PUBLISHED: 4:42 PM on Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Bringing story of 'Tommy' to a new light
Perseverance Theatre

Photo by Flordelino Lagundino
  The Acid Queen, played by Salissa Cooper, with Tommy, played by Ian Andrews in The Who's "Tommy," which premieres Saturday, March 17, at Perseverance Theatre.
The Who's "Tommy" will be rocking out the stage at Perseverance Theatre as it premieres Saturday, March 17.

Artistic director PJ Paparelli said he selected the show to compliment the skills of the cast involved with the production.

"Tommy's story is about ultimately a young artist who nobody understands who is searching for connection," Paparelli said.

"Tommy is a pretty legendary figure in music."

He said "Tommy" is a technically demanding rock opera, which poses many challenges for production.

"My hesitation was that it's an extraordinarily difficult piece to do across the board," Paparelli said.

"It's complicated, but one of Perseverance's core values is embracing risk."

The cast of about 20 features an even mix of local and out-of-town talent, some of who have been to Juneau for past performances.

"We're kind of building up an out-of-town company, which is really nice. They've become familiar to our audience," Paparelli said.

"Building community is another important aspect of theater and this is definitely doing that."

The story of Tommy was left open for interpretation for several years with the release of The Who's album, Paparelli said. The movie released in the 1970s did not include much depth to the story.

"It was sugar cult rock," he said. "That movie is a visual extravaganza with little substance."

Paparelli said the Broadway show as a senior in high school just days before its 1992 premiere and fascinated by the story and the technicality of the show.

"What was so fantastic about it was a very clear story came out about this boy and how he became deaf, blind and dumb and how he came out of it. Once you have a story you have something to hang onto. People were appreciating more than the songs," he said.

"I'll never forget as a teenager watching that stage magic happening and the impression it left on me - that all of that could be possible in theater. It blended the magic of theater to being at a rock concert."

Paparelli said he has always wanted to present "Tommy" and has been surprised by the direction the production has taken in that he gets an opportunity to tell the story of the boy and his relationship with his parents.

"It's a culmination of my experiences, my own family experiences and my own conversations with teenagers and their relationships with their parents. All of that is going into this piece, which makes it different from the initial piece," Paparelli said.

"That first piece was visual and oral eye candy where as this one is a telling tale of how children are so susceptible of their parents. I'm now amazed at how much of a human story is in there. That's exciting."

"Tommy" will show Friday, March 16, as a pay-as-you-can performance and premieres Saturday, March 17.

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