Upon entering the first hallway of the Blackbox Theatre, beads of lights arced over the attendee. Archer’s Engineering and Design class designed and installed the archway. The chimes and clicks of a pinball machine sounded as a backdrop to the scene. The stage featured a variance of geometric patterns and intersecting lines, mimicking the essence of a modern-day arcade. The smoky ambiance and cascading strobe lights were the finishing touches to a complex and aesthetic set.
Student Director Amanda Mihalke ‘15 summarized the plot of the play in the program: “Opening on a World War II torn England, The Who’s Tommy is a masterful rock opera based on the 1969 concept album of the same name. After witnessing a traumatic event as a young boy, Tommy becomes deaf, dumb, and blind. His parents search everywhere for a cure, but they soon discover he has a penchant for playing pinball. Tommy faces adversity throughout his life, but the smashing songs of Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff lend clarity to the societal pressures that shape his character and his destiny.”
Tommy’s character was adapted by three different actors in the production. Eloise Rollins-Fife ‘17 portrayed Tommy in the earlier stages of life, Sage Orvis ‘15 played a prepubescent Tommy, and Lulu Cerone ‘17 conveyed Tommy’s character as an adolescent.
The character changes were fluid and flawless—mystifying even. All three performances were stellar—the actors captured Tommy’s communicatory entrapment while simultaneously expressing his desire to be heard. Despite being a victim of domestic and social abuse, the actors never failed to stay in character and maintain Tommy’s lack of responsiveness.
The ensemble also had an extraordinary performance. The vocals were reminiscent of an urban contemporary gospel, each individual accenting the other in perfect harmony.
Bebe Rowland ’16 played Tommy’s drunken Uncle Ernie, who takes advantage of and molests Tommy. Her adaptation of Ernie’s disturbing and pedophilic persona was unsettling yet incredibly true to the character.
Dancers Olivia Bagg ’15, Carolyn Zaccaro ’14, Briney Harris ’15, Hollis Dohr ’17 and Cece McLennan ’15 were brilliant in movement, the strength and passion in their captivating dance numbers were awe-inspiring. Leah Doornik ’14 was a stand out in the production; her voice was sonorous and powerful in her solo “Acid Queen.”
The musical was frustrating and compelling. Audience members were intrigued by and eventually deeply absorbed in Tommy’s predicament. They experienced the agony of Tommy’s parents, as adapted by the talented Kathleen Kelso ’14 and Mataya Josephson ’16.
There was an immense sense of relief amongst audience members when Tommy regained his voice and emancipated himself from the restrains of his abusive childhood, as they furiously cried, “Tommy can you hear me?” To say the least, Archer’s Tommy was a moving and sensational production.