My jaw aches. It’s been hanging open most of the night, dragging on the floor. Burien Little Theatre is known for pulling off productions that it shouldn’t be capable of, but this one takes them all.
The Who’s Tommy is a tremendously complicated show on all fronts, and they made it all come together. They built a new stage out into the middle of the auditorium, with the seats moved to either side, so you feel like you’re in the middle of the production rather than merely watching it. This sensation is justified as, at one point, the actors grabbed audience members and took them onstage to become part of the show. There’s a rock band, an excellent one, playing on the main stage – no canned music, this is all live. The whole place thunders with the music. And they found immensely talented people who could not only act, but sing. The Tommys are fabulous. The older Tommy, especially, has a fantastic voice and plays the role with just the right sense of gravitas. Lovely! And a little haunting.
Every piece of the set is on wheels, and there are no pauses to restage things – everything’s wheeled around as the music goes on, and it adds a dizzy sort of feel that’s perfect for a play about a catatonic kid who becomes a famous pinball wizard.
The costumes, too, evoke the time and place so well that an older audience member felt she was reliving the periods portrayed. My friend Craig’s hard work with the images and clips running on screens in the background enhances that. He did an amazing job, and I’m hoping he’ll come by to tell us about it, because it wasn’t easy. The poor man’s been a shadow of himself for weeks. But it was worth it. It came together beautifully.
A few trigger warnings: there’s sexual abuse, which, while not graphic or extensive, could still be uncomfortable for those who have been through it. Also, anyone who lived through World War II might find occasion to flash back a bit. With those caveats, though, I have no qualms about asking anyone in the Seattle area to please make time to see this musical. It’s one of the best things BLT has done, and they’ve done some pretty amazing things in the past.
The Who’s Tommy’s running through March 25th. Wear tie-dye, and you can get $5 off your ticket. Sit within a few rows of the stage, and you could become part of the show for a time. If you like community theatre, if you like musicals, if you like classic rock, if you like productions that make you wonder just how the hell they did what they did with a tiny budget and an even smaller theatre, this is a show you shouldn’t miss. Go. Now. And have fun!