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A "rock opera," they called it back in '69, as much for the slight alliteration, probably, as for the mocking pomposity of it all.

Now, without irony, it is "the musical," or for even more heft, "the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical" (it took home five of 'em back in 1993).Kinetic is what "Tommy" was: rock 'n' roll with ambition, performed by one of the loudest, most outrageous and entertaining outfits of its time: Four guys playing all the characters for all they were worth in an odyssey about a deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard who achieves enlightenment.

And kinetic is what "The Who's Tommy," as it is called these days, remains.

With a young and lively cast, and sets and special visual effects intended to make your eyes pop, the touring "Tommy" that opened a six-day stand Tuesday in Kings-bury Hall is live-theater Cinerama . . . you want to take it all in, but so much is going on, in a modified tableaux from stage left to stage right - and so frenetically, in bursts of movement and light - that it's nigh on impossible.

"Tommy" even comes with a surgeon general-style warning: "Pyrotechnic effects, strobe lights and loud gunfire are used during the performance of `The Who's Tommy,' " caution photocopies plastered around the entrances.

A quarter-century of technological advancements haven't hurt.

The band is placed not in a pit but atop a scaffold directly over the stage. An array of computers sits at the back of the hall, operating projectors that, for one thing, turn a translucent screen at the front of the proscenium into a reflective panel. Behind it, during the "Overture," Tommy's parents (Michael J. Vergoth and Jessica Phillips) meet at the outset of World War II, wed and are separated when his father, Capt. Walker, a British airman, is believed lost "with a number of men." The years flash by in images on the diaphanous curtain - 1941, 1945, 1950 - as do wartime photographs and newspaper montages.

Tommy is born during the war, then witnesses - in a mirror - an altercation in which his returning father kills his mother's lover. His parents roar at him in alarm, "You didn't see it, you didn't hear it, you won't say nothing to no one ever in your life" - and, like the boy, the audience just about goes deaf, dumb and blind in sympathy, they're so insistent. Tommy subsequently responds only to the mirror, to music and, it is later discovered, to pinball. Only when his mother breaks the mirror is the teen Tommy (Michael Seelbach) liberated - and enraptured by the wonder of being "normal."

Yes, Tommy's odyssey has always been a hodgepodge. But it's a hodgepodge a good portion of the baby-boom generation has taken to. Still, the opening-night audience was nothing if not eclectic, with an age range from 5 to 75 at least. (And despite "Tommy's" rock pedigree, everyone of every age, it seems, stuck around to see all of the show.)

Several of the performers stand out. Seelbach, a fine young tenor, is energetic and charismatic as the older Tommy (two boys, Derek Dymek and Jason Reiff, play him at younger ages - and when all three sing together, as they do at several points, the effect is magical). Phillips and Vergoth give touching nuance in song to their roles as the concerned parents. Rob Krahenbuhl's Uncle Ernie manages to be, as a friend said, as much pitiable as buffoon.

The highly mobile sets (often changing, along with the cast, in full view or behind ingenious sliding screens) and evolving costumes, from WWII to the Flower Power era, also deserve mention.

Although this particular tour has been under way for almost a year, there were a few glitches. The microphone system seemed off balance in places (during "Christmas," Phillips' strong voice was overwhelmed by Vergoth's even greater power); a guitarist stuttered noticeably in the opening chords of "Pinball Wizard"; British accents seemed to wane and grow at various points in the production.

But the chief problem in this theater is probably the newly refurbished Kingsbury Hall itself: The sightlines from the main seating areas are not especially good for a production like this; those in the audience were constantly craning their necks to see around people in front of them as the action shifted across the stage. It was like sitting behind spectators at a tennis match. The stage platform would need to be two or three feet higher to lessen the strain.

Despite such exercise, few who get to see "The Who's Tommy" will come away disappointed. The showmanship is riveting; the voices are outstanding - and, it turns out, the eminently adaptable music of Pete Townshend, the primary creator of this "rock opera/musical," has stood the test of time.