REVIEW: The Who’s Tommy starring Joe McElderry, Winter Gardens, Blackpool

Joe McElderry is starring as Tommy in The Who's Tommy at Blackpool Winter Gardens.

Joe McElderry is starring as Tommy in The Who's Tommy at Blackpool Winter Gardens.

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Taking on a role as iconic as Tommy is no mean feat and Joe McElderry did it sensationally.

The South Shields singing star took a gigantic step from his clean-cut pop star image to play the leading role in The Who’s rock opera.

The show, which began with the band’s 1969 album of the same name, is as bizarre as it is emotive and this production really packs a punch.

Joe, who triumphed on the X Factor in 2009 and Popstar to Opera Star two years later, probably isn’t the image people would conjure up when thinking of the perfect person to take on this role.

But Joe performed big rock songs like See Me, Feel Me, Sensation and Pinball Wizard with outstanding capability.

He gave a goosebump-inducing rendition of I’m Free and nailed each performance.

Joe McElderry is starring as Tommy in The Who's Tommy at Blackpool Winter Gardens.

Joe McElderry is starring as Tommy in The Who's Tommy at Blackpool Winter Gardens.

But it wasn’t all about his voice. Joe also showed his acting skills.

He begins the show as a narrator and the voice inside the head of young Tommy, who is left unable to hear, speak or see after witnessing a terrible tragedy.

But as the boy grows up, Joe steps into the role and completely blew me away.

Unable to react to anything going on around him, Joe’s glazed look and emotionless face was quite harrowing.

Who fan or not, this isn’t one to miss, and Joe has proved yet again that he has a huge future in front of him, in more ways than one

With so much going on around him, it must have been incredibly difficult, but he didn’t falter once.

When his senses return later in the show, Joe speaks in a cockney accent. So used to hearing his cheery South Shields twang, it was strange to take in the accent, but he really pulled it off.

It’s a demanding role for Joe but one that he performs with real gusto and determination, and when he belts out those huge notes, the power of his voice really hits you.

Blue’s Antony Costa takes on the role of Cousin Kevin fantastically. He gives a convincing performance as Tommy’s bullying older relative and his voice really shines in performances of Cousin Kevin and Pinball Wizard.

Joe McElderry is starring as Tommy in The Who's Tommy at Blackpool Winter Gardens.

Joe McElderry is starring as Tommy in The Who's Tommy at Blackpool Winter Gardens.

Ashley J Russell and Will Barratt gave commanding performances as Mrs Walker and Mr Walker, capturing the emotion and frustration of raising a boy they can’t communicate with.

Tony Bayliss was suitably-creepy as Uncle Ernie. He gave a stomach-turning performance of Fiddle About, a scene that was difficult to watch but handled very well.

John Addison took on numerous roles in the show, he seemed to be everywhere, but each character was easily-distinguishable and he shone in each one.

The song Acid Queen was a real stand-out moment in the show for me, as Mr Walker seeks help for his son. Melanie Bright gave a mesmerising performance as Gypsy.

The young actors who portrayed a four-year-old and 10-year-old Tommy were adorable and super talented, particularly the older boy who remained straight-faced and glassy-eyed as he was flung about by tormenting Cousin Kevin.

The ensemble really added to the show, both vocally and visually. The choreography was fast-paced, original and entertaining, with the Christmas scene standing out as a particular favourite.

Joe McElderry is starring as Tommy in The Who's Tommy at Blackpool Winter Gardens. Antony Costa as Cousin Kevin.

Joe McElderry is starring as Tommy in The Who's Tommy at Blackpool Winter Gardens. Antony Costa as Cousin Kevin.

The set too was tremendous. Trap doors and tricks really made an impact and the live band made sure the theatre’s roof was raised high.

The show has a big cult following, but I wasn’t very familiar with it. I watched the film to familiarise myself with the plot, but the show is quite different and a lot easier to follow.

It’s quite a harrowing yet inspirational tale of a boy who overcomes adversity to become a God-like figure among his peers, only to be quickly brought back down to Earth.

Who fan or not, this isn’t one to miss, and Joe has proved yet again that he has a huge future in front of him, in more ways than one.

As long as he’s on stage, and no mater what he’s doing, people will want to see him.

Tommy absolutely blew me away. I’d see it again in a heartbeat.

Tommy runs until Saturday, September 26. Click here to book tickets.

Twitter: @vickinewmanjp