1989 – At the Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif., the Who perform

The Who

1989 – At the Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif., the Who perform their rock opera Tommy with an all-star cast that includes Elton John, Billy Idol, and Patti LaBelle.

The Who’s Tommy premiered in the West End at the Queen’s Theatre on February 6, 1979, running for 119 performances.

In the 1990s, Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff collaborated to create a new musical version of Tommy. The musical opened at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California in July 1992.[1]

The Broadway debut was at the St. James Theatre on April 22, 1993 and closed on June 17, 1995, after 899 performances and 27 previews. Directed by Des McAnuff with choreography by Wayne Cilento, the original cast included Michael Cerveris (Tommy), Marcia Mitzman (Mrs. Walker), and Jonathan Dokuchitz (Captain Walker), Cheryl Freeman (The Gypsy/Acid Queen), Alice Ripley, Norm Lewis, and Sherie Rene Scott.

An original cast recording was produced by RCA Victor and released on July 13, 1993.[2]

A hardcover book documenting the history of Tommy from the original album to the creation of the Broadway musical was also released in 1993, and featured a CD of Pete Townshend performing I Believe My Own Eyes, which he wrote specifically for the broadway musical.[3]

A revival ran in the West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre from March 5, 1996 until February 8, 1997, featuring Paul Keating (Tommy) and Kim Wilde (Mrs. Walker). [1]

A Canadian Production opened at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto on March 1, 1995, and played throughout the year.[4] The production featured an entirely Canadian cast, and the lead character of Tommy was played by Tyley Ross.[5] Once the Toronto run ended, the production went on a Cross-Canada tour.

A European Tour of Tommy opened on January 26, 2005 at the Chasse Theatre in Breda, The Netherlands. The opening was set to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the original Tommy album by The Who.

[edit] Plot

Act I

1940: Against the backdrop of World War II appears a montage of the Walkers’ meeting, courtship, marriage, Captain Walker’s departure for the front and capture, and his internment in a POW camp (“Overture”). Back in London, two officers arrive at 22 Heathfield Gardens to bring Mrs. Walker tragic news (“Captain Walker”).

1941: A nurse gently hands Mrs. Walker her newborn son (“It’s a Boy”).

1945: Captain Walker is freed and heads home, arriving as Mrs. Walker is celebrating her birthday with her lover and four-year-old son (“Twenty-One”). Looking in a mirror, Tommy sees the furious Captain Walker shoot and kill the lover. The Walkers realize what Tommy has witnessed (“What About the Boy”) and the police arrive to investigate while Tommy just stares at his own reflection. The narrator – Tommy’s older self – appears, visible only to Tommy (“Amazing Journey”).

Courtroom: Captain Walker is found not guilty, but the family celebration dies out as they realize Tommy is now deaf, dumb, and blind. Hospital: A battery of doctors and nurses examine Tommy (“Sparks”).

1950: The Walkers take ten-year-old Tommy to church and to a family dinner (“Christmas”) where he responds to Uncle Ernie’s playing the French Horn and the older Tommy’s unseen presence (“See Me, Feel Me”). Back home, the Walkers worry about whether to leave Tommy with the drunken Uncle Ernie (“Do You Think It’s Alright”), while once alone with Tommy, Ernie molests him (“Fiddle About”). Tommy’s next babysitter, Cousin Kevin, taunts him mercilessly (“Cousin Kevin”) and then takes him to the youth club where, to everyone’s astonishment, Tommy plays pinball brilliantly (“Sensation”). Encouraged, the Walkers try yet another doctor, a psychiatrist, who tests Tommy without success (“Sparks (Reprise)”). A desperate Mr. Walker is approached by The Hawker and Harmonica Player (“Eyesight to the Blind”) who promise a miraculous cure for Tommy. They take father and son to the Isle of Dogs to find a prostitute called The Gypsy (“Acid Queen”) although Mr. Walker ends by snatching the boy back in horror. The act ends in 1958 as a group of teenagers await 17-year-old Tommy’s appearance at the amusement arcade (“Pinball Wizard”).

Act II

1960: Tommy has become the pinball champion and hero of the neighborhood lads. (“Underture”). Mr. Walker, still in search of a cure, convinces Mrs. Walker to try once more (“There’s a Doctor”). They take Tommy to specialists (“Go To the Mirror / Listening to You”) for elaborate tests, to no avail. On the street a group of local louts surround Tommy (“Tommy, Can You Hear Me?”) and carry him home. The Walkers, at their wit’s end and considering having Tommy institutionalized, compassionately confront one another (“I Believe My Own Eyes”). Tommy stares into the mirror as Mrs. Walker tries desperately to reach him (“Smash the Mirror”). With the mirror in pieces, Tommy becomes conscious (I’m Free) and leaves home, while his cure hits the news (“Miracle Cure”).

1961-1963: Tommy is lionized by the public and the press (“Pinball Wizard (Reprise)”) and begins appearing in stadiums, where Uncle Ernie tries to capitalize on his stardom (“Tommy’s Holiday Camp”). Teenage Sally Simpson manages to get on stage and touch Tommy but, when he pushes her aside, she falls and is pummeled by the guards (“Sally Simpson”). Aghast, Tommy realizes how caught up in the celebrity machine he has become. He tends to her and invites everyone back to his house (“Welcome”). Once there, Sally asks Tommy how she can be more like him (“Sally Simpson’s Question”). He insists there is no reason to be like him; who she is, is enough.

Disenchanted with their hero for failing to provide instant salvation, the crowd turns on him and leaves (“We’re Not Going to Take It”). Tommy hears the voice of his ten-year-old self (“See Me, Feel Me”) and for a moment seems to be reverting to his old state, but instead he turns to his family and embraces them in acceptance and reunion with his younger selves (“Listening to You”).

[edit] Characters

Principals

* Tommy, Age: 16-25, A young genius
* Captain Walker, Age: 25-35, Tommy’s handsome father
* Mrs Walker, Age: 18-30

Other Tommys

* Tommy-Age 4, Age: 3-7 (Young Tommy)
* Tommy-Age 10, Age:8-12 (Second Tommy)

Supporting

* Cousin Kevin, Age: 15-20, Tommy’s evil babysitter
* Uncle Ernie, Age: 30-45, Tommy’s perverted uncle
* The Hawker, Age: 20-50, Leader of New Age Cult
* The Acid Queen, Age: 20-35, A drug dealer and prostitute
* The Doctor, Age: 30-50, A doctor who has new theories on how to cure Tommy
* Sally Simpson, Age: 13-20, A typical teenage girl

[edit] Song list

Act One

* Overture – Company
* Captain Walker – Officers
* It’s a Boy – Nurses and Mrs. Walker
* We’ve Won – Captain Walker and Allied Soldiers
* Twenty One – Mrs. Walker, Lover and Captain Walker
* Amazing Journey – Tommy
* Sparks – Instrumental
* Amazing Journey (Reprise) – Tommy
* Christmas – Captain Walker, Mrs. Walker, Minister, Minister’s Wife and Ensemble
* See Me, Feel Me – Tommy
* Do You Think It’s Alright? – Captain Walker and Mrs. Walker
* Fiddle About (Music and Lyrics By John Entwistle) – Uncle Ernie and Ensemble
* See Me, Feel Me (Reprise) – Tommy
* Cousin Kevin (Music and Lyrics By John Entwistle) – Cousin Kevin and Ensemble
* Sensation – Tommy and Ensemble
* Sparks (Reprise)
* Eyesight to the Blind (The Hawker) Additional lyrics by Sonny Boy Williamson and Lyrics by Pete Townshend) – Hawker, Harmonica Player and Ensemble
* Acid Queen – The Gypsy
* Pinball Wizard – Local Lads, Cousin Kevin and Ensemble

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