‘Tommy’ rocks at Renegade

The stage at Teatro Zuccone has been painted with a red, white and blue bull’s-eye — the signature of the 1970s rock band The Who. The set is framed with metal trellises, and motion-activated lights slice the scenes. A drum kit in an acoustic-deadening Plexiglas cage sits at stage right, a pinball machine at stage left.

During a recent rehearsal, a woman in fishnets and heavy makeup dashes on and off stage.

With Renegade Theater Company’s production of “Tommy,” which opens at 8 p.m. today, the troupe is looking for a crossover classic: a rock musical heavy with the feel of a live concert for the music heads; something innovative and dramatic for the theater geeks. There isn’t a lot of crossover between these factions, director Andy Bennett said he noticed during Homegrown Music Festival.

“They’re both passionate, but it’s different fan bases,” he said. “We’re hoping this is a bridge.”

“Tommy” was written by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff and is based on The Who’s 1969 double-album rock opera. It is the story of a young boy — Tommy (played by Adam Sippola) — who watches in a mirror as his father kills his mother’s lover, rendering the boy blind, deaf and dumb. The dark story includes molestation at the hands of his Uncle Ernie (played by Jody Kujawa, whose head has been shaved to ape male-pattern baldness), and the eventual realization that he is a bit of a pinball kingpin.

And there is lots and lots of rock ’n’ roll. The 90-minute production has about five minutes of straight dialogue.

“This is the only rock musical that rock music fans would want to go to,” said Evan Kelly, who plays the camouflage-clad Captain Walker.

Full story here.

Originally published June 4, 2010 in the Duluth News Tribune.