Sally Tomato’s Toy Room: A Rock Opera In Four Acts
Directed by Wesley J. Turner
Music by Sally Tomato And Carlos Severe Marcelin
Severe Enterprises 2010

Rock operas in the tradition of the Who’s Tommy are frequently attempted and translated into album format, and frequently they are watered down versions of a former classic, but few are as ambitious and introspective as Toy Room seems to be here. Few writers of any art ever dare to look so deeply into themselves and thrive enough to emerge as spiritually evolved as the character Sally seems to have done.  Friends and colleagues have successfully attempted smaller personal projects to process and to heal, showing only a few friends or writing a song or two, but Toy Room, in the expanded form of a musical is something rarely seen and even more rarely attempted.

But it’s not just epic.  Toy Room is revelatory with personal revelations that would have been difficult for anyone to discuss in front of a large audience, not to mention amongst friends.  Toy Room turns it all into a cathartic release for the character of Sally Tomato as well as the audience watching from the sidelines.

The opera is divided into four acts and twenty-nine chapters and several musical numbers ranging from Invisible Child to Time to Be Brave. Invisible Child begins by introducing Sally and her Toy Room to rationalize the world around her through “Beyond The Stares”.  Here her imagination roams free from the prying and disapproving eyes of grown ups and introduces us to her imaginary friends or additional imagined personalities to compensate for her isolation and loneliness.

Throughout, the narrative is carried forward through the musical numbers and the action, but more than occasionally there is a male narrator.  On a rare occasion, even Sally herself enters the voice over to explain a critical point or two.  Occasional interruptions would have been welcome, especially by Sally herself if it had been minimal, but that isn’t the case here.  The musical numbers are generally enough to ponder some of the themes of safety and escape.  Additional action would have been enough to flesh out the storyline.  Take this as a wonderful first draft of a refreshingly cathartic rock opera for us the audience as well as the performers on stage.

“Nightmare” is especially cathartic in it’s parody, using country guitar licks, trailer park imagery, and particularly telling icons from what we all recognize as lower income neighborhoods.  “Broken Machine” engages in a particularly techno backbeat and background imagery that releases a full onslaught of humorous venom to counter the abuse received from her stage husband.  It illustrates the especial healing from laughing at others problems that helps us deal with our own.

Musicals such as Toy Room rarely make it to the stage because they are particularly difficult to produce, emotionally as well as physically.  The artists here as well as the production team should be particularly commended for their effort as well as for making the translation particularly entertaining.

Our very own Toy Room or whatever we choose to call it will always be that safe place that we have always had and always go back to.  For me, books and then music was and is my security blanket.  What’s yours?

The soundtrack and DVD of the performance are available at should you decide to support the artist.

17 March 2011

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