The Who’s Tommy is returning to Broadway in 2021. The musical adaptation of the Who’s 1969 rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind pinball wizard premiered on Broadway in 1993 and closed two years later after 889 performances. Along the way, it racked up five Tony Awards and proved that rock can work on the Broadway stage, paving the way for countless shows that followed.
Like the 1993 original, this new version of Tommy will be directed by Des McAnuff. “Our new production of Tommy will be a reinvention aimed directly at today,” McAnuff said in a statement. “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.”
He continued, “Tommy is the antihero 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.”
The original Tommy album turned the Who into one of the most popular rock bands in the world when it landed in stores 50 years ago. The Seattle Opera produced a version of it in 1971, and the following year the London Symphony Orchestra staged it with special guests.
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Director Ken Russell turned it into a campy movie in 1975 starring Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret, Elton John, Tina Turner, and Eric Clapton. The musical opened at the La Jolla Playhouse in 1992 and came to Broadway a year later. The story has morphed a little with each telling, but each time it centers around a traumatized youth who loses the ability to see, hear, and talk. He becomes a champion pinball player before starting his own cult.
The producers of the upcoming Broadway revival have yet to say when in 2021 the show will open or who will be in the cast, but they point fans to a new website and promise that additional info will come later.