The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title The Who's Tommy
Organization Falcon's Eye Theatre
Date(s) of show April 15-23, 2016
Reviewer Letha Dawson

Once again Director David Harris, Chair of the Theatre Department at Folsom Lake College, has brought a big Broadway show to the Harris Center, staging the rock opera, “Tommy.”  This is a big rock musical being staged in an 850-seat grand theatre.   If you love rock and roll, if you like guitar music, if you play guitar, if you enjoy spectacle, Tommy is the show for you.   

The story follows the life of a British couple during WWII and their son, Tommy.  We watch Tommy grow up with Carson Diffley playing him at age 4, Josh Davis playing him at age 10, and Evan Martorana playing him as the teen, pinball wizard.   

The show begins during WWII, made immediate by flights of British bombers, propellers droning, projected on screens behind the actors.   London’s row houses are backdrops as young Brits march off to war and lovely sweethearts bid them farewell, Tommy’s parents among them.  The technical expertise to combine the stage projections, with a stage that moves bringing actors and stage sets to the fore as scenes change is phenomenal.   Everything about the stage and sets is eye-popping and jaw-dropping.  Kudos to Ian Wallace, Scenic and Projection Design.    Likewise, lighting plays dramatically in this production.  During the WWII scenes, spotlights sweep the audience increasing one’s sense of imminent danger.

Orchestra:  The visuals are dramatically drilled into your bones by Peter Townshend’s rock music score, steady, determined, screaming, shifting, powerful music.  Of course this show is all about the music.  Graham Sobelman, musical director, brought together the best musicians Sacramento had to offer for this rock score by choosing Kenny Manlapig for outstanding, fantastic guitar work, Verna Brock on bass, Nic Valdez on keyboard, and Dana Wendel on drums.  Wow, what music they made!  The orchestra, just four pieces, flooded the theatre with this spectacular music.  Kenny Manlapig doesn’t let up for a minute, playing his guitars as only a rock virtuoso can play.  

The vocals, while at times were somewhat difficult to understand during the first act, partly due to the British accents, became clearer in the second.  It was always easy to follow the story because the action on stage is so well directed by David Harris and choreographed by Sunny Mitchell.  The sets were remarkable in their variety, uniqueness, and fast-paced changes.  Performing in a modern theatre with a revolving stage and several curtains which change appearance depending on lighting enhance the whole production.

Tommy is a dynamite rock musical, staged by a talented cast.  Once more Folsom Lake College lives up to its goal of staging thought-provoking shows.

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