Review: 'The Who's Tommy' at The Arts at Angeloria's

Nancy Sasso Janis

A new venue has opened in Southington and it was such an honor to attend the first matinee of the first show ever presented in the Black Box at The Arts at Angeloria’s. Producer/Artistic Director Angeloria Holm follows in the footsteps of famous women like Florence Griswold who so loved the arts and the artists who created it and she has opened her private and beautiful home for the sole purpose of cultivating the arts. For the inaugural production she chose ‘The Who’s Tommy.’ Not a particularly easy selection for a venue that needed to construct both a set and a house in order to get the show on the stage, not to mention adding lights and sound, a place for the orchestra and much more. And yet, Lori and lots of her friends and an amazing cast of mostly local performers pulled it off beautifully.

It started when Ms. Holm gave a prepared curtain speech that was inspiring. She welcomed patrons to head to her vintage “music room” during intermission or to head outside to the gorgeous patio to enjoy the lovely Sunday afternoon. She reminded us to keep the (one) aisle clear for the actors in the extremely intimate house. As used to be the case in the Naugatuck location of the Phoenix Stage Company, the acting and singing was up close and personal for those of us lucky enough to be in the vintage theatre seats. 

Stacy Capodilupo directed the cast and no doubt possesses a talent for problem solving for making the musical fit in this space. She served as stage manager as well. Ed Rosenblatt was the vocal director and helped the singers blend beautifully on the rich harmonies. He calls ‘Tommy’ the first great rock opera that features the music of iconic rock band, The Who.  Nathaniel Baker directed the outstanding orchestra...more on them later. 

Sarah Cipollini, a senior at Southington HS, sang beautifully as Sally Simpson and in the ensemble. Margo Devore, also a senior st Southington HS, was another strong singer in the company. Elyse Lachapelle of Waterbury did well with the role of a hawker and John Zimmerman (also a member of Southington’s Steeple Players Drama Group) was strong in several smallish roles. Photographer Christopher Zajac did well in his roles as a barrister and more. 

I remembered Julie Sopchak of Northford from a Steeple Players show. Here she almost stole the show from her eleven fellow actors as Tommy’s cousin Kevin; the actress brought plenty of attitude to the role and sang well despite some microphone issues. 

As Tommy’s father Captain Walker, the very talented Rob Girardin was spectacular. (I didn’t have to Google him, as he suggested in his bio, in order to remember that I saw him in ‘Footloose,’ ‘Les Miserable,’ ‘White Christmas,’ and ‘Next to Normal.’) I enjoy listening to Mr. Girardin so much that I wished his part was a larger one. Mike L’Altrella of Oxford has enough vocal talent to play the leading role of the adult Tommy; silent for some of his performance as the “deaf, dumb and blind kid,” it was a relief that he got to show off his singing voice . Eight grade student Collin Larson of New Milford also got to sing a little in the role of young Tommy. 

Lori Larson of New Milford, Collin’s mom, got to play the comedic role of the creepy Uncle Ernie. Hope Roecker of Southington stepped out of the ensemble to play the Acid Queen. Kate Simpson of North Branford played Tommy’s concerned mother Mrs. Walker with lots of costume changes; she also did well with her British accent. 

The orchestra that sat on the stage was a rocking band of talented musicians dressed all in black. Mr. Baker of Mansfield, a graduate of Hartt with a Masters in Piano Performance from UCONN, conducted while he masterfully played the score on piano. The other three musicians are members of the CT classic rock band, The Damn Hippies. Ray Boyce of Clyde, NY, rocked out on the bass, James Gobble of Cromwell did not overpower on drums and Ed Rosenblatt of Southington was a master on guitar. The entire audience remained in their seats until the last note had been played. 

Most of the costumes by Lori Larson and Lori Holm were time specific and flattering to the performers and the lighting and sound by Steve Larson, Nora Matthews, Amanda Michaud, Jim Snow and Cynthia Enright was quite impressive for their first show in this space. That set constructed for the debut of this space featured three actual large paintings that worked perfectly.

I loved this show with music and lyrics by The Who’s Pete Townshend, with the book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff and additional music and lyrics by John Entwhistle and Keith Moon. All the awesome songs like “Sensation,” “Pinball Wizard,” “Tommy, Can You Hear Me?” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” are here and pieces I remembered from the film version. Not all easy to sing, but so much fun to hear again.

‘The Who’s Tommy’ continues on March 11, 12, 18, 19 at 7:30pm and March 13 at 2:00pm. The easy to find venue at 223 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike in Southington is directly off 691. 

Photos of Tommy and Young Tommy by The Arts at Angeloria's