Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Tommy - Prince Edward Theatre - Monday 12 November ***

One-off productions by their very nature can be a little hit and miss, for every Soho Cinders In Concert there is a Peter Polycarpou My Life In Song. Tonight’s charity performance of the stage show that has grown out of the Who’s 1969 concept album was a strange hybrid that saw some fine supporting performances let down by a lead actor totally out of his depth.

I don’t want to prolong the agony any more than I have to so I’ll keep it brief.

First the good and there was plenty of good, Hannah Jane Fox sensational as Tommy’s mother Mrs Walker, Daniel Boys underused but nevertheless making his mark as Mr Walker, Zoe Birkett (still annoyingly and erroneously claiming in the programme notes to have had a number one hit single with her version of Get Happy) incredible in her cameo as the Acid Queen and David Hunter so wonderful that I just kept thinking how much better the evening would be if he had been cast as Tommy.

Now the bad, Glenn Carter, perfect as Floyd Collins earlier in the year, embarrassed and embarrassing as paedophilic Uncle Ernie, his “Fiddle About” about as painful as it gets. As for poor Joe McElderry, boyishly handsome with a sweet pop tenor, I am sure he's a lovely young man, he is simply not an actor. Unbelievable as a catatonic deaf, dumb and blind boy, never mind the messianic character he is meant to evolve into in act two, he even mucks up the pivotal final line of dialogue (to paraphrase “what you should be asking is not what I can do for you, but what I can do for you”), remaining a cute camp Geordie throughout.

Did Joe McElderry really put that many more bums on seats? I don't know the answer, but if he is aiming for a career in musical theatre I think the best he can hope for is Teen Angel in a tour of Grease rather than Tony in a West End revival of West Side Story.

Mercifully for one night only - Tommy

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