theater

REVIEW: TOMMY at Surfside Playhouse

By PAM HARBAUGH

Normally, when you think rock opera, you think Big, Wild and Loud. But Surfside Players’ production of “The Who’s Tommy” puts the singers in focus. Unfortunately, those singers do not perform with benefit of body microphones, forcing the recorded music to be played at a very low, frequently inaudible, level. The result: A very quiet rock opera.

Interestingly, that stillness redirects the audience’s attention to the story and its theme of isolation and loneliness. And certainly, with that iconic plea to “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me” being sung so passionately by Logan Ray Tyler, you can’t help but want to sing along.

With a broad, tattered Union Jack as a most appealing backdrop, director Michael Thompson and his energetic, talented cast tell the story of a young boy who becomes “that deaf blind and dumb kid” traumatized when his father (David Hill) returns from a WWII prisoner of war camp and kills the boyfriend of Tommy’s mother (Ember Everett). The trauma is deepened by his sexually abusive Uncle Ernie (a deliciously wicked Terrence Girard) and Cousin Kevin, a real bully (a superb Chris Tsocanos). His father considers handing over to a hooker, the Acid Queen (Monique Carey). Tommy goes on to be the Pinball Wizard and reaches the heights of celebrity.

While he only has one big number, Mr. Tsocanos steals the show as Cousin Kevin. He has a big, booming voice with enough raw power to support the rock genre; moreover, he really digs into the wicked character of a grotesque bully, complete with spiked hair. We find ourselves wanting more of his microphone-free singing strength on stage.

Mr. Girard’s “Fiddlin’ About” is creepy but safe enough to keep the audience watching; and his “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” is thoroughly bizarre, and rightfully so.

There are other musical highlights which, in addition to “See me…” are “I’m Free,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and the rousing “Listening to You.” And Dusty Ray’s excellent lighting design is also a winner in this production. It’s vivid, energetic and pushes the rock opera motif.

'The Who's Tommy' at Surfide Playhouse, lighting by Dusty Ray. Photo by Pam Harbaugh

‘The Who’s Tommy’ at Surfide Playhouse, lighting by Dusty Ray. Photo by Pam Harbaugh

But we yearn for more volume in this rock opera. We want to both see you and hear you.

SIDE O’ GRITS: “The Who’s Tommy” runs through March 20 at Surfside Playhouse, 301 Ramp Road (5th Street and Brevard Ave.) in Cocoa Beach. Tickets are $17 to $22. Call 321-783-3127 or visit SurfsidePlayers.com.