Sometimes, a production just takes your breath away.
Tommy the rock musical did just that.
I had little expectations of this production. I knew it showcased the music of The Who in a rock opera format and starred a former X Factor winner and a former boy band member.
The dynamic storyline, based around Pete Townshend’s lyrics, follows the story of a young lad left deaf and dumb following a traumatic incident when his father shoots his mother’s boyfriend.
On paper, it could have all gone wrong.
But it doesn’t.
Tommy – 46 years after The Who’s original Tommy album was released and 40 years after the film – quite simply reaches into places where traditional music theatre does not, with remarkable results.
It inspires, it impresses and sends the enraptured audience on an emotional journey that sees them in places stunned silent with horror (creepy Uncle Ernie) and in others reaching for the rafters in joy.
2009 X Factor winner Joe McElderry, playing the title role Tommy, absolutely nails the challenging performance while his voice soars into the corners of the huge Winter Gardens theatre.
He builds rapport with the audience and is obvious why he struck a chord with the X Factor audience in the first place. He has presence and connects with the audience, his emotional journey through the production as clear as day.
Meanwhile the surprise of the evening is former Blue member Anthony Costa.
Perhaps never in the forefront of the limelight as a band member, here his talents are made clear and he shines.
But this is ensemble production and without giving away the story. the highs or the lows – it it remarkable.
Perfectly produced for the set, which makes clever use of height, perspective and lighting tricks – there is never that sense of songs like buses which afflicts other musicals. This all flows.
The two young ‘Tommys’ manage the role well and there is a standout performance from Melanie Bright as the disturbingly sexy and fierce Acid Queen Gypsy.
All musicals are not the same and Tommy is absolutely worth seeing.