The Who’s Tommy – REVIEW

June 3, 2009 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

Asheville Arts Center was reviewed by a local resident for their recent offering:  “The Who’s Tommy.”  This is particularly exciting for me, your blog writer, because I played the title role!  It’s a great review.  Read on.

The Who’s Tommy – Diana Wortham Theatre | Asheville, NC | May 14-17, 2009


If anyone was doubting Rock Eblen’s ability to effectively produce, direct, and act in a Broadway style musical using only local talent, they should have seen his latest effort at Diana Wortham Theatre May 14-17. A wise collaboration with The Asheville Arts Center put Eblen at the helm for this ambitious project despite the lean economy and stiff competition with other local theaters. On opening night audience members were practically jumping out of their seats when the cast came out for curtain call.

Last year, Eblen pulled off JC SUPERSTAR in the same venue, although one writer in this blog seemed bent on attacking him for taking on the role of Jesus. The guy likes to act and he’s damn good at it…so what if he also produces and directs at the same time? A true artist doesn’t heed people who say “You can’t do that!” So if one chooses to be so bold, he better know theater, and he better know how to cast good local talent who will do it for no pay. This is community theater we’re talking about…yet I overheard tourists in the audience who thought TOMMY was a professional production. That’s how good it was.

Of course it wasn’t flawless. There were some problems with body mics cutting out, and a few missed light cues. The band sound levels had to be adjusted, but once the musicians got rockin’, every head, even the grey heads, started bobbin’ to Pete Townshend’s classic rock score. Chuck Taft is a gifted musical director, able to handle anything from The Who’s wild stuff to Lerner and Loewe. The music was pretty much non-stop with small bits of dialogue to elucidate Tommy’s journey. Excellent choreography came from Mary Katherine Smith, and Susan Sertain of The Costume Shoppe put together delightful period costumes ranging from the 40’s to the 60’s.

Another fascinating aspect of this production was the staging. Eblen had the actors zipping stylish sets in and out while scenes magically blended into each other. He designed two of the set pieces from scratch, one being a flashy pinball machine Tommy could actually ride on, and the other a giant yellow slanted “T” (toppled Tommy) which took on various disguises to become by turn a Union Jack court, a purple pulpit, and even a bright red gypsy chariot.

Talk about gypsys, Margaret Evans was belting like Tina when she took little Tommy and the audience for a ear-bending ride with the Acid Queen.

Young Gabriel Gibson was perfect as the deaf, dumb, and blind kid who made many eyes moist that evening. Payton Turpin was major comic relief with his Uncle Ernie’s Holiday Camp song on a giant tricycle. Newcomer Brad Pearsall was hot in black leather as he strutted and crooned the role of bully Cousin Kevin. Nicely polished duets came from Kelli Mullinix (Mrs.Walker) with Rod Leigh (Lover and The Hawker) and a new song added to the show by Townshend which she sang with Eblen as Captain Walker. The all important role of Narrator/Tommy was caked with charisma by Michael Wilson whose voice can melt your bones.

This was a terrific fundraiser for Eblen Charities and proves Bioflyer Productions is here to stay. So if you missed it, you missed it. But I dare you to find anybody WHO did see it WHO didn’t love THE WHO’S TOMMY.

Here’s the link to the story and the Asheville Performing Arts Reviews blog:


Entry filed under: Asheville Performing Arts Academy.

OPEN HOUSE – Ballet/ Dance Kindermusik voted BEST PARENT/CHILD Program and BEST MUSIC Program!!!

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