“The Who's Tommy,” a more sanitized and optimistic version of The Who's rock opera film, “Tommy,” will open at Sussex Central High School on Thursday. Show dates will run through Saturday.

"The Who's Tommy," a more sanitized and optimistic version of The Who's rock opera film, "Tommy," will open at Sussex Central High School on Thursday. Show dates will run through Saturday.

Director David Warick says it's significant that Sussex Central is presenting the musical, since he doesn't recall "Who's The Tommy" ever being presented in Sussex County.

"It hasn't been done anywhere in this area," said Warick, of Rehoboth, who teaches English and drama at Sussex Central High School. "I really thought it would be great to do this: there's great music, a live band and it's fresh. It's never been done as opposed to all of the other musicals that have been done over-and-over-again around here. I really want to do stuff that hasn't been done. That's my goal."

From zero to hero

Pregnant with a baby boy (Tommy) during World War II, Mrs. Walker believes her husband (Captain Walker) has lost his life in battle, so she meets a new lover. It's four years later and Mrs. Walker and her new man, now fiancé, are shocked to discover the Captain standing in their happy home, and his balled fists are begging to greet the fiancé.

The men begin to tussle and the 4-year-old Tommy turns his head to face a mirror, trusting it'll shield his eyes from the drama. But the mirror deceives him. From the reflection he sees his father shoot and kill the fiancé. Traumatized and speechless, the Walkers presume their precious Tommy has become deaf, dumb and blind.

By the age of 17, Tommy has done nothing to disprove he's not deaf, dumb, nor blind. But this all changes after a situation involving him getting bullied at an amusement arcade leads him to discovering he's a phenomenal pinball player. His amazing skill makes him a national star, converting his tormentors into fans.

'This is much more hopeful'

Like many critics, Warick digs "Tommy's" soundtrack, which includes music from The Who's rock opera album of the same name. However, Warick isn't a fan of the original film, which he described as: "the acting is not very good and the story doesn't hold very well together. It's all psychedelic; it's like a bad trip."

Warick added he wants audiences to know the storyline in the musical also differs from the film, and it's for the better.

While the script for the musical is naturally softer than the film, Warick has further smoothed out the story by omitting a few things from the film such as drug use and Tommy getting molested by his uncle Ernie. And without completely letting the cat out of the bag, Warick mentioned "The Who's Tommy" ends on a happy note, unlike the film, which concluded with a frustrated mob of Tommy's followers setting his holiday camp ablaze.

"The film is very negative and dark and creepy," Warick said. "[But] this is much more hopeful. It's sad, but then at the end, it's hopeful and uplifting."

For senior Patrick Harrold (cast as 17-year-old Tommy and the narrator), starring in the show is uplifting to him since it'll mark his first musical. That's not bad considering Harrold was performing in the pit band last spring for "Dr. Ghost," an original musical created by Warick and Eric Tsavdar, Sussex Central's choral director.

"I feel great and I'm ready for it," Harrold, 18, of Greenwood, said of opening night.

But Harrold's still getting used to bearing the gleam of the limelight, since he's still discovering "how much guts it takes to get up on stage," he said. "It takes a lot and it's hitting me real fast."

WHAT 'The Who's Tommy' the musical
WHEN 7 p.m., Thursday, April 11; 7 p.m., Friday, April 12; 7 p.m., Saturday, April 13
WHERE Sussex Central High School, 26026 Patriots Way, Georgetown
COST $8 general admission; $5 for students, military and seniors
INFO Sussex Central High School's website or call (302) 934-3166