Mtume Salaam 8:43 a.m., May 24
The Who's Tommy originated at the La Jolla Playhouse July, 1992. Co-written by Pete Townshend, of the Who, and Des McAnuff, artistic director of the playhouse, the rock musical told the story of the "deaf, dumb, and blind kid" made popular in the Who's 1969 double album.
On opening night, before the show began, whispers ghosted through the audience, fingers pointed, necks craned.
Seated dead center: the 47-year-old Townshend, solemn as a banker in a charcoal-colored silk suit. Three seats down, Roger Daltrey, lead singer for the Who, also in a charcoal suit. Seeing them required a double-take, since their hair was a lot shorter than when they wrote the songs and performed them in the movie Woodstock.
(For those unfamiliar with the rock group, their song "Who Are You?" opens every installment of the TV show, Crime Scene Investigation).
But they weren't the attraction. Two rows behind Daltrey, perky enough for five people, Liza Minnelli stood and carried on several conversations at once.
Last Friday, the San Diego Rep's opening night for The Who's Tommy didn't have Daltrey's or Minnellis in the audience. But the production brimmed with talent, even the walk-ons.
In the song "Come To My House," Tommy sets up a kind of commune. Actors went into the audience and brought up people to be extras.
By chance, sitting in the front row were Craig Noel Award-winners Carson St. John (for Little Dog Laughed in 2009) and Tony Houck (for Scrooge in Rouge, 2008), who both starred in Cygnet's recent Cabaret.
They walked up the steps and, instinctively, blended right in.