Bristol Theatre Company takes on 'Tommy'

Tommy (the album) may be 50 years old, but the Bristol Theatre Company is ready to introduce Pete Townshend's iconic rock opera to a new generation.

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 11/8/18

Composed between 1968 and 1969, Tommy expanded into other media soon after, and by 1975 had been produced as an opera, an orchestral production, and a feature film. The Broadway musical followed in …

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Bristol Theatre Company takes on 'Tommy'

Tommy (the album) may be 50 years old, but the Bristol Theatre Company is ready to introduce Pete Townshend's iconic rock opera to a new generation.

Posted

Composed between 1968 and 1969, Tommy expanded into other media soon after, and by 1975 had been produced as an opera, an orchestral production, and a feature film. The Broadway musical followed in 1992.

Tommy, the "deaf, dumb, and blind boy" (the result of brainwashing after he witnesses his father kill his mother's lover), suffers at the hands of neglectful parents, a sadistic cousin and pedophile uncle, and a misguided effort to "cure" him with LSD. As he gets older he becomes a hotshot pinball player, recovers his senses, and becomes a charismatic cult leader — all of which is set to Townsend's timeless soundtrack.

It's a bit of a departure from BTC's usual fare, admits board chairwoman and producer Marie Knapman. "The themes in Tommy are a little more serious than our usual," she said. While BTC has done several shows with adult themes, they more typically stick with comedies. Ms. Knapman said that it was Greg Geer, the director, who sealed the deal for the BTC. "Greg proposed it, and he's got a great reputation. So we thought we'd go for it."

Geer, a Middletown native who studied theater and computer science in college, keeps his feet in both worlds, commuting to a job at Mathworks in Natick during the day, and participating in 2 or 3 theater productions each year as an artistic outlet. Past credits include Evita, West Side Story, and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

The production, which began rehearsals in late August, is not for young kids, though high school students would enjoy it (Mr. Geer suggests its rating should be a little north of PG-13). "There are some heavy themes, definitely," he said. "But the process itself has been really fun, and the cast has been great about diving in and posing questions."

Tommy will be performed for two consecutive weekends, Friday-Sunday, November 9-11 and Thursday-Saturday, November 15-17. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. with the exception of the one Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. The Bristol Theatre Company stage is located at 235 High Street, Bristol. For tickets and more information, visit www.bristoltheatrecompany.org.

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