The actors and stage tech walk into the theatre full of emotion, energetic and ready to rehearse. Actors are testing out the props they’ll use, stage tech is testing the variety of glowing lights and the director is watching everything to make sure each piece of the show comes together.
“The Who’s Tommy” is a rock opera that takes place from 1940 to 1963. The broad range of years gives the audience a holistic view of Tommy’s life and how he rises up from hardship.
Tommy, the pinball genius, grows up in a troubled environment filled with abuse, which contributes to him going deaf, mute and blind. Of the difficulties Tommy faced, his family life was especially problematic.
His father, Captain Walker, a bomber pilot from WW2 is presumed dead by the time Tommy is born. Without his father’s protection, he is molested as a child by his uncle Ernie and physically abused by his cousin Kevin.
The musical follows him through the different stages of his life prior to him becoming an international pinball champion.
“Tommy” the musical is based off the original screenplay and music created by Pete Townshend who plays lead guitar in the famous rock band The Who; it was also made into a film in 1975.
At El Camino College, the musical is being directed by William (Bill) Georges, a theatre professor at ECC. Like any production it takes a lot of effort and talent for the show to run smoothly.
“El Camino offers a great pool of students who have the capability to perform and produce this musical,” Georges said.
There was a very selective process when making casting decisions. Since there are several stages of Tommy’s life portrayed in the show, the cast is age restrictive but the actors are well prepared to play the vast range of ages, Georges said.
“I was really nervous about the auditions,” Christian Kim, 21 year old El Camino theatre major said. “There [were] five auditions and I didn’t know if I was going to make it to the next audition, it was a crazy process”
Tommy, the main protagonist, is played by Sammy Cabaret, 25 year-old former El Camino theatre student who resides in Hawthorne.
When Cabaret was ten years old he saw the movie “Tommy” for the first time and listened to The Who’s album, which made him to want to become an actor, since then he’s had a lot of time to study the character, Cabaret said.
The time, dedication, and interest gave him a drive to be the very best actor he could be, especially in a part he’s known his entire life.
“I grew up knowing the character, I was ten when I knew I wanted to play this part,” Cabaret said.
There are 45 characters in the screenplay and 24 ECC actors in total. Some play multiple characters including German soldiers, ministers, security guards, and many other characters that play a key role in telling the complete story. The core characters, however, are played by a single actor, according to Georges.
When it comes to working collaboratively with each other every person has to to their part in order for everything to run smoothly.
“The show runs like a freight train where everybody relies on everyone,” Georges said. “But the students are doing a very good job at [it]”
Having a show of this size isn’t easy and certainly can’t be done overnight, it takes both day and night to get everything done.
All the actors have been working really hard for at least five days a week and staying on campus until late at night, Daichi Marian (20) who resides in Torrance and plays the character Captain Walker said.
When watching a musical or any production, one goal is to make the audience feel what the writers and directors intended the feeling to be. “Tommy” has many emotions that run through the musical it can make the audience laugh and cry.
The mood of the musical is very exciting because of the nature of the rock and roll score. Technology is being used in this production, for example: video walls, projectors, and live music with a band on stage, Georges said.
Daichi Marian (20) who plays the role of Captain Walker, explains that the special effects are very exciting due to “TOMMY” being a rock musical and not your “traditional” musical, which gives the viewer a feel for the rock culture.
“We’re creating a feel of rock and roll on stage,” Georges said.
The Who is a band that originated in England in 1964. The band has influenced the rock and roll culture by selling over 100 million records worldwide. Pete Townshend later to write the story “Tommy.”
“The songs are written by the legendary The Who which is one of my favorites,” Marian Said. “that’s what I love about it the most.” Marian Said.
As for the musical itself, the message is one of hope as it portrays a young boy rising up from adversity.
“Tommy represents hope, he’s a glimmer of hope brought into a dark painful world”, Cabaret said.
Show dates are set for 8 p.m. March 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, and 28; 3 p.m. March 15, 22 and 29. As of right now, the show is still scheduled to happen regardless of the recent campus closure.