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You may remember him as Tonex (pronounced “To-nay”). The young mega-talent, who won a Craig Noel Award for Dreamgirls in 2008, changed his name. He’s now B. Slade.

His skills have changed a bit, too. Starring in The Who’s Tommy at the San Diego Rep, he’s even better, more polished, more assured. Tonex — er, B. Slade — would make a perfect Judas. Both love to sing circles around the stratosphere.

Slade plays the older Tommy. For the first seven scenes he hovers like a ghost. He watches his younger selves — ages four and ten — so traumatized by a crime they’re deaf, dumb, blind, and abused. Slade’s Tommy sees and feels what they can’t.

How did Gospel Artist Tonex Become Gay Activist B-Slade? [Video]

According to reviews: “Come Scene 8, Slade sings “Sensation” and finally gets to cut loose. He struts around, all in white. He eyes the audience knowingly, and gives the familiar song — to those who know the music — a much more contemporary vocal attack. Purists may rankle (as I often do when someone messes with a beloved rendition). But Slade’s notes-inside-of-notes approach liberates the musical in a striking way. A touring version, which came to the San Diego Civic a few years back, was even more muted — and tight (that show was paced, first and foremost). When Slade sings “Sensation,” the Sam Woodhouse–directed production sets a new tone for the musical. Woodhouse and Slade aren’t just presenting The Who’s Tommy, they’re unleashing it.”

Watch Him talk about it below

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