A Sucky World-Premiere Musical at Village Theatre
Hackneyed and willfully obscure, Tommy, a new musical premiering at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, is bad.
The boisterous, hybrid music is somewhere between the schmaltzy pop of Rent and the punk sneer of Hedwig. A loud, energetic rock band—driven by distorted classic-rock guitar—powers this two-hour show with melodramatic numbers that are derivative of Radiohead, with flourishes of Hendrix and Queen. Huh? Exactly.
The plot, set in the '40s, '50s, and '60s, is even weirder: Believing her husband was killed on the front during World War II, a British woman—who has since given birth to their child, Tommy—takes up with another man. Alas, the father wasn't killed and returns to discover his wife with her new lover. The soldier kills the lover in front of the child and the traumatic event leaves the boy deaf, dumb, and blind; he grows up in a catatonic state where he communicates with a psychedelic guardian angel who appears to him in the mirror.
Trying to cure the boy, his parents take him to expensive doctors, charlatans, and a mystical prostitute in a scene that seems a little racist: This curvy black woman will make a man out of your withdrawn white boy! Tormented by a pedophile uncle and local ruffians, Tommy eventually finds teenage solace in pinball—magically emerging as a local pinball champ. The boy is eventually cured by a miracle, transformed into a pop icon, and then abandons his fame for a '70s-style enlightenment.
Pinball? WWII? Enlightenment? Why would anyone dredge up these tired baby-boomer touchstones? Because they're self-indulgent Issaquah hippies. I looked for an Iraq war metaphor in the WWII stuff, but it's not there. Some allegory about video games? Nada. Some of the music is quite good—particularly the opening instrumental and catchy tunes like "21" and the final anthem, "Listening to You." The rest of the time, it's mired in rock clichés.