Peter Serko Photo, "All in the Timing"

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Christopher Overstreet, keyboard wizard, serves as Music Director for Drama Docks The Whos Tommy (Pete Welch Photo).


REVIEW

Drama Dock Rocks its Take on ‘Tommy’

Three young actors are standouts in the community theater production.

By Lauri Hennessey

Wednesday, July 3, 2019


I was always a big Pete Townshend fan.

Roger Daltrey was the guy with the curly hair back, the one the girls liked as he strutted the stage with The Who and sang about his generation. But for me, the band was always about the incredible Pete and his windmill guitar skills. He was a great songwriter, sure. But he also had magic to him as he played the guitar or did scissor kicks in the air. Throw into the mix that he wrote an edgy, visionary rock opera and you had a recipe for greatness.

Drama Dock does Townshend’s historic rock opera, Tommy, proud in its summer musical theater production.

f you love rock, or The Who, or just good musical theater, it is well worth a visit this weekend.

For anyone who doesn’t know the story (young people, perhaps?), Tommy is about a boy who loses his sight, hearing and speech after witnessing something terrible. He then travels a long road of abuse and cruelty before becoming a global sensation for his talent for playing pinball. The rock opera was an immediate sensation when The Who performed it in its entirety at Woodstock in 1969. Since then, it has seen success as a movie and a Tony-winning production on Broadway.

Drama Dock’s production, directed by Elise Morrill, is a stellar interpretation of Tommy. There are numerous shining stars in the show.

Since this is a rock opera, first props must go to the tight band. It includes Christopher Overstreet on keyboards (and as music director, no easy feat), Jesse Whitford on drums, Gavin Ford Kovite on bass and the fantastic Andy James on guitar, doing some windmills and wearing Townshend garb. The band is not background. It is one of the stars. And they deliver the music with pounding excitement.

Another highlight is Allison Shirk as "Mrs. Walker". Shirk is an island songwriter and singer of rock and country. In Tommy she nails her numbers, especially “It’s a boy” and “I Believe My Own Eyes.” She has a great voice for stage and made the part her own.

The ensemble was solid, including standouts Elise Ericksen and Julea Gardner, who each have a great number. Another notable player was Sarah Howard, who belted out “Acid Queen” in a way that gave Tina Turner (who sang it in the movie) a run for her money.

But the true stars of the show were the "Tommys" — three great actors who played "Tommy" at age 10, 16 and 18.

Phoebe Ray, as the youngest "Tommy", is a study in loneliness and shock and her performance touches the heart. Gabriel Dawson, as Tommy at 16, has a fantastic voice and a charming stage presence.

The oldest "Tommy" was played by Hailey Quackenbush, a revelation for Vashon theater fans, even those who remember him as a talented presence in Vashon High School shows just a few years ago. He holds the stage like the wizard he is portraying — acrobatic, charming, full of stage presence and with a fantastic and pure voice. Hearing Quackenbush sing “Sensation” as he danced around the stage or echo the famous “See Me, Feel Me” was pure magic.

Nitpicks: the music was a little loud for some of the folks in the audience. Bring earplugs if you have sensitive ears. Also, the grimmest parts of the plot have not changed, but the times have. They are hard to watch, even though they have been updated and softened slightly. And some of the harmonies missed a note or two on the group numbers, which will undoubtedly be tightened up before the second weekend.

But these are small nits in a show that is a clever, innovative and impossible-to-not-sing-along-with effort by Drama Dock.

Tommy is a beautiful story of innocence lost, of redemption, and loving yourself in spite of what life offers you. It is also still a beautiful ode to rock, to songs that stick in your head long after you leave the theater — and to the talent of a guy named Townshend.

Performances of The Who’s Tommy will continue at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 5 and 6, and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 7, at Vashon Center for the Arts. Buy tickets, $25 general, $22 seniors, students, VCA and Drama Dock members, at vashoncenterforthearts.org. Parental guidance for those 13 and younger is suggested due to mature content.




VASHON-MAURY ISLAND

BEACHCOMBER

February 13 By Elizabeth Shepherd


On Friday night, Drama Dock will open a run of the female-centric version of Neil Simon’s long-lasting comic gem, “The Odd Couple,” giving islanders who were snowbound in the past week a chance to get out and enjoy a show.

In this version of the play, the famous characters of lovable slob Oscar Madison and his fastidious roommate, Felix Ungar, are cast as women named Olive Madison and Florence Ungar, and the duo’s cadre of friends are women as well. The characters of the English-born Pigeon sisters — would-be love interests to the mismatched roommates — are in this version the debonair Spanish-born Costazuela brothers.

The cast of Drama Dock’s production, directed by Drama Dock veteran Chaim Rosemarin, includes island thespians Cate O’Kane, Dedra Dakota, Bonny Moss, Thea Vernoy, Chai Ste. Marie, Sue DeNies, James Norton and Russell Baker.

Cate O’Kane, a native Brit who arrived on Vashon in 2016, will play the role of Olive, the sloppier and louder of the two roommates. She has had a transcontinental career that has included making advertisements for cars, shampoos and mobile phones across Europe, Asia and Southern Africa. In her short time on the island, she’s made the most of Vashon’s theater scene, appearing in comic and serious roles in “All in the Timing,” “The Normal Heart,” “The Vagina Monologues” and the “14/48” short plays festival.

O’Kane said that since she had not grown up in the United States, she was not as familiar with the show as an American actor might have been. But coming to the play fresh, she said, made her aware of “how bloody funny it still is, and how it goes to the heart of human relationships and friendship dynamics.”



Dedra Dakota, playing the part of the neat-freak Florence, has also had a wealth of theatrical experience, having attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, where she lived for eight years. She acted in many off-off-Broadway plays as well as performed in TV commercials and on the soap opera “Loving.” She moved to the other side of the camera in Los Angeles, where she became a professional makeup artist for 23 years. Since moving to Vashon three years ago, she has performed in Torena O’Rourke’s recent play, “My Mother, MySelf.”

The Odd Couple will be her first show with Drama Dock — one that she said she is excited to perform, both for its comedy as well as its deeper meaning.

“Neil Simon is an incredible playwright,” Dakota said. “You just have to say the words because the lines are so well-written and funny, and this women’s version is all about sisterhood — it’s like you’re hanging with your best friends, and you just feel so supported and loved.”

“The Odd Couple” is one of the best-known works in the vast constellation of Simon’s hit shows, and it has proven remarkably adaptable over the years. The plot of the play revolves around the hi-jinks that happen when unlikely and wildly unsuitable-for-each-other roommates are thrown together in the wake of a divorce.

The show opened its Tony-winning Broadway debut in 1965, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Walter Matthau as Oscar and Art Carney as Felix. In 1968, it was adapted into a successful movie starring Jack Lemmon as Felix and once again, Walter Matthau as Oscar. And in 1970, “The Odd Couple” became a long-running TV sitcom, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. An all-African-American version of the show was presented at the Ebony Showcase Theatre in Los Angeles in 1968, directed by James Wheaton and starring Nick Stewart and Morris Erby.