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`Tommy' a must-see despite weak acting

Gonsowski, Gelpe compensate for struggling cast

Young Joe Gonsowski carries Musical Theater Southwest's otherwise uneven rendition of The Who's "Tommy," with passion that is evident in his heartfelt expressions and determined movements.

Gonsowski does double duty as The Narrator and the title role of Tommy Walker. Born in the midst of World War II, Tommy is deaf, dumb and blind following his father's violent encounter with his mother's lover.

In spite of the various trials that come with such an affliction, Tommy becomes a "Pinball Wizard."

Tommy can't see or hear, but he sure can rack up the pinball scores. With this unexpected talent comes celebrity, praise and a heightened effort to cure Tommy of his affliction.

Gonsowski's stage presence was consistently electric. He captured the audience's attention despite playing deaf, dumb and blind.

Gonsowski missed nary a note all night long and his tenor was strong and clear. Not only was he one of the best singers in "Tommy," he also was one of the better dancers.

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His second act piece, "I'm Free/Pinball Wizard," successfully incorporated Gonsowski's vocal and physical abilities.

It's one of the most memorable production numbers Musical Theater Southwest has ever staged.

Another notable Tommy performance was Marina Gelpe's energetic Gypsy.

Gelpe was a last minute fill in for a sick cast member, but it did not effect her untouchable performance of Acid Queen.

Her dancing, singing and overwhelming confidence brought down the house. Gelpe would have easily stolen the show from Gonsowski had her part been larger. Tina Turner, eat your heart out - Albuquerque has Marina Gelpe.

Other cast members, however, were lackadaisical and sloppy, with the exception of Louis Mazullo, who plays Tommy's twisted Uncle Ernie. The transitions need a great deal of work, as does the choreography. The cast lacked synergy and seemed downright uncomfortable.

This could be due to the sudden illness and replacement of one of the lead performers.

One hopes that the ill cast member will heal quickly and return as the cast is clearly unsettled without her.

The Who aficionados may be disappointed with the Broadway sound that crept into this stage version of "Tommy."

However, for the average rock-and-roll lover, music director Joel Gelpe and his band turn in a knock-out performance.

The band's unabashed loudness and gusty guitar riffs make it worth the price of the ticket to hear them perform rock classics such as, "I'm Free," "Listening to You," "Christmas" and "Pinball Wizard."

The band's obvious love for the music and the vocals of Gonsowski and Gelpe make Tommy a must see.

"Tommy" runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 11 at the Hiland Theatre, 4804 Central Ave. SE. Tickets may be purchased from the Musical Theater Southwest box office by calling 262-1903.

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