The Who’s Tommy is arguably the greatest rock opera album of all time – stress on album.

It is important to remember that is how Tommy was originally released in 1969, as an album, not a musical. While The Who’s Pete Townsend, who composed the majority of the opera, undoubtedly had grand visions for what may become, it wasn’t until 1975 that the album was adapted to film and 1993 that it was adapted as a musical for Broadway. Having sold over 20 million copies worldwide, it is ultimately the album Tommy, not the movie or the musical, that is the most prolific.

So when putting on a musical theatre version Tommy, it is the music that has to come first and foremost. Lead by Conductor Peter Karle, the orchestra is truly a highlight of the production. The choice to have the orchestra on risers on the stage facing the audience creates an immersive rock and roll show atmosphere. Their renditions of The Who’s favourites such as “I’m Free”, “See Me, Feel Me”, and “Pinball Wizards” would appease any classic rock aficionado.

Braven Warren as Tommy, Lo Nielsen-Murray as Mrs. Walker, and Greg Williams as Captain Walker.
Braven Warren as Tommy, Lo Nielsen-Murray as Mrs. Walker, and Greg Williams as Captain Walker. Photo by Whitney South.

Casting is another area where Pacheco Theatre knocks it out of the park. The core cast of Lo Nielsen-Murray (Mrs. Walker), Greg Williams (Captain Walker), and Braven Warren (Tommy) all give solid vocal and acting performances. It is continually impressive how talented London’s young actors are. A special mention goes to both Isacc Szoldatits (10-year-old Tommy) and Kayden Fodor (4-year-old Tommy) on the maturity they showed in their roles.

Jenn Marino as The Acid Queen putting a spell on Tommy surrounded by the ensemble. Marino as The Acid Queen putting a spell on Tommy surounded by the ensemble.
Jenn Marino as The Acid Queen. Photo by Whitney South

However, if the show was stolen by anyone, it was stolen by Jenn Marino (The Acid Queen) and Chris Wood (Uncle Earnie). Marino described the opportunity to play The Acid Queen, played by Tina Turner in the 1975 film, as a “bucket list role.” Marino performed as if she has been waiting her whole life to sing that song on that stage. One has to be careful on complimenting someone’s ability to portray a creepy, drunk uncle, however, as Uncle Ernie, Chris Wood gives a drunken performance akin to John Dunsworth iconic portrayal Mr. Lahey from the Trailer Park Boys Series.

Chris Wood as Uncle Ernie.
Chris Wood as Uncle Ernie. Photo by Whitney South.

Great music and a great cast combine to create a fantastic theatre going experience. Pacheco Theatre’s presentation of Tommy is a perfect evening of entertainment for classic rock fans and theatre buffs alike.

What: The Who’s Tommy, presented by Pacheco Theatre
When: May 17-18 and May 22-25 at 8 p.m; May 19 and May 25 at 2 p.m.
Where: The Palace Theatre, 710 Dundas St.
Tickets: $35 general; Palace Theatre Box Office, palacetheatre.ca, or 519-432-1029

Feature photo by Whitney South

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