Pinball Wizard is back
By MARY THERESE BIEBEL firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask your average person under 30 if he or she has ever played pinball and you might be rewarded with a blank stare.
“Pinball?” he’ll repeat as he wrinkles his forehead. “Was that some kind of game?”
Yes, you explain to this young friend who spent countless hours with Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda. Way, way back, before the dawn of video, there was another skill a person could hone in just about any arcade or bar.
You played it on a table, maneuvering a tiny, metal ball through a plastic maze.
And it helped if you had “crazy flipper fingers,” like Tommy.
Tommy, according to lyrics from the rock opera by the same name, was “that deaf, dumb and blind kid” who “sure plays a mean pinball.” You’ll experience his tragic yet inspiring story if you attend a performance this weekend or next at the Pennsylvania Theatre of Performing Arts in Hazleton.
“Tommy is rock ’n’ roll theater, half Broadway stage musical and half rock concert,” said PTPA board president Drew Coffman, predicting that audiences will find the show “looks great and sounds great.”
A big part of the sound will be provided by musical director Matt McGasko on keyboard, Donnie DeBias on drums, John Shank on bass guitar, Tim Malchitsky on acoustic guitar and George Canavan on electric guitar. They’ll re-create a score written by legendary rock composer and lead guitarist of The Who Pete Townshend.
The music was released as a concept album in 1969 and became the soundtrack for a movie in 1975. In 1993, Townshend and collaborator Des McAnuff adapted “Tommy” for Broadway, and the stage show eventually earned five Tony Awards.
The show, according to a PTPA press release, tells “the story of a boy who withdraws from the world at age 4 after he sees his mother’s lover murdered in the reflection of a mirror. Despite consulting with a variety of doctors and specialists, Tommy’s parents are convinced no one can help him.
“But, soon after Cousin Kevin introduces Tommy to the wonders of the pinball machine, Tommy responds by playing pinball and winning big. Despite Tommy’s lack of interaction with anyone or anything except the pinball machine, he becomes a local celebrity and develops a big fan following.”
When his mother smashes the mirror in which he saw the murder, the boy finally begins to heal.
Local vocalist David Craig portrays the teenage Tommy while Steve Welsh – you may remember him as Judas in PTPA’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” – and Joelle Witner play his parents. Witner is also directing “Tommy.”
Show time is 7 p.m. today, Saturday and Thursday as well as June 30 and July 1, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday at the PTPA Center on Laurel Street, six blocks from Broad Street. On Saturday evenings, PTPA will offer a buffet dinner with a variety of entrees, salads, side dishes and desserts beginning at 5:30 p.m.
For reservations, call 454-5451. Group rates are available, and some tickets will be available at the door.
Meanwhile, in Wyoming Valley, the David Blight School of Dance will celebrate 50 years of dance during its annual recital this weekend. Legendary tap dancer and school founder David Blight will be on hand to observe the milestone anniversary, and a variety of award-winning tap, jazz, lyrical and ballet numbers will be showcased.
Show times are 6:30 tonight, noon and 6:30 p.m. tomorrow and noon and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, all at Wyoming Valley West High School in Plymouth.
Call 823-3914 for tickets.