NOCCA Nails “Tommy”
Recent seasons at NOCCA|Riverfront have seen elements from various disciplines come together in a string of dazzling and surprisingly mature productions. This spring the NOCCA Musical Theatre Department topped them all with its stunning presentation of The Who’s landmark rock opera “Tommy.”
Any major musical is a cosmopolitan beehive of activity, and NOCCA’s still-new facility and state-of-the-art Lupin Theater hold the pot of honey produced by such faculty artists as production manager Daniel Zimmer, conductor Jefferson Turner, costume designer Julie Winn, and none more so than director/choreographer/mastermind Blake Coheley. They draw support from veteran set designer David Raphel and lighting designer/NOCCA alumnus Gary Solomon Jr.
This solid production team does justice to the memorable material of Pete Townsend’s magnum opus, but it is the cast that sweetens the stage.
NOCCA’s roll of legendary alumni needs no recitation here, especially when one can attend productions like “Tommy” and see the stars of tomorrow. Talent is a given at NOCCA, but there is also an indefinable something that makes the cast seem in perfect empathy with their material and setting. These “kids,” after all, were born a decade after the death of John Lennon and are young enough to be the grandchildren of The Who’s late Keith Moon.
The cast of at least three dozen seems perfect in almost every respect, but some, by virtue of their roles, deserve special mention. These New Orleans-area high school students include grown “Tommy” Michael Moore, Samantha Helmstetter, Josh Smith, Bruce Landry, Sarah Jackson, pinball wizards Sarah Talbot and Janie Planchet, and Matt Artigues as Uncle Ernie.
No mere drones they. Whether or not they pursue musical theatre as a livelihood, their years at NOCCA|Riverfront have already molded them into artists. •