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Published by: Kirstie Niland on 22nd Sep 2015 | View all blogs by Kirstie Niland


until Saturday 26th September

Another hit musical has premiered at the Opera House and the cast of TOMMY, directed by stage and screen star Paul Nicholas, have totally smashed it.

This new production, based on the award-winning movie adaptation of The Who’s chart-topping album, tells the powerful tale of a deaf, dumb and blind pinball player who becomes an international messiah.

Its release coincides with the 40th anniversary of the movie’s release in 1975, in which Paul Nicholas played Cousin Kevin alongside big names such as Elton John, Tina Turner, and the Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey in the title role. It’s been brought bang up to date with a futuristic set and nods to four decades and the time frames it travels through - resulting in a fast-paced and colourful kaleidoscope of action, including a Michael Jackson Moonwalk, upright 40s army scenes, and bright 50s costumes.

We are dragged immediately into young Tommy’s world as he suffers the trauma of witnessing his father shoot his stepfather. In What About the Boy? his parents, Mr and Mrs Walker, played by Will Barratt (whose vocals are remarkable) and Ashley J Russell, press upon him urgently: “You didn’t hear it, you didn’t see it! You won’t say nothin’ to no one," and Tommy takes them literally as he stands motionless in front of a mirror showing no emotion. But we feel his pain as his senses collapse and Tommy becomes a captive ball, flipped through a series of medical assessments and family gatherings.

The off-kilter Christmas is a genius reflection of Tommy’s other-worldliness, his stillness in stark contrast to the rejoicing relatives blowing party horns. As he ricochets around the family, being abused by his Uncle Ernie and tortured by Cousin Kevin, you feel his retreat is a blessing in disguise.


We already know that Blue band member Antony is an excellent singer, but his vocal ability for musical theatre is showcased when he takes on Pinball Wizard and wins. And those less familiar with his acting prowess could not fail to be impressed with his performance as the sinister Cousin Kevin. Having interviewed Antony prior to the show, I was intrigued to see how this likeable Cockney family man would play such a callous charter but he nails it. His own affable nature gives depth to the opportunist sadist, giving way to a glimpse of the insecurity that is so often the basis for bullying.

Meanwhile 2009 X-Factor winner Joe McElderry creates an angelic and powerful presence, voicing Tommy’s cries poignantly from within when he performs Feel Me Touch Me. His ethereal image and soaring vocals so effectively reflect the detachment from the horror around him that the surreal sitiation in which Tommy's intuitive skills at playing pinball gain him cult status actually becomes believeable.

This is also where the Opera House’s grand arched stage provides the perfect platform for Tommy to be placed on his pedestal and projected around the auditorium - and the result is stunning.

As the frenzy reaches fever pitch and frusation growns within Tommy's mother, she smashes the mirror he stares into. His senses are suddenly released and he revels in the worship of superstardom, before realising that this fame is as false and lonely as his withdrawal was. As Tommy decides to embrace reality, the lights come up over the audience and the cast come down to greet us, and we feel part of his willingness to connect with normal life. "We want to be like you," say his worshippers. "No, I want to be more like you," Tommy finally admits, and so begins his recovery. Ahhhh.

TOMMY sure plays a mean pinball and there is still time to see this exciting and moving production. Do not miss the opportunity!

Tickets from £20 to £39.50 online or on 01253 629666

Photographs courtesy of Blackpool Winter Gardens



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