“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.”
Tommy’s lamentation will fill the Gracie Theatre this weekend in Husson University’s production of the musical, “The Who’s Tommy.”
The damaged teen is that “deaf, dumb and blind kid [who] sure plays a mean pinball” created by Pete Townshend and the Who in 1969 for their album, “Tommy, A Rock Opera.” “Pinball Wizard” was the song that embedded itself in popular culture.
“The Who’s Tommy” is the second musical to be performed at Husson’s Gracie Theatre. Director Ken Stack also directed “West Side Story,” the premiere production at the theater in October 2009, in which members of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra played Leonard Bernstein’s score.
“We wanted to do a show that would be a contrast to ‘West Side Story,’” Stack said recently of why he chose a rock show. “It’s also a perfect technical fit for the Gracie, Husson and NESCom. Visually, aurally and just because of the sheer exuberance needed for a rock show — it seemed a perfect match.”
Weaving all those elements together has been the biggest challenge of the production, said Stack, who teaches at the New England School of Communication located on the Husson campus. The demanding visual aspects of the show, along with a rented set with many moving parts, will test the skills of his students and the performers.
“‘Tommy’ takes the audience on a dark ride and brings it to a really beautiful catharsis,” the director said. “The plot is basically about abuse of all kinds — rock stardom, drug abuse, child abuse and Pete Townshend’s take on those things brings us to a very heartfelt solution and that solution is forgiveness.”
Cameron Wright of Ellsworth portrayed Tommy nearly six years ago in a summer production at The Grand. Wright said recently that at the age of 21, he’s able to bring more maturity to the role. Because all his previous turns onstage have been at the Ellsworth theater, Wright’s biggest challenge has been getting to know new people and a new stage with a far greater technical capacity than The Grand.
Despite the fact that many people his age don’t know The Who’s music and have never played pinball except on a computer, Wright said, the themes of “The Who’s Tommy” are relevant to his generation.
“I think people in my generation have focused on pop idols like Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan, the way people in the show idolize Tommy,” he said. “The show sort of asks the question, ‘Are you going to be obsessed with this celebrity or live your own life?’”
“The Who’s Tommy” debuted on Broadway in 1993.
Frank Rich, the drama critic for the New York Times, wrote of that production: “‘Tommy’ has done what rock-and-roll can do but almost never does in the theater: reawaken the audience’s adolescent feelings of rebellion and allow them open-throated release.”
That kind of release may be just what Mainers need when Old Man Winter seems unwilling to back off and the annual tax deadline looms.
Performances of the show will be April 8-10 and 15-17. Friday and Saturday show times are 7:30 p.m. and Sunday times are 2 p.m. Tickets are $20. To purchase tickets, visit www.gracietheatre.com or call 941-7129.