Review Scene: THE WHO’S TOMMY ~ The Palais Theatre, Melbourne, 22nd February 2022

The Victorian Opera musical theatre production of Tommy enjoyed a triumphant opening and Australian premiere last night at the majestic Palais Theatre in St. Kilda, after enduring numerous rescheduling setbacks from the restrictions and lockdowns imposed upon us in recent years.

The first scene sped through a timeline of war time events that brilliantly set the storyline’s scene in an easy-to-follow and engaging manner. Clever use of video presented as a landscape slice in the set was effective in embellishing but not distracting from the action on stage.

The cuteness of the youngest Tommy character in Hamilton Binnie Garcia was undeniable in his professional debut performance.

Mat Verevis ably performed the lead role as Tommy and the Narrator, although I couldn’t help but want him to ooze more rock’n’roll and be stronger at times (perhaps because I do see many more rock concerts than theatre productions.) I wanted to see Roger Daltrey-esque locks flowing much before he finally untied his hair to let it all out. He finished the second act with a more powerful presence and his fractured mirror jacket was stunning under the stage lights.

The costuming was convincing all night and really helped to transport one back to those eras. I loved the Teddy Boy drape coats and was pleased to see the ensemble guys dancing around in creepers too, even though a couple of them just didn’t quite pull off the quiff wigs convincingly. 

Matt Hetherington and Amy Lehpamer were flawless in their lead roles as Captain & Mrs. Walker, delivering stunning performances, while the biggest audience applause of the first act came after Paul Capsis performed as The Gypsy (Acid Queen.)

The evening’s most confronting scene was of the ‘fiddling’ Uncle Ernie, which had me feeling quite uneasy, and especially concerned for any audience members who may have had to suffer such trauma in their own lifetimes.

Performed on the evening of 22/2/22, I couldn’t help but note the synchronicity of the house number 22 on the front door – the door being such an effective prop throughout the performance to cleverly convey the story’s flow. 

The unsung heroes of the night were the band, who performed Pete Townshend’s powerful soundtrack to this rock opera to perfection, including renditions of classics such as “Pinball Wizard”, “See Me, Feel Me” and “Sensation.”

Kudos to the show’s Artistic Director, Dr Richard Mills, for creating such a spectacle with his team, whom he heartily thanked at an individual level during the upstairs reception afterwards. So much of the show came together through video conferencing during the challenge of lockdowns, making this premiere even more of a jubilation.

I saw quite a number of musical theatre productions both on and off Broadway during my years of living in Manhattan, and this quality performance was easily as good as what I experienced in New York City. Bravo! Catch Tommy here, now, while you can.

All Photos by Jeff Busby.
Tickets are available via victorianopera.com.au or 136 100 with prices starting at $39.

Victorian Opera is finally set to stage the Australian premiere of The Who’s Tommy from 22 February – 1 March 2022 at the Palais Theatre, St Kilda.

Based on The Who’s legendary 1969 concept album Tommy, which sold over 20 million copies, the rock musical is set to supercharge Melbourne’s Palais Theatre.

In a role approved by The Who’s Pete Townshend himself, Victorian Opera welcomes back rising star Mat Verevis (A Little Night Music, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Nine Network’s The Voice) as Narrator / Tommy. He’s joined by stage stars Mat Hetherington (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, The Voice) as Captain Walker and Amy Lehpamer (School of Rock, The Sound of Music) as Mrs. Walker.

Legendary performer Paul Capsis takes on the iconic role of The Gypsy (Acid Queen), with Victorian Opera regular Kanen Breen (Black Rider, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Uncle Ernie and Vincent Hooper (The Rocky Horror Show) as Cousin Kevin.

The ensemble cast includes Darcey Eagle, Joshua Gordon, David Hammond, Shaelyn Hughes, Jane Kingsford, Savannah Lind, Anna Mallows, Adam Noviello, John Reed, Jack Saunders, Dean Schulz, Darren Tyler, Stephanie Wall and Jun Woodfield.

Acclaimed director Roger Hodgman (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) is at the helm alongside musical director Laura Tipoki (School of Rock), choreographer Dana Jolly (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), set designer Christina Smith (The Boy from Oz), costume designer Isaac Lummis (Ragtime), lighting designer Matt Scott (Anything Goes), and sound designer Peter Grubb (Matilda the Musical).

With music and lyrics by The Who’s guitarist and vocalist Pete Townshend, the electrifying and timeless score features smash hits such as ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘I’m Free’ and ‘Acid Queen’.

Tommy’s traumatic childhood leaves his senses paralysed but somehow gives him a bewildering skill at pinball. His extraordinary talent catapults him to international superstardom in this inspiring story of hope, healing, and triumph over adversity.

The Who’s Tommy will return to Broadway in 2021 with a new production directed by Des McAnuff, co-writer of the musical’s book and director of the original five-time Tony Award winning production, which premiered on Broadway in 1993.

Tickets are available via victorianopera.com.au or 136 100 with prices starting at $39.

About Paul Miles 194 Articles
Paul Miles is a rock photographer specializing in live music photography, who captures the true spirit of rock’n’roll in action by many of the world’s greatest performers. Over the years, he has shot a vast array of rock music photography: from gigs in world-famous clubs like the Apollo in Harlem and the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood, to iconic arenas like New York City’s Madison Square Garden and Australia’s MCG, as well as in retail stores Barnes & Noble, Apple, and John Varvatos CBGBs.

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