''Tommy'' on Broadway -- David Browne enlists guest critic and major Who fan Ed to review the stage incarnation of the famous ablum


”Tommy” on Broadway

”These people are gonna die — I tell you right now,” said Ed, surveying the well-groomed suburban couples and fossilized theatergoers in the lobby of New York City’s St. James Theatre. A few months ago, I enlisted Ed, a 27-year-old Manhattan doorman and my brother-in-law, for his opinions on the new Bon Jovi album. A longtime fan of the Who, he seemed the logical choice to critique a theatrical show based on Tommy, the band’s 1969 ”rock opera.”

Ed had already seen the show in previews two weeks before. ”I had an old lady sitting next to me, and I had to explain everything to her,” he said with a groan. But as Tommy’s ”Overture” began, Ed perked up: ”The music starts up and you get psyched,” he said, pumping his fist. Sure enough, he was transfixed by the musical tale of the ”deaf, dumb, and blind kid,” even if actor Michael Cerveris did ”look like Wayne in Wayne’s World.” Ed loved the way the stage, with its array of ever-shifting doors, windows, and props, took on an almost 3-D effect. At one point, World War II paratroopers literally dropped off the stage. ”That was cool,” said Ed. The opening chords of ”Pinball Wizard” drew instant whoops of joy from the crowd. Ed especially liked the young-hooligan dancers who bopped around on the oversize pinball machines: ”Look,” he said with a nudge, ”Grease.”

”It just shows you how creative Pete Townshend is,” Ed declared during intermission. ”Tell me if you could make a show out of records by any of these new bands.” He had a point — an opera based on a Soundgarden album? Not likely. After the rousing ”We’re Not Gonna Take It” finale-sung full-throttle by the cast-we filed out. We both noted approvingly that the music adhered closely to the original record, rather than to the garish 1975 movie. ”It didn’t move me like Miss Saigon, and it wasn’t as awesome as Phantom, but it was fun,” Ed said. ”I came out feeling like I’d seen a good concert. It’s got everything going for it — good music, nice T-shirts. And if you don’t like the play, just close your eyes and enjoy the music. It can’t lose.” Ed’s grade: B

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