Odds and Sods [Thoughts on ‘Tommy’, Taylor and Elvis, Part 1]

It’s been a while since I posted on the blog, so I thought I would take a moment to talk about this past weekend’s activities and look forward to what promises to be a phenomenal show this Saturday at The National.

Let’s start with last Saturday [04.17]: VCU Theatre’s production of ‘The Who’s Tommy’ at The Raymond Hodges Theatre.

You’re either a fan of The Who, or your not. No production of Tommy will persuade you to like The Who, nor will the ‘normal’ Who fans seek out other musical productions after seeing ‘Tommy.’ People go see this show to hear the songs live, hoping they sound somewhat similar to the double-album they already know.

It’s hard to believe that this ‘rock opera’ is now over forty years of age. Most of it has worn well, and this production brought home the point that, as a story, ‘Tommy’ is still as sick, as twisted and as sadistic as it was in 1969. Moments still make me cringe [the whole ‘Uncle Ernie/Cousin Kevin bit] but, this is a good thing. It’s a heavy play that doesn’t flinch from subject matter that was very taboo back then and doesn’t get discussed often now. And, don’t forget, at its core, it rocks.

This production, done ‘in the round’ is very fluid and never slows down. The performers that stood out to me were Eric Stallings as the teen-aged Tommy, Malorie Mackey as the ever-optimistic believer Sally Simpson, and young Cooper Timberline as the young Tommy. Stallings and Timberline did a masterful job of remaining in character, in the required catatonic state of Tommy, while being poked, prodded, carried and pushed. It really was a wonder to watch these two actors embody this singular character.

Lastly, the band is top-notch. Yes, there was only one foursome that had the bombast of The Who, but these local musicians do a great job staying true to the soundtrack, even playing ‘The Underture’ in Act One, which I fully expected to see cut from the show.

The show is playing this weekend and closes Sunday. Go to Theatre VCU for details. Tickets are $25 for the public with discounts for VCU students, alumni and staff. If you’re a fan of The Who, go support local theatre and check out this ambitious production.

Sunday 04.18 – The ACM Awards

Just a brief note about Sunday’s ACM awards, since I had some new readers ask why I hadn’t written anything about it on Monday. Taylor Swift may not have walked away with any awards this time [which, even though I am a big fan, I kind of expected, seeing as how the album has been out for a long time], but she had one of the most memorable performances of the evening that should, once and for all put to an end the notion that she can’t sing live. This was an appearance where her voice sounded as strong as it did a month ago when I saw her live show in Charlottesville. If ya missed it, here it is, via the wonder that is YouTube.

Taylor at The 2010 ACMs — Change

Congrats to Lady Antebellum and Miranda Lambert on their wins and performances. Miranda’s performance of ‘The House That Built Me’ was a great showcase for her, showing that she can sing the quiet song, not always having to be the ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’.

And finally, I look forward to Saturday night when none other than Elvis Costello performs at The National – right here in Richmond!! I’ve seen Elvis twice before, and I can’t wait to see and hear what this show will be like in this amazing venue. His last album, 2009’s ‘Secret, Profane and Sugarcane’ has a country/bluegrass flavor to it, so I am hopeful that we’ll hear some rare songs from his catalog. A dream set list for me would include:

Anything from his country covers album, ‘Almost Blue’ but especially Good Year For The Roses

Stranger In My House

Cheap Reward [which was sung wonderfully by Stephen Colbert in November, with Elvis on guitar on ‘The Colbert Report’

Motel Matches

And, of course, my dream setlist isn’t complete without the inclusion of I Hope You’re Happy Now.

I will be happy with whatever is played. But if any one of the above songs is heard, I’ll be ecstatic. Thanks again to The National for really putting Richmond on the music scene map for the first time in a very long time. It’s so nice to have a club that bands want to play!

Full review of Elvis Costello at The National will be posted by Monday night. If you have tickets to that show, see you there. If you don’t, go see Tommy at VCU.

More shows and reviews coming soon…including Jonathan Coulton at The Hat Factory May 13, Carrie Underwood this Tuesday at the Coliseum, and a full recap of the madness that is NASCAR on May First.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!