Tommy

Previewed 20 February 1996, Opened 5 March 1996, Closed 8 February 1997 at the Shaftesbury Theatre

The Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff The Who musical Tommy in London

SEE ME FEEL ME - The Who's story of a deaf, dumb and blind kid turned pinball wizard has become a most stunning theatrical event. On the journey from Broadway to London Tommy has won 24 major awards including five Tonys and a highly prized Grammy. Broadway box office records were shattered. The show met with unanimous rave reviews from theatre and music critics alike, who championed its arrival. Now at last it comes home. To London.

Tommy accelerates your sense into overdrive with an explosion of technical wizardry: stunning special effects, breathtaking sets and dazzling choreography propel you along one of the most powerful musical scores ever written.

Cast features Paul Keating as 'Tommy' and Kim Wilde as 'Mrs Walker'. Music and lyrics by Peter Townshend with book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff. Directed by Des McAnuff with choreography by Wayne Cilento, designs by John Arnone and lighting by Chris Parry.

"Sparkling with Broadway stardust, The Who's Tommy is a sanitised version of the rock opera that scorched on to the cinema screen in the Seventies. But what a vital, vibrant, exciting and stunning show this is... Composer-lyricist Pete Townshend, who wrote the 1969 original album with a little help from his Who friends, teamed up with brilliant Canadian director Des McAnuff to rework the story of the deaf, dumb and blind kid into the sort of musical his band's original fans could take their children and, possibly, grandkids to see. The result was a Broadway smash, though the book remains as ludicrous as ever... But for all its imperfections, Tommy takes off like a rock and roll rocket, with Paul Keating growing in stature in the title role, Kim Wilde playing his mother with assurance, if not a great voice, and John Arnone's spectacular sets threatening to upstage the performers with hi-tech sophistication that takes the breath away. It's the type of supercharged production that puts the show into showbusiness. Rock along and marvel." The News of the World

"As a piece of musical theatre, Tommy is a pretentious, simple-minded and pedestrian piece of bilge. Des McAnuff's spectacular production brings off the impossible: it almost turns it into a real musical. This is pretty breathtaking, since the thing has an unbelievably batty story, no real characters to speak of, and a construction which is like a series of garish rock videos... There are lots of performances but virtually no acting, except by the excellent Ian Bartholomew, who is like a sly, plump lizard. But then, what is there to act? This show is all about production: high-tech staging, superbly drilled choreography and relentless, overwhelming sound. How does Tommy get cured? Even a mad therapist wouldn't believe it. Suffice to say that he is 'free': he becomes a celebrity but returns to his parents, and everyone is noisily and garishly optimistic. The idea is, as Tommy howls, 'To be what you'll be' one of those dumb recipes for living which would be just as meaningless if you read it backwards." The Sunday Times

"Anyone who does not come away frothing at the mouth with excitement at this thrilling £3.5 million stage realisation of Pete Townshend's famous 1969 rock-opera must have taken leave of their senses. For here is a non-chemical version of Ecstasy that aims for the ultimate sensory theatrical experience. This outstanding Broadway production, which deservedly won five Tony awards when it opened in New York three years ago, unites surrealistic pop art with driving rock rhythms and completely redefines modern musical staging. On a set like a giant electronic adventure playground, the story of the deaf, dumb and blind boy who becomes a Pinball Wizard unfolds with retina-dazzling speed in American director Des McAnuff's brilliantly imaginative production... Even the doll-faced Kim Wilde's somewhat inexpressive presence and bland voice as Tommy's pneumatic blonde mother matters little within this superb ensemble piece. There are stand-out performances from Ian Bartholomew's ferrety spiv Uncle Ernie and Hal Fowler's impudent cousin Kevin. 'I'm A Sensation,' sings Paul Keating in one of Tommy's classic songs. And at the risk of too much hyperbole, the show most certainly is too." The Daily Express

"Tommy returned to the London stage last night and the question on everyone's lips was: Does he still play a mean pinball? The answer is a deafening YES! Tommy still rocks on after 27 years, thanks mainly to newcomer Paul Keating. Six months ago he was stacking supermarket shelves. Now, as the deaf, dumb and blind kid, Paul has breathed new life into The Who's rock opera... The show lasts 2 1/4 hours, but its 22 scene changes will leave you breathless by the end. Kim Wilde makes her acting debut as Tommy's mum Mrs Walker and-despite obvious first-night nerves-she was belting out the numbers by the second act. Other highlights included Nicola Hughes as the Acid Queen with an electrifying version of Sensation. But there was only one number the audience wanted to hear and, predictably, Pinball Wizard brought the house down. However, the night belonged to Paul Keating. His powerful voice and amazing stage presence should guarantee him a glittering career." The Sun

Tommy in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre previewed from 20 February 1996, opened on 5 March 1996 and closed 8 February 1997