Ray of Light Theatre opened its ninth season of San Francisco community musicals with “The Who’s Tommy,” presenting the groundbreaking rock opera in all its glorious wackiness.
Nearly four decades after the tale of the fall and rise of a deaf, dumb and blind pinball player premiered, the show is as outrageous, puzzling and compelling as it was in rock ’n’ roll’s younger days.
Pete Townshend’s score (book by Des McAnuff), while uneven, has some great tunes: “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” “I’m Free” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
The cast and hard-working musicians do them justice. Cleverly, the band — with Ben Prince and Brandi Brandes on keyboards, Sean Williams and Jack Hanlon on guitars, Michael Shiono on bass and Fred Johnson on drums — remains onstage throughout the show, boosting the “rock” in rock opera.
Zachary Franczak commands attention as the title character. When he’s joined by Deucalion Martin, playing Tommy at age 4, and David “Kelii” Kahawaii, Tommy at 10, they comprise the show’s most moving scenes.
Emily Wade Adams, Cameron Weston and Manuel Caneri nicely round out the cast as Tommy’s family — his far-from-perfect mom, dad and cousin, respectively, who are responsible for his wild predicament.
Director Shane Ray and music director Ben Prince give the production a wicked liveliness, assisted by choreographer Ellyn Marie Marsh.
Particularly effective lighting by Dustin Snyder and scenery by Angelo Benedetto exemplify the power of creativity.
Presented by Ray of Light Theatre
Where: Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Nov. 7
Tickets: $25 to $36