Review: ‘The Who’s Tommy’: See it, feel it

"The Who's Tommy" plays through June 30 at Ogden's Zeigfeld Theater. Image: The Zeigfeld

OGDEN and PARK CITY, Utah, June 26, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — There’s a joke that if you can remember the ’60s, you weren’t really there.

For anyone who can’t remember and could use a refresher, or hadn’t been born, the Ziegfeld Theater company offers a fresh and modern look at the loud, physical, passionate rock opera, “The Who’s Tommy,” inspired by the 1969 album.

The album and live concert productions were followed by the 1975 film, “Tommy,” then, as a stage musical that hit Broadway in 1993, with music by Pete Townshend and additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon.

The Zig’s production captures the 1960s flavor and adds modern technology, such as still and moving images projected on panels, which allows for better storytelling and clarity as the audience tries to interpret what is going on.

Live musicians play behind those screens, so the music surrounds you and travels through you, so much so that ear protection is offered as an option.

“The Who’s Tommy” — geared for adults and featuring adult language and themes — begins with the love story of Tommy’s parents, who meet, marry and are separated by war. Tommy’s father, Captain Walker (Cameron Kapetanov), disappears and is presumed dead, officials tell his mother, Mrs. Walker (Heidi Potter Hunt).

As she begins to move on with a new man, the Captain returns, and confronts the boyfriend in a way that will leave 4-year-old Tommy emotionally shattered and changed, unable to see, hear or talk.

The rest of the rock opera tells of the abuse that follows, a chance reconnecting with the world, and how the adult Tommy reacts.

Tommy is played by Grace Hunt (Tommy at 4), Annie Potter (Tommy at 10) and Jeremy R. Gross (adult Tommy). The children do a good job of portraying their isolated character, and communicating his frustration and yearning.

Gross, last seen in the Zig’s “The Full Monty,” is the lead, and the true powerhouse of the show. He manages to be charismatic and mesmerizing even when he is not connected to characters around him, and he has a voice up to the challenge of The Who’s music.

Kapetanov and Hunt are very strong singers, convincing in their love for Tommy at all ages, and their desperation to help him.

Other standouts include Becky Jeanne Knowles as the Gypsy, a sexy and delightfully corrupt character; and Timothy Behunin (Uncle Ernie) and Austin Payne (Cousin Kevin) as two people responsible for some of Tommy’s darkest moments.

The whole cast, including ensemble players, is strong, and all work together to tell a story that remains a little vague and open to interpretation, as intended. And all are dressed in convincing period costumes and uniforms, and surrounded by those projection panels that can change the space from an open field to a battle field, and from a drawing room to a drug den.

Director Caleb Parry and all his designers have done a masterful job in creating this story and rock reality.

To see “The Who’s Tommy” in Ogden, you have through Saturday. Click here for ticket information and times.

To see it at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre, you have July 6 through 29. Click here for ticket information.


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