant use of multimedia screens to help tell the story (designed by Josh Miyaji). 

Anyone who is familiar with The Who’s original album, the stage production, or the even “trippier” motion picture knows that attempting to sum up the plot of this show in a “Cliff’s Note” version is a lost cause... but I will do the best I can.  The focus of the story is a boy named Tommy who, after witnessing a murder by his father while looking in a mirror, loses his function of sight and sound.  After some time passes, Tommy finds himself placed in front of a pinball machine at which it is discovered he is an absolute ‘wizard’.  Tommy’s parents bring him to doctors and specialists who attempt to ‘fix’ him but without reward.  Finally, in a moment of complete frustration, Tommy’s mother smashes the mirror which instantly awakens him from his illness.  Tommy’s talents and story bring him to rock star-like status whose celebrity attracts mobs of teens everywhere he goes.

The role of Tommy is traditionally played by three actors, each at different stages of his life.  Tommy at age 6, played by a charming little actor (Leo Lebedenko), is hard not to watch anytime he is onstage.  Tommy at age 10 (AJ Trapani) and grown up Tommy (Joey Piscane- whose Bono-like vocals also serve as the narrator of the show) bring to life this complicated character in unique ways and provide the audience a fresh new look at the title role.  Captain Walker’s (David Clift) high vocals soared in several key moments of the show (Clift reminded me of a young Robert Spencer who is currently playing the father in the Broadway production of Next to Normal . . .  a role Spencer received a Tony Nomination for and a role that Clift, no doubt, will play at some point in his career.)  Mrs. Walker (Joyah Spangler) had a believable maturity onstage as Tommy’s mother and Sally Simpson (Caroline Citelli) embraced the charming sparkle that makes her character memorable, despite its lack of stage time.  

A number of the most impressive performances came from actors in the ensemble. Officer #1 (Ted Sclavos) had a very strong voice and stage presence that blended wonderfully with his counterpart Officer #2 (Ryan Vasquez).  The Featured Lads (Glenn Delos Santos and Jason Sangalang) and The Featured Lasses (Kylie Brunngraber and Tiffany Tanquary) were energetic storytellers that added tremendous heart to the production, especially Tanquary whose strong dancing and stage presence were fun to watch.  Lastly, ensemble member and featured dancer Davelyn Couch, was an absolute standout with energy, commitment, and enthusiasm reminded this reviewer of Broadway Gypsy Jennifer Cody (currently in Shrek the Musical on Broadway and whose Broadway credits are numerous).  It takes a special performer to stand out amongst a cast of many . . .  ‘kudos to you Davelyn’. 

Performed July 24th to August 2nd 2009 

M. Teague Miller
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Mrs. Walker: Joyah Spangler/Olivia Malik 
Captain Walker: Matt Hill/David Clift 
Uncle Ernie: Danny Gould/John Proudfoot
Minister/Thug/Follower: Brent Miller
Minister's Wife/TV Crew: Sara Biron/Katya Loehgoen 
Head Nurse/Harlot/Vendor: Sara Segal/Lydia Merriam-Pigg 
White Nurse #2/Harlot/Vendor: Erin Ortegon/Bree Gwinner 
White Nurse #3/Harlot/Vendor: Megan Hayley/Arley Dela Roche 
Officer #1/Lad/Guard: Ted Sclavos/DJ Blickenstaff 
Officer #2/Kevin's Father/Reporter: David Clift/Danny Gould 
Lover/Caroler/TV Crew: John Sousae/John Sousae 
Tommy, Age 6/Alter Boy: Leo Lebedenko/Jason Weitz 
Narrator/Tommy: Joey Piscane/Ryan Vasquez
Judge/Choir/Thug/Follower: Derek Bausek
Tommy, Age 10: AJ Trapani/Joshua Lambert 
Cousin Kevin/German: DJ Blickenstaff/Ted Sclavos 
Kevin's Mother/Reporter: Emma Blickenstaff/Tanya Benitez 
Featured Lad #1/Flight Crew/Guard: Glenn Delos Santos/Alex Portman
Featured Lad #2/Flight Crew/Guard: Jason Rehklau/Cailin Mackenzie
Featured Lass #1/ Guard: Kylie Brunngraber/Molly Crawford 
Featured Lass #2/ Guard: Tiffany Tanquary/Elena Granadino 
Hawker/German/Choir/Follower: Jordan Sangalang
Player/Choir/Follower: TJ Sonnier
Gypsy/Choir/Follower: Adrienne Eller /Alia Hodge 
Specialist/Sr. Inspector/Thug/Follower: Johannes HeineTurq
Assistant/Caroler/Follower: Parissa Koo/Kristen Hermosilla 
Sally Simpson/Choir/Lass: Caroline Citelli/Lauren Fisher 
Mr. Simpson/German/Caroler/Thug/Reporter: Joel Grinham
Mrs. Simpson/Choir/Follower: Sarah Conte/Ailea Merriam-Pigg 
Randal/Paper Boy/Choir/Follower: Nick LogsdonLass/Guard Davelyn 
Couch/Tiffany DillsLass/Guard: Taylor James/Lyn Me'Huela 
Lass/Choir/TV Crew: Lindsey Meyer/Stephanie Roca 
Lass/Choir/Follower: Rachel Nadler/Cierra Cass
Lass/Choir/Follower: Amy Perry/Audrey Baker
Lad/Choir/Follower: Michael Navarro
Flight Crew/Caroler/Lad/Reporter: Rob Canali
Flight Crew/Caroler/Lad/Follower: Ryan Morgan
Flight Crew/Lad/Guard: Alex Portman/Glenn delos Santos
Flight Crew/Lad/Guard: Cailin Mackenzie/Jason Rehklau
Crewman/White Dr./Follower: Adam Asea
Crewman/Gold Dr./Follower: Theo Touneh
Crewman/Choir/Thug/Follower: Allen Hernandez
Crewman/Police/Choir/Thug/Follower: Nick Perry
Crewman/Choir/Thug/Follower: Gabriel Gonzalez
Young Woman/Inspector/Media: Cady Broxon/Brenna Peters
Young Woman/Inspector/Media: Joanna Laird/Katie Dugan
Young Woman/Barrister/Choir/Follower: Gina Guerra/Sydney Duncheon 
Young Woman/Barrister/Choir/Follower: Noel Witcosky/Marion Wellington
Young Woman/Caroler/Follower: Tara Rodriguez/Sarah Tilton 
Young Woman/Caroler/Follower: Marissa Brown/Lauren Ruffin
Police/Caroler/Thug/Media: Ryan Powell
Inspector/Choir/ Media: Alice Walton/Katrina Swarthout
Inspector/Caroler/Thug/Media: Keith Anderson
Inspector/Thug/Follower/Choir: Jeremy Bontadelli
Gold Nurse/Harlot/Vendor: Allison Rodriguez/Zoe Bader
Gold Nurse/Harlot/Vendor: Alyssa Jepsky/Mary Anderson 
Gold Nurse/Harlot/Vendor: Clara Blickenstaff/Athena Santos
Turquoise Nurse/Harlot/Vendor: Laura Ibsen 
Lesly Gonzalez/Turquoise Nurse/Harlot/Vendor: Nicole LaJeunesse/Julie Black
Turquoise Nurse/Harlot/Vendor: Chelsea Stainton/Vivian Esenbock 
Choir/Harlot/Follower: Emily Ferguson 
Stephanie Faso/Caroler/Harlot/Follower (“Sally” & “Welcome”): Bella Colpa/Jennifer Solis
Caroler/Harlot/Follower (Welcome & "Take it"): Emily Gumaer/ Ariana Cortez


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