Des McAnuff, the two-time Tony Award winner who directed the original Broadway staging of The Who’s Tommy, will direct a new production of the musical for 2021, producers Hal Luftig and Patrick Catullo announced today.
“Our new production of Tommy will be a reinvention aimed directly at today,” said McAnuff 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.”
McAnuff called the Tommy character – marking his 50th birthday this year – “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.”
Said producer Luftig, “In every producer’s career a show comes along that feels like a perfect fit. 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!”
Released in 1969, the Who’s rock opera Tommy told the story of Tommy Walker, the so-called “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who used pinball wizardry as to start a messianic movement. The original album included songs – many performed by the band at Woodstock – such as “I’m Free,” “See Me, Feel Me,” and “Pinball Wizard.” The album has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
The stage version was developed by the Who’s Pete Townshend and La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director McAnuff in the early ’90s, with the show opening at La Jolla in summer 1992. A Broadway production opened on April 22, 1993 and went on to win five Tony Awards, including Best Original Score for Pete Townshend and Best Direction of a Musical for Des McAnuff.
“My parents took me to see Des’ original Broadway production for my 16th birthday,” said producer 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.”
Last week, McAnuff and Townshend attended a one-night-only sold-out benefit concert performance of the musical at La Jolla, a 50th-anniversary celebration featuring original cast members Michael Cerveris, Jonathan Dokuchitz, Cheryl Freeman, Christian Hoff, Paul Kandel, Donnie Kehr, Michael McElroy, Lee Morgan, and Alice Ripley.
Additional information about the 2021 production will be announced at a later date.