Today I went and saw a tech rehearsal of UMMTA’s Tommy! in full flight, and had a chance to talk to some of the production team. While pausing occasionally to solve technical problems, the show had taken form and was looking ready to go.
But Tommy! isn’t another musical, it’s a clever, quirky and thoughtful rock-opera written by The Who. It communicates its message through the music, which is based on the original concept album.
Director, Ashleigh Kreveld says “This is not a classic musical at all. It’s really raw and emotional. It’s The Who.”
Looking at the stage while the cast are downstairs reflects that. The set is simple; the stage stripped bare of theatrical trappings. The lighting is flashy and the band is gloriously onstage. There are few props and quirky projections, and the entire effect is a rock-concert feel in the theme of The Who.
This is when the rehearsal started. That is to say, the cast appeared onstage and the run began. This is when I realised the purpose and power behind the show.
The characters portray the story; they flood the stage with emotion and sentiment. Whether they are welling up with sadness, maliciousness bubbling to the surface or bursting unbridled sensuality through the floodgates, the onstage cast take you along for the ride through story. A lot of that also has to do with the omnipotent presence, the music. Musical Director, Daniele Buatti, says “One of the biggest things about this is that it is a rock opera. The music never stops.”
It is the combination of music and spectacle, which generates the show. The 38 cast members constantly change costumes and character roles to keep the epochs in Tommy’s life alive! They are the anchors in these scenes, providing the audience with key cues to understand the metaphors and messages of the show. It is a requirement, since the set is so simple and timeless, that the characters to give it meaning through their song and dance.
“The show goes through a number of eras, all the way from the 40’s to the 60’s. We’ve really tried to keep the look and feel of those eras alive through costumes and choreography,” David Miles, the Ensemble Director says.
Another thing of note is the breadth of casting. Child actors, mature-age actors and student-age actors are present here, showcasing a variety of talent. Just look at the three actors playing Tommy at different stages in his life; Never let it be said a University Theatre Company just has university students.
Tommy opens this weekend in the Union Theatre, Union House, University of Melbourne Parkville this weekend, running from the 27th April -5th May. Book your tickets at ummta.org.
What's Tommy?? – Check out this excerpt from the Broadway production