Breaking: THE WHO'S TOMMY Will Come Back to Broadway in 2021

By: Oct. 21, 2019
Breaking: THE WHO'S TOMMY Will Come Back to Broadway in 2021
Photo Credit: Rachel Fuller

It was announced today that producers Hal Luftig and Patrick Catullo will bring a new production of the classic rock opera The Who's Tommy back to Broadway in the 2021 season, directed by two-time Tony Award-winner Des McAnuff, who also directed the original Broadway production.

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of The Who's groundbreaking rock concept album Tommy. Released in 1969, Tommy became the voice of a generation and is considered one of the most important and influential albums in the history of rock music. Telling the story of Tommy Walker, a young boy traumatized into seeming deafness and blindness, whose pinball wizardry launches him on a path toward a messianic movement, Tommy included indelible songs such as "I'm Free," "See Me, Feel Me," and, of course, "Pinball Wizard." The album was an immediate hit, and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.

Following its release, the band toured the album, playing it virtually in full at iconic locations such as Woodstock, the Metropolitan Opera House, and the Isle of Wright Festival. In 1971, the Seattle Opera produced a staged production of Tommy at Seattle's Moore Theatre. In 1972 The Who released a version of Tommy backed by the London Symphony Orchestra. In 1975, a film version of Tommy was released featuring Elton John, Tina Turner, Oliver Reed, Ann-Margaret, Jack Nicholson, and starring Roger Daltrey in the title role.

In 1991, Pete Townshend was introduced to La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director Des McAnuff, and the pair began to develop a stage musical together. The Who's Tommy opened at La Jolla in summer 1992, and was an immediate artistic success. The production opened on Broadway on April 22, 1993 and was the winner of five 1993 Tony Awards, including Best Original Score for Pete Townshend and Best Direction of a Musical for Des McAnuff. It also won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. With its exhilarating score and timeless, cross-generational appeal, The Who's Tommy has become a pop culture sensation with productions all around the world.

Breaking: THE WHO'S TOMMY Will Come Back to Broadway in 2021
Photo Credit: Doug Gifford

"Our new production of Tommy will be a reinvention aimed directly at today," said director Des McAnuff. "Tommy combines myth and spectacle in a way that truly soars. The key question with any musical is "Does the story sing?" and this one most certainly does. Tommy is the anti-hero ground zero. He is the boy who not only rejects adulthood like Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, but existence itself. He becomes lost in the universe as he stares endlessly and obsessively into the mirror at his own image. This gives our story a powerful resonance today as it seems like the whole world is staring into the black mirror. The story of Tommy exists all too comfortably in the 21st Century. In fact, time may finally have caught up to Tommy Walker."

"In every producer's career a show comes along that feels like a perfect fit," said producer Hal Luftig. "To have Pete and Des look at Tommy again is extremely exciting and feels just right. I'm thrilled to bring Tommy back home to Broadway where it belongs!"

"My parents took me to see Des' original Broadway production for my 16th birthday," said producer Patrick Catullo. "It completely blew my mind and is the singular reason I pursued a career in theater. The story is timeless and it's one of the best scores ever written. I am beyond excited to present Tommy not only for its existing fans, but to introduce it to a new audience as well."

On Monday, October 14, McAnuff and The Who's Pete Townshend were on hand at La Jolla Playhouse's one-night-only sold-out benefit concert performance of the musical, which also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the iconic The Who's Tommy album. The concert included original Broadway cast members Michael Cerveris, Jonathan Dokuchitz, Cheryl Freeman, Christian Hoff, Paul Kandel, Donnie Kehr, Michael McElroy, Lee Morgan, and Alice Ripley.

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