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An afternoon with Rock Opera

October 27, 2014

On a recent trip to Orlando, FL, my husband and I had the chance to see a production of The Who’s Tommy at Mad Cow Theater. I’d never seen this musical before and am not an aficionado of the The Who, so I honestly had very little idea of what to expect. A rare occurrence for me in the theatre – and something that I was really looking forward to.


It was a heartfelt production with some very spot on storytelling. Director Donald Rupe made strong choices which helped me, as a novice to this material, easily find my way. Many things stood out, but for the Communication Studies side of me, there was one thing in particular.


The song “I Believe My Own Eyes” – written as an addition to the Broadway production in 1993 - is a Pete Townsend foray into the world of musical theatre as opposed to the rock opera genre. The lyrics are simple (as are most in this show) but Capt. and Mrs. Walker, the parents of the “deaf, dumb and blind kid, (who sure plays a mean pinball)”, finally address the frustration, pain and exhaustion that often dominates the lives of caregivers.


Arthur Rowan and Heather Kopp (Capt. and Mrs. respectively) have, no doubt, beautiful voices but in addition to that, their interpretive skills were show stopping. Each singing the same lyrics, sometimes alone, sometimes in duet, but palpably from a strongly nuanced, different viewpoint. What an amazing experience for an audience member– to have such individualized emotional content communicated by two actors through the same set of words and at the same time. Bifurcated analysis at its best.


Actor Juan Cantu (Uncle Ernie), in answer to a patron question at a “talk-back” after the performance as to what was the overall theme of the production, said, with a voice full of certainty, “forgiveness”. If you are familiar with the show, that answer from that character could be surprising. But this company’s take on the production absolutely supported that response.


Thanks Mad Cow, for a lovely afternoon and a reminder that the genre that includes some of my favorite rockers (Pink Floyd, Meat Loaf, Queen etc.) can not only make us nod our heads to the beat but illuminate and get us talking about important issues.




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